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The End of Defense and the National Interest

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Dr. Chet Richards announced that DNI is set to adjourn sine die.

DNI set to close 

 Probably on Monday, November 23, depending on how my travels work out. Please go ahead and download any thing you’d like to keep — I’d particularly recommend Boyd’s briefings and the 4GW manuals. I have great faith in the growing number of bloggers and commentators who cover many of the same subjects we did – check out a few of them in the “Blogs” and “Other Sites” sections on the right.

DNI started in March 1999 with a grant from Danielle Brian and the folks at the Project on Government Oversight. Its original purpose was to house the growing collection of Chuck Spinney’s commentaries on the foibles of our defense program (when you read these, keep in mind this was during the Clinton era.  We were not associated with any political party).  If you’re interested in strengthening our position in 4GW, I’d suggest a generous donation to POGO.  You could also run for office.

I’d like to thank Danielle, Chuck, Marcus Corbin (our original project officer at POGO and the person who commissioned A Swift, Elusive Sword), Ginger Richards (who designed and operated all the various versions of the site), Bill Lind and all of our other contributors, and all who have taken the time to compose comments.

Chet Richards,


This is a shame, but everything has its time.

DNI served as an important counterpoint to the “conventional wisdom” in military affairs long before the growth of the now influential  defense/.mil/intel/COIN/national security blogosphere. In addition to hosting the entertaining jeremiads of William Lind, Dr. Richards was the steward of the legacy of the great American strategist Colonel John Boyd and the benefactor of the 4GW School of strategic analysis. DNI was not only a resource for scholars and strategists interested in Boyd’s theories, it was a forum for vigorous debate at a time when unconventional views on military reform were unpopular as well as obscure.

Personally, I have learned much from both DNI and from Dr. Richards whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2007, at the Boyd Conference at Quantico ( where I met other blogfriends and readers including Shane DeichmanDan TDAXPShlok VaidyaJohn RobbAdam ElkusDave Dilegge, Frank HoffmanDon VandergriffFrans Osinga, Ski, Isaac and Morgan). This event subsequently led to much good reading, writing, discussion and still more new friends now too numerous to mention here.  The keynote speaker that day was Col. Frans Osinga, whose magnum opus  Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd is still the most comprehensive and detailed text on John Boyd’s strategic thought that we are ever likely to see.

Consequently, as a regular reader, I would like to thank Chet both for his hard work over the years as editor of DNI and for his occasional advice and contributions to various projects and discussions that have occurred in this section of the blogosphere. Dr. Richards appears to be very busy with his business consulting these days and I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

DNI will soon be gone, but it will not be forgotten.


Joseph Fouche is a step ahead on the Boyd downloads

Here are the 4GW manuals (temp).


James Fallows on Chet Richards and DNI

Planet Russell on John Boyd and DNI

Book Review: The Mind of War

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Dr. Grant T. Hammond

The Mind of War went on to my “must read” list after attending the Boyd 07 Conference at Quantico, where I heard Dr. Frans Osinga deliver a keynote presentation on the theories of Colonel John Boyd, based on Osinga’s exhaustive study of Boyd’s personal papers, which culminated first in a PhD dissertation and then later was published as Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. Col. Osinga credits Boyd associate Dr. Grant Hammond and The Mind of War with introducing him to the ideas of John Boyd and inspiring him in his own intellectual journey as a student to try to understand and explain Boyd’s strategic theories.

Unlike Osinga or Robert Coram, author of the celebrated biography, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Hammond enjoyed the advantage of having had a personal and intellectual relationship with Col. Boyd, one that Hammond called “Transforming”. This gives Hammond’s shorter biography insights into how Boyd’s mind worked that Coram and Osinga miss (or more properly, could not have known), including  the “perverse glee” Boyd felt in discovering and exploring the Darwinian mismatch between perception and unfolding reality. While Robert Coram wrote about the demanding aspect that collaborators sometimes felt when dealing with the relentlessly autodidactic John Boyd, who could call at any time of the day or night and talk for hours, Hammond was actually on the receiving end of this treatment for six years:

“Let me illustrate by going through my notes of three telephone calls in the space of a single week in november 1995….He went through differences in his work,the portion that dealt with static or fixed data (energy manuverability) and that dealt with potential….He prefers potentialities. He then proceeded to review his latest reading. In rather short order, I was instructed to read Konrad Lorenz’s Behind The Mirror, Ernst Mayer’s The Growth of Biological Thought, Gerard Radnitsky and W.W Bartley’s edited collection entitled Evolutionary Epistemology (focus on particularly on Karl Popper’s essay and that of Donald T. Campbell) and Stuart A. Kauffman’s The Origins of Order.

