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New Release: Creating a Lean R&D System, by Terry Barnhart—a preliminary review

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Creating a Lean R&D System, by Terry Barnhart

Friend of this blog, and friend, Terry Barnhart’s new book is available on Amazon. Terry is one of the leading thinkers among those who admire John Boyd’s work.

Terry has spoken at the last three Boyd and Beyond events, and much of the substance of those talks are reflected in this book. I’ve read most of it, and believe it will have wide applicability outside the “lean” community. His sections on the use of A3’s (the subject of his talks at B&B this year) for problem identification/solution and rapid learning have potential at the personal and the organizational level. At the core, Terry is advocating a culture of innovation and providing tools he has proven in practice.


A version is cross posted at To Be or To Do.

“Ground Hog Day” Afghanistan Style — Lara Logan Shining Light Where Needed

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

[by J. Scott Shipman]

This is worth the 20 minutes. Strategy without clarity, isn’t. There is no clarity or strategy to our current problems in Afghanistan.

“We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated.” Ambassador Ryan Crocker

Cross posted at To Be or To Do.
H/T Feral Jundi at Facebook.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Gamble on the Moderate Islamists

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

As you probably already know, the US Embassy in Cairo Egypt was stormed today by Islamists supposedly angry about a video on Youtube supposedly made or endorsed by anti-Muslim Quran-burner and bigot Rev. Terry Jones. The embassy, deliberately left without sufficient protection by the Egyptian government of Islamist President  Mohamed Morsi, was overrun, Islamists tore down the US flag and hoisted the black flag of al Qaida while a senior Muslim Brotherhood official has called on the US to “apologize”. All on the anniversary of 9/11.

The US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by an Islamist militia with RPGs and small arms, sacked and burned, killing at least one American.

The Obama administration has gambled heavily upon a Mideast policy of engagement verging into appeasement and sponsorship of Sunni Islamist groups’ political and even revolutionary aspirations in the hopes of  co-opting “moderate” or “pragmatic” Islamists into a durable partnership with the United States. The new regime of American-educated Mohammed Morsi, represents the cornerstone of this policy, alongside the Libyan Revolution that toppled Gaddafi. This initiative has been delicately balanced, Nixon-style, with a very tough campaign of unapologetic targeted drone strikes on hard-core al Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

If you have a sense of deja vu, you are harkening back to 1979, when another Democratic administration and an arrogantly uninformed group of senior State Department officials severely misread another, that time Shia, Islamist revolution. We lost several embassies then as well and endured a national humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis.

But give the Carter administration, it’s due: when the embassy in Teheran was seized or the one in Islamabad burned by military-sponsored Islamist mobs, no State Department official at the time responded with quite this level of truckling moral cowardice and incompetence:


@USEmbassyCairo you say all humans are equal but the truth is you hate Muslims and describe us as terrorists when u are the real terrorists


@mbaha2 No, that’s not true. We consistently stand up for Muslims around the world and talk abt how Islam is a wonderful religion

Perhaps the time for anxiously politically correct FSOs describing Islam as “a wonderful religion” to an online Salafist hater could wait a few days, at least until Egypt restored the American embassy to it’s sovereign status with an apology and the body of the slain American diplomat is returned to their family from Libya for a decent burial?

The administration’s policy teeters on a knife’s edge. Their so far craven and confused response today to two of our diplomatic missions being attacked by the forces they themselves have engaged could potentially cause a snowball effect across the region. Their would-be “allies” are  currently calculating the costs of biting the hand that fed them vice the dangers of their own swarming fanatics in the streets. The administration’s officials as of today seem to have little awareness of the effects of their bizarrely conciliatory words and a stubborn determination to double-down rather than correct their course  have begun to reevaluate at least their rhetoric. The policy is another question.
Perhaps for our next hostage crisis, we will see an American ambassador beheaded live on al Jazeera……
Events in Libya were worse than news reports yesterday indicated. Ambassador Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel were killed and the security situation in Libya remains dicey.
When this terrible incident is examined by Congressional committees, one focus will be on the security provided to the embassy and Ambassador Stevens by the State Department and the government of Libya, whose security minister reported that the government safe house sheltering American diplomatic personnel had been discovered by the attackers. “Where were the Marine guards?” is a question already being asked privately by national security and defense professionals which will soon be put forward in public.
Now policy may be changing sharply in the direction of realism. Good

Boyd & Beyond 2012 Final Agenda

Monday, September 10th, 2012
[by J. Scott Shipman]
Photo credit: Zenpundit


A modified note from Stan Coerr:

To All-

We are looking forward to seeing everyone a month from now, on the morning of 12 October 2012 in Quantico.

IF YOU ARE A SPEAKER:  I need a positive response from you that your time allotted, subject and day are correct.  If you need us to move you, let me know.

Coordinating instructions:

