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on December 1, 2010
This is a stand alone book, but it builds on the work Colonel Macgregor did in his earlier book. "Breaking the Phalanx." The first book dealt with tactical and operational issues of command and control (C2) and force structure in the Information Age. This book builds the case that information technology enables the creation multi-service, joint military commands and operations. And that the threat environment of the 21st Century makes the use of joint commands a necessity.

As in his previous book, Macgregor demonstrates his understanding that Command, Control, Computers, Communication, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Systems. C4ISR Systems are information driven and allow battlefield awareness to be pushed to the top of the command structure while allowing decision making to pushed down to the tactical level of a command structure. This is brought about by the fact that functioning C4ISR systems simultaneously provide near real time information (situational awareness) to all levels of a military force.

This availability of information allows force structures to be both more flexible and to execute rapid maneuver warfare using dispersed tactical units. Also Macgregor believes that common or at least inter-operable C4ISR Systems make joint operational commands feasible. He argues that warfare in the 21st Century will require multi-service joint operations using small mission oriented modules of air, ground, and naval units. Again such joint operations are made possible by sharing a common and timely information base.

Perhaps most importantly, Macgregor discusses the cultural change that must take place among the Officer Corps of the U.S. Armed Forces to take advantage of the transformational opportunity offered by information technology, especially the ease with which information can be transmitted and processed. He is especially concerned to break the culture of what he refers to as the garrison mentality which encourages risk aversion, strict adherence to command hierarchies, and discourages initiative and creativity especially by junior officers. The qualities found in wartime combat leadership he feels should replace that of peacetime garrison thinking which now pervades the armed forces.

In the end Macgregor builds a good case for the fact that military transformation is not about new technology, but is cultural and structural change in response to new technologies or new threats to national security.

Most of Macgregor's ideas especially about cultural change have proved too radical for the Army, although the Army is replacing its divisional structures with the smaller, "more agile" brigade group concept. What is surprising is the resistance of all the services to adopting a single compatible C4ISR system that would all for inter-operability and make joint operations a reality. This resistance is caused by parochialism, lack of effective leadership by the Joint Chiefs, and the simple fact that the services don't really want to conduct joint operations.
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on October 27, 2014
While it claims to be intended for a very broad audience, much of the lingo is unique to the business and would take someone a bit longer to get through who is not familiar with the technology and organization. Besides that it was a great read.
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on April 15, 2015
I had read this author's previous work. This book is every bit as detailed and researched as any of his work. I appreciate that.
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on November 19, 2003
Readers must accept that Colonel MacGregor is not just re-arranging the wire diagrams into a tighter pattern with a Joint Service "cum-by-ya". His reorganization plans are based in physical realities; he is calling for STRENGTH not weakness excused away by another joint element picking up the slack. The biggest "slackers" in this regard is the USMC which in Iraq was given an entire axis of advance which in their troops-in-trucks ad hoc thrown-together mob mentality got stopped cold on the way to Baghdad. Had it not been for the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, a fully tracked and armored light-medium-heavy force pressing on to take Baghdad--collapsing the enemy's Center of Gravity (COG)---when faint hearts wanted them to continually stop; the entire invasion would have failed. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link---if America's Army does not reform itself into mini-versions of the 3rd ID's powerful combined-arms team as Col Macgregor proposes; the USMC shamocracy of showing up and hoping to bluff the enemy will blow up in our face yet again with disastrous consequences. While Col MacGregor focuses in on getting rid of excessive command layers, at no time does he advocate anything but sound and permanent combined-arms teams along the Army's current Armored Cavalry Regiment and WWII/Korean war Regimental Combat Teams with full mechanized air/ground maneuver capabilities not the style-with-no-substance marines. What America's military needs in the 21st Century as the war in Iraq has proved, is advanced technology Army tracks not marines-in-trucks.
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on July 12, 2012
This prolific and courageous Officer again affords an agenda for innovation and enhancing the Republic's security. I do not wish to echo earlier favorable reviewers with whom I am in total accord, hence I shall limit myself to very limited comments on the necessary and logical expansion of this superb analysis:
1. The author must focus more on the Reserve Components, organized as they are on WWI (not WWII) terms. Do we really need a Virgin Islands Air National Guard? Why are the reserve components so over-staffed and top heavy that a Central American Caudillio would be envious?? The National Guard and Army and AF Reserve must be consolidated, the useless headquarters consigned to the same trash bin as the Coast Artillery Corps, some accomodation made with the Governors and political class, and reserve component Officer training brought up to 21st century standards.

