Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Closing With the Enemy, Coordinating with Your Friends

This is an interesting book I read over the last couple weeks. It's a study of the lessons the American Army learned as they fought across France into Germany.

The author takes a very different approach to the US and Germany military than does James Q. Wilson, whose book "Bureaucracy" is good. Wilson sees the Germans as emphasizing small group cohesion, flexibility, etc. while the U.S. was more bureaucratic, top down. This book almost reverses it--seeing the U.S. as being willing to learn from the bottom up and not top down.

Be that as it may, foremost among the lessons learned were a set of lessons on coordination, whether between tactical air and infantry, tanks and infantry, engineers and infantry (in river crossing and assaulting fortification), etc. Because my own bureaucratic career was plagued by problems of coordinating different branches of the agency, and different organizations within USDA, this experience from a completely different world is interesting.

Part of the lesson is simplifying communication. If tanks and infantry use different radios (reminiscent of the different radios used by NYC police and fire), stick a handset on the back of the tank and have an infantryman ride there. Use light planes and forward air controllers to coordinate tactical air and infantry. (The idea of a dedicated liaison, like the FAC, is something I would like to try in my next reincarnation as a USDA bureaucrat.) Another part is proper allocation of resources--attacking in a way that maximizes the artillery available to the combat commander, for example.

Bottom line: bureaucracy is bureaucracy, because people are people, whether they wear camouflage or white collars.

No comments: