Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sapolsky and Mattis Take an Elevator Ride

Everyone knows what an "elevator speech" is. You are stuck in an elevator and to soak up the uncomfortable silence for a short ride stuck in a small box, you have a little outline about what you do for a living.

Most people have more than one elevator speech; kids, pets, the commute, the weather. If you run in to the same people in the elevator, you often can use that time to get a message across where otherwise the opportunity might not naturally present itself.

That is kind of the vibe I got from a little article at The National Interest by Harvey M. Sapolsky, Professor Emeritus at the MIT and former Director of their Security Studies Program.

His little elevator speech length bit of advice for our new Secretary of Defense Mattis is a nice concentrated bit of soundness;
There are plenty of generals (and admirals) in the department who can give military advice to the president and manage the force. What is needed is a civilian who will worry about more than just the organizational health and military capabilities of the armed services. That person must also prioritize the financial and human resources the services need to perform their duties.
...Americans believe in institutional overlap and competition. Four air forces are better than one for innovation and combat performance, and so are several armies and a couple of navies. Resist the call for centralization and joint projects. We need more eyes on every problem. Centralization gives you giant projects like the Joint Strike Fighter and no alternatives when you need them.
...don’t waste your time on acquisition reform. There is never going to be a flawless acquisition system that works on the cutting edge of technology and meets all cost and scheduling promises. We need the advantage that the most advanced weapons give our forces, and that requires taking risks and accepting failures. Don’t fall for the frauds of management fads or the siren call of creating a Silicon Valley–like organization within the department. Instead, feed the complex network of defense laboratories, nonprofits and contractors that have kept us ahead for decades. The only stimulus they need is the inherent rivalry of the services as weapon buyers, and as protectors of their own technological futures as the preferred warriors of the nation
It is long overdue for us to expect our allies to do more and contribute to their own defense. President Donald J. Trump is right that too often we have been overly eager to take a bad deal so long as it justifies the need for additional force structure. It is the requirements of our defense, and not that of rich allies in Europe and Asia, that should support the maintenance and deployment of our forces. As the Second World War showed, it is often an advantage to be behind rather in front of our allies. Neither NATO or our other alliances should be vehicles by which allies get a free ride on the backs of U.S. taxpayers and soldiers.
There are some other good nuggets of advice there, read it all.

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