….From biology to chaos, future defense scenarios to information war, Sun Tzu and Musashi to the Ames Spy Case, genetic algorithms to how one thinks and learns, airbase security and police to the Japanese art of war, evolutionary epistemology and the growth of biological thought – to Boyd, they are all clearly interrelated.” [ 184-186]

Note that Hammond’s description of just three phone calls with John Boyd ran over three pages of text and the above excerpt reveals only a fraction of the concepts and source material discussed. From Hammond’s The Mind of War the reader gains a good appreciation of how Boyd’s analogically oriented, synthesizing, pattern recognizing, fluidly connective mind worked in practice with a personality or character that could make Boyd competitive, confrontational, admirable, brusque, antagonizing or heroic at different turns.

The Mind of War also puts Boyd’s role in the “military reform movement” into greater clarity and sheds more light on Boyd’s retirement years of declining personal health, intellectual epiphanies, and partial rehabilitation with the Air Force brass that continued to nevertheless inflict slights and insults on the rebel who had repeatedly “bucked the system. While The Mind of War is primarily an intellectual biography of John Boyd, the human dimension is far from absent in Hammond’s writing.

For the serious student of modern strategy or aficianados of Col. John Boyd, Grant Hammond’s The Mind of War is a must read book. It forms a necessary bridge between Robert Coram’s classic style, popular, biography and Osinga’s strictly military-academic treatise on Boydian strategic theory. The Mind of War helps the reader better comprehend either book while remaining a great and highly informative work in it’s own right. Strongly recommended.

Corso – The Last Beat

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

“Corso – The Last Beat” Preview from Damien LeVeck on Vimeo.

Among the interesting people I met at Boyd 2007 was the director Gustave Reininger, a colorful character with whom I had a few drinks while we discussed Chicago politics and a number of his film projects. One of them, Corso -The Last Beat  about beatnik legend Gregory Corso, is nearing release. Check out the trailer and sound off in the comments.

Boyd 2008

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Although my own chances of being able to swing attending this event have grown dim due to schedule conflicts and professional obligations, I nevertheless wanted to give a warm endorsement to Boyd 2008. The conference the previous year was outstanding and the agenda this year looks to be cutting edge:

Boyd Conference Details Dec 6-7

What – There is an opportunity to hold a short, intense seminar on the applicability of Boyd’s ideas, particularly operating inside the OODA loop and grand strategy (sustaining our own morale and attracting the uncommitted), on the weekend of December 6-7 at the University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI. Canada!

Purpose – The theme would be applying these ideas to conflict in the post-Iraq era, and more specifically to the types of diffused, networked, “open source” armed conflicts that some have called “fifth generation warfare.”

We are also interested in exploring solutions, such as the role of “resilient communities” (RC), for countering them. As Oil and food prices have climbed and the mortgage crisis has grown, the need to think more about Resilient Communities has become more urgent. We may have to re-invent our world!

We envision this as a working seminar to help shape the policy agenda in the first year of the new administration.

So we’re looking for a couple dozen attendees, all of whom would either make short presentations on their areas of interest or participate in panel discussions and working groups.

We also hope that the participants will leave with their own agenda items – to improve resilience within their organizations or to prepare articles and opeds on these subjects in the months after the seminar.

There is also a Boyd Blog in operation.

Adaptive Leadership Conference

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

It isn’t quite being “liveblogged” but DNI is putting up posts on The Adaptive Leadership Conference.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maj. Don Vandergriff at Boyd 2007 and his brief on adaptive thinking, while targeted at reforming military education, has a facilitated “free play” nucleus that would be applicable to a wide variety of secondary and postsecondary educational settings to develop creative thinking based problem solving skills in students. Many of Vandergriff’s ideas are laid out in his book,Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War.

Hopefully, DNI will soon be providing an analysis of some of the presentations.

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