2. More focus must be focused on the toxic nexus between polticians and the military establishment; innumerable books and studies exist....it should be addressed again for what it is....meddlesome and counter-productive.

3. This excellent author may be reluctant to stress this ( he is, God bless him, USMA, combat veteran, Patriot)....but there are far too many commissioned personnel in our armed forces, far too many Flag-rank staff, etc. Grade-creep is endemic....Its all well and good to suggest closing redundant HQ, but the key issue, which serious analysts hate to concede (as it fortifies the Left)is that the armed forces have a ratio of Officers to Enlisted Personnel which is laughable. I refer everyone to Crisis in Command...a 1980 book for which the authors ended their careers as Majors.....

4. Kudos for addressing the training and readiness of our forces.....why not focus on our Officer accession programs, which pre-date WWII.....actually, like the reserves, they date from the Great War and before. "90-day wonders" in 2012?? Hundreds of Academy graduates leaving after their minimum 5 years?? Why not posit some recommendations about compensation and retirement programs as well.....they are germane?

5. A transformation must focus not simply on the author's cogent recommendations....he has the "street cred" (pardon the jargon) to offer his assessment of other germane factors contributing to security. I wish him well and look forward to more books from him. He is brilliant!
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on November 3, 2003
In recent internal memorandum to the top brass of the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, expressed deep reservations about our progress in the war on terrorism. He challenged the uniformed leadership to speed up transformation, writing "It is not possible to change DOD [Department of Defense] fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror." Of all the branches of the military, the Army has been the most reluctant to restructure itself to meet the post cold war security environment's demands.
In Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights, Colonel Douglas MacGregor examines the Army's failure to transform itself and forge a truly effective force to carry its burden in the war on terror. Instead of delaying transformation, he argues, the war on terror makes structural reform all the more urgent. MacGregor maintains that recent Army attempts at transformation, relying on the Stryker and a distant Future Combat System, fail to address the heart of the Army's problem: its anachronistic and cumbersome organization on the tactical and operational levels. MacGregor, however, spends the majority of his book proposing a solution to the problem: an immediate re-organization of the Army's combat units; and the fielding of currently available technology that will quickly address its tactical and operational needs.
MacGregor's ideas are not new. A Gulf war veteran who fought in the battle of 73 Easting, Colonel MacGregor went on to command 1-4 Cavalry at Ft. Riley. While serving there, he recognized the need to re-structure the Army to meet the post cold war demands. He likened the new world order to the American frontier in the late 1800s, which required not the mass infantry formations of the Civil War, but a flexible, expeditionary force based easily deployable, mounted formations. MacGregor's first book on transformation, Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century, laid out in detail his path to structural reform of the Army, emphasizing truly independent, self-contained Brigade sized units; elimination of the Army Divisions, and the formation of Joint Task Forces (roughly the size of a Corps) which integrate all services under a single command structure. Although his ideas received a lot critical acclaim, they went nowhere with the conservative Army leadership.
In Transformation Under Fire: Revoluationizing How America Fights, MacGregor argues that the "war transforms armies." Now, more than ever, the Army must finally shed its industrialized warfare skeleton, and adapt to the realities of Information Age warfare. The Army's essential structure has remained unchanged since the end of WWII, while the end of the cold war necessitates that the Army transform into "an irresistible offensive-maneuver force against a fleeting, mobile enemy." While the Army has recently recognized the need for transformation, he points out, it has sought technological solutions at the expense of addressing the fundamental question of organization for joint warfare.
