Thursday, March 27, 2008

Parkinson's Laws and the Pentagon

The Founders of our country had a clear and near experience with the abuses and uses of power and were keen on the idea that a balance of power was needed in the affairs of our nation state. We are keenly aware of the balance of power between the branches of our national government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Likewise a balance exists between state and federal powers as the former has the ability to abolish the other, so long as the right to alter the Constitution rests in a three quarter majority of state legislatures to ratify. When Congress created the Defense Department of the three major services, however, the balance tipped, and is beyond the tipping point.

While amongst conspiracy theorists, this imbalance is proof of a vast evil conspiracy bent on sinister purpose. The truce, however, is considerably more mundane. C. Northecote Parkinson, noted political theorist and wag, postulated that organizations grow, regardless of purpose or workload. He cited that the British Admiralty and Colonial Office grew in inverse proportion to the number of capital ships and colonies of the British Commonwealth. He also stated that work expands to fit the time available's_law

The driving mechanism of the expansion of bureaucracy is described by William J Haga in his book “Haga's Law: Why Nothing Works and No One Can Fix It and the More You Try to Fix It the Worse It Gets” because of the basic principle that “anxiety begets organization, and organization begets anxiety”. To relief anxiety, managers hire assistants to spread the work load, but fearing rivalry hire two more to manipulate.

When Haga’s anxiety strikes, Parkinson’s Laws are invoked to the point where an organization of thirty five (according to Parkinson) can be fully engaged with internal processes and produce nothing of value. As a retired City of Houston civil servant, I have seen it done with as few as a dozen. My studies of the budget and acquisition process in local government show that more money is spent in acquiring, accounting and paying for the goods and services that government uses than the total value of the contracts for the goods and services themselves. The military doesn’t have the locks on this nonsense, it’s everywhere.

The phenomenon of full time military establishments working to undermine part time militaries is not restricted to the land of the free and home of the brave, but endemic and persistent making the dire prediction that reserve forces are poorly equipped, trained, and led, a self fulfilling prophecy based more on job security than national security.

An article today (March 27, 2008) from the Associated Press cites that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have informed the President:

Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Behind the Pentagon's closed doors, U.S. military leaders told President Bush March 26 they are worried about the Iraq war's mounting strain on troops and their families. But they indicated they'd go along with a brief halt in pulling out troops this summer.

The “mounting strain” is often blamed on the (small) size of the Regular services, and the leading candidates for President’s staffs candidly report favoring a larger Regular service, The truth, however obvious, evades observation. The Reserves and Guard weren’t large enough to face a Big War or a Long one.

Two large steps are required for those committed to an “Adequate National Defense”. First, make the relationship between the Congress and the Pentagon much closer, and to increase the distance between the troops and the Pentagon. And second, make the Guard and Reserve forces a multiple of the strength of the Active forces by law, tying the sum of them all to a percentage of the population at large.

The Constitution’s balance of powers extends to military power, with a balance between state and federal enshrined in the Second Amendment to the effect that the security of a free state in ensured by a “well regulated militia”. Knowing that a state, left to it’s own devices would raise standing armies or allow it’s militia to become unregulated (meaning trained in accordance with doctrine), the Founders prohibited the states from having ships of war, and standing troops in time of peace, and dictated that the Congress provide for the regulation (know today as doctrine) for the states. The Founders also split the providing forces and the command thereof between the Congress and the President, largely based on dreadful experiences in the English Civil Wars and the confusion of command in our Revolutionary War.

At present, the Congress perceives its mandate regarding the military as one solely concerned with the budget. Reading the Constitution’s allocation of specified powers to the Congress, it is far more comprehensive. The Pentagon is, according to the required reading for the Industrial College of the Armed Services (little blue books), contemptuous of Congressional process and only critical of Pentagon process while the errors of both are in accordance with both Parkinson and Haga. The distance across the Potomac needs to be closer, at Congressional dictate in order to ensure that doctrine, organization, and equipment are in the interests of the national defense.

Likewise, the Congress needs to distance itself from the conduct of foreign relations (save trade) and the conduct of military operations which are the specified prerogative of the President.

The size of the Pentagon, due to the influence of natural laws, has become too large and needs to be trimmed, cut, sliced and/or diced to reach sub-critical pre-tipping point balance. It doesn’t matter parts are affected, only that the dominance revert to the Constitutional balance. Perhaps separating the services, the components, or command vs. administration might do the trick.

The natural tendency of the Pentagon to distance itself from the Congress is complemented by the equally natural tendency to micro-manage the troops. This micromanagement of the minutia of military endeavors is cited as the number one reason for Captains (O-3) to have left the service even before the war on terror creating a huge shortage that now strains and stretches the forces as reported. Congress should limit the size of the Pentagon as a minor fraction of the forces available for deployment. There should be fewer admirals in the British fleet than capital ships.

In as much as the natural tendency to secure job security overrides national security vis a vis the Reserve Components, the Congress should enact laws specifying the relative size of the components and services in accordance with the size of the active force with floors established and relative to the size of the population of the nation as modified by the perception or reality of threats to the national security.

As an example, the size of all forces available for deployment in six months should be not less than one percent of the national population as determined in the last census. This would mean that today’s military establishment of all services and all components that ready to move out should be not less than three million.

Deployability, however, must be something more akin to wartime needs which often are unpredictable in detail. The essence of deployability is the competence of the forces in the military decision making process and basic collective battle skills regardless of table of organization. Our forces have demonstrated in Iraq the ability to convert artillery and armor units to security forces involved in stability operations in short order due to competence in basic military skills. In short, individual and collective deployability means that one is warm, can take orders, shoot, dig holes, drive, and survive and Uncle Sam owns the contract.

Within that one percent (or larger percent determined by the Congress), the size of the reserve components at such readiness shall be not less than twice that of the active services in with one half of that Reserve/Guard allocation be for the purposes of individual or small unit rapid mobilization and the other half be in trained units. The balance between Guard forces and (Federal) Reserve forces in king favor the location of a trained and deployable “personnel reserve” in the (Federal) reserve forces with the traditional focus of units extant in the Guard remain so with (Federal) reserve units be focused on the needs of the deployed forces of all components mobilized.

Forces beyond the six month deployability window may also be in “drill status” but be beyond the one percent window.

An example of a force at current national population calling for three million deployable in six months may require a small regular force, and by such law, the size of the Guard/Reserve deployable force would be increased directly not less than one for one. A three million deployable force might have one half million on active duty with two and a half million in reserve., but if more than a million were required on active service, the size of the deployable reserve would have to be increased proportionally.

The balance between capabilities and components under such laws would be determined in budget considerations.

Forces needed beyond the six month window, for both individuals and units must also address raising forces from scratch so as to have a prepared mobilization schema to reach the Big War contingency such as a war calling for something akin to a World War in which the forces on active duty were over ten percent of the population and another forty percent in war production industries.

These proposals set in terms of percentages are set as an example only, but close to today’s needs. Any such law and subsequent budgetary constraints would be negotiated n terms of ratios and percentages.

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