June 1, 2007  

Evolving doctrine

While I’m reluctant to too forcefully jump on a captain’s good ideas, since Capt. James Alden has taken the time to put his thoughts on paper, I really think he has taken a very thin view of the Army’s history [“Eyes wide shut,” March]. Yes, in his time in U.S. Special Operations Command, the Army has gone through only one change, and that is from division-centric to Brigade Combat Team-centric. If that’s not a huge paradigm shift while the nation is at war, I have a hard time imagining what might satisfy the author.

Regimental combat teams, pentomic divisions, combat commands — all are past structures that changed to meet new requirements and threats. Special Forces detachments are one tool in this nation’s arsenal, but we are charged with sustained land combat. The view from my foxhole is that the new BCT is a good centerpiece to meet the threats of today, and even more important, of tomorrow.

I remember one quotation from a course at Air Command and Staff College: “You buy your doctrine.” And while I know nobody wants a discussion on why the British bought their bombers while we bought the B-17 Flying Fortress, the point is necessary: Doctrine does need to be the engine of change. There must be some central premise on how we, as a nation, fight our wars to focus our materiel and organization solutions. To have otherwise is to hop from today’s good idea to tomorrow’s.

Our doctrine is not so rigid as to limit our prosecution of war. In the last three years, we have as an institution re-examined how we review and rewrite our doctrine. Good ideas don’t need to start in the halls of Fort Leavenworth to get into a field manual; the leaders on today’s battlefields are directly feeding the engine of change through our knowledge networks. These smart, tactically current leaders don’t get a direct pass to the program managers to start buying equipment for next year, but they are leading the changing of doctrine faster than ever.

Lt. Col. Howard E. Arey, Army

Commander, 1-228th Aviation Regiment