Rather than transforming to meet the nation's needs, the Army is trying to "do what it wants to do." MacGregor explores the global trends that require a radically different approach to national security issues by the military. Globalization has severely disrupted social structures in much of the developing world, and brought America plenty of new enemies in all corners of the earth. The complete dominance we enjoy in world power has forced our new enemies to resort to unconventional attacks to inflict harm on United States interests. This requires a radically different approach from our Armed Forces. The current administration has developed pre-emption as the national security strategy to deal with emerging threats; such a strategy requires early decision in a crisis. The Pentagon has switched to an "Effects-based" strategy, that emphasizes rapid victory in conflicts by rapidly striking the enemy's strategic center of gravity. The Army's current attrition warfare structure does not position it to conduct rapid, decisive operations in support of the "Effects-based" strategy.
MacGregor goes on to sketch out an operational re-organization into Joint Force Headquarters, which integrate Army maneuver capabilities with strike capabilities of the Air Force and Navy. The Army would re-organize its core service capabilities into specialized modules that would support the Joint Task Force mission. By cutting out the Divisional structure and merging all branches of service at the Joint Task Force level under a three star General, the armed forces would have an organization capable of executing operations in a truly joint fashion with much reduced command decision cycles. MacGregor argues that army must create "network centric" organizations immediately. Combat Groups (roughly a brigade sized unit with all of its support assets organic) would be capable of independent, dispersed mobile warfare, rather than tightly scripted, coordinated mass maneuvers favored by divisions and corps. To forge truly effective combat groups, MacGregor urges training cycles based on unit manning concepts currently under consideration by Army leadership.
MacGregor reserves his last chapters for the upper echelons of the Army and what must change to effect true change. He calls for re-alignment of our combat power, shifting troops away from cold war bases to forward bases that enable power projection and expeditionary warfare. He calls for returning units to the United States and rotating them through forward bases to provide forward capabilities to the national leadership. Additionally, he argues for significant stream-lining of the Army's command structures in Europe and Korea. MacGregor goes on to advocate a new, stream-lined Army command structure to equip the new force, eliminating such headquarters as TRADOC and merging others. Bureaucracy and entrenched interests are the main impediments to effective, rapid transformation. MacGregor goes on to lambaste the Army promotion system that rewards officers who are "yes-men," while punishing officers with bold, forward-thinking ideas. As an example, he points out that selection for General requires the unanimous consent of all 17 General Officers on the board; essentially, a Colonel who aspires to serve at the higher ranks must keep his nose clean and not upset anyone with bold thinking. Finally, he takes the Army to task for remodeling existing Brigades, divisions, corps, and armies with new systems, while passively waiting for technology that is ten years in the future; instead, they should be restructuring now, using existing technology to carry the Army through the battles of the next fifteen years.
MacGregor's book is in the best tradition of military theorists, whose ideas transformed armies to meet the challenges of WWII: Hans von Seckt, Liddel Hart, Charles De Gaulle, and Heinz Guderian. MacGregor presented the first coherent view of how the information age should transform the way we organize for war. The question now remains whether the U.S. Army will heed his calls for true reform, or continue to cede more and more of its missions to the Marine Corps, which has embraced expeditionary warfare. MacGregor takes to task the leadership culture that stifles change; but more importantly, he sketches out a realistic, immediate path to true transformation that will vault the Army out of exile at the Pentagon and back into the forefront of the nation's struggles in the ongoing war on terrorism.
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on August 3, 2004
As a civilian its troubling that marines are dying in Iraq unprotected and when someone like Colonel Macgregor offers solutions we have marines more concerned about whether these reforms bruise or exalts someone's ego. Isn't it more important that we get our marines out of flimsy trucks and into tracks than the USMC ego? Isn't life more important than death? Isn't victory more important than defeat?

Something as important as war requires courageous thinking. The quote about our warriors and scholars becoming too far apart and having fools doing our fighting comes to mind.

What of the wives, children and parents of the dead marines?

Must they suffer lifelong grief because the marine ego was too proud to admit it needed help in the form of tracked armor?

My advice to our young people having read too many cocky and ignorant marine posts is to stay away from the USMC. Don't waste any of your time or lose your life on such an outfit that creates such arrogant boys.

If you are a marine with an attitude that opposes things that will save lives, you need not worry about a dead Army General slapping you, you have the dozens of family members you betrayed to answer to. Tell them about how marines don't need tracked armor in Iraq.
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on May 28, 2004
Current events show who is "transforming" and heeding Colonel MacGregor's advice and who are not. Clearly, the marines are in the "not" category as they tried repeatedly to move into Fallujah on foot without tracked tanks and were repulsed by heavy casualties. There is no room in 21st century warfare for hubris; marines have clearly not read and embraced Colonel MacGregor's book because they still cling to fantasies of romantic, low-grade, lemming foot-infantry on a non-linear battlefield (NLB) populated by RPGs, roadside bombs and AKMs in every household. When the marines quit beating their chests and get rid of their Stryker (LAV-1s) wheeled trucks and stop wasting our nation's amphibious ship capacity with even more trucks then they will have applied Colonel MacGregor's sage advice.
In contrast, in a temporary basis, the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division has successfully squeezed the opposition in Najaf without a lot of flag-draped coffins.
How?
By using lots of M1 Abrams heavy, M2 Bradley and M113 Gavin light tracked tanks to move around the NLB. The question now will the Army realize that on the NLB no one should be riding in a wheeled truck and take the necessary steps to upgrade the thousands of M113 Gavins with RPG and roadside-bomb resistant armor, gunshields it has, to achieve this quickly and at low costs, or will the Army continue to tinker with handfuls of trucks that they hide in a quiet corner of Iraq, hogging up all funds?
I guess this will be all covered in Colonel MacGregor's next book!
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on December 6, 2003
Above review by Carol Hardy is one-third right, one-third wrong, one-third flat wrong.
What Carol got right:
"Readers must accept that Colonel MacGregor is not just re-arranging the wire diagrams into a tighter pattern with a Joint Service "cum-by-ya". His reorganization plans are based in physical realities; he is calling for STRENGTH not weakness excused away by another joint element picking up the slack."
What Carol got wrong:
"The biggest "slackers" in this regard is the USMC which in Iraq was given an entire axis of advance which in their troops-in-trucks ad hoc thrown-together mob mentality got stopped cold on the way to Baghdad. Had it not been for the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, a fully tracked and armored light-medium-heavy force pressing on to take Baghdad--collapsing the enemy's Center of Gravity (COG)---when faint hearts wanted them to continually stop; the entire invasion would have failed. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link---if America's Army does not reform itself into mini-versions of the 3rd ID's powerful combined-arms team as Col Macgregor proposes; the USMC shamocracy of showing up and hoping to bluff the enemy will blow up in our face yet again with disastrous consequences."
Why Carol is wrong - tactical view:
All forces were under the control of the Army, which has a great fear of being shown up by the Corps; this fear is well-founded, in an Army that is 90% "support" to 10% "combat." The Marine general's wise and correct perspective on these engagements is available on the Net. Another Marine general easily, and decisively, defeated the Army's Iraq War master plan in war games so badly, the Green Machine's deadwood "leadership" demanded the game be "reset" and redesigned to insure Army victory.
Why Carol is wrong - strategic view:
Saddam has read Giap. We are pinned down in Baghdad, as the Iraqi army simply melted away, to surround us on their home turf. The Army, still obsessed with stopping T-55's coming through the Fulda Gap, is the wrong force for constabulary operations; indeed, it's the wrong force for Fourth Generation warfare. Lawrence Korb has written on how to cut the DoD budget in HALF with no loss in warfighting capability. Chester Richards' excellent thought piece, "A Swift, Elusive Sword," defines how to make much more war, with much less money.
What else Carol got wrong:
"While Col MacGregor focuses in on getting rid of excessive command layers, at no time does he advocate anything but sound and permanent combined-arms teams along the Army's current Armored Cavalry Regiment and WWII/Korean war Regimental Combat Teams with full mechanized air/ground maneuver capabilities not the style-with-no-substance marines. What America's military needs in the 21st Century as the war in Iraq has proved, is advanced technology Army tracks not marines-in-trucks."
Why Carol got this wrong, too:
We are using Russian helicopters in Iraq - they are designed for military operations ("flying tanks," to use Suvorov's formulation), and we are being defeated in the 4G war that is ongoing in Iraq - William S. Lind, has written extensively on this, and why it is happening. When cheap RPG's stop expensive Abrams tanks, the economics of warfare demands 4G thinking. Only the Corps is taking this responsibility seriously, and even they are too slow for people like the editor of g2mil.com.
A country that is fighting its way into constructive bankruptcy badly needs MacGregor's reforms for the Army - an Army that fights for such wastes of taxpayer money as the Crusader artillery piece, ROTC, and Stryker vehicles.
Conclusion:
IF YOU PAY TAXES, BUY THIS BOOK!
IF YOU ARE IN DoD, BUY THIS BOOK!
MacGregor's books must be accepted as dogma by anyone who pays taxes for an Army that is routinely neutralized, and constructively defeated, by Third World street gangs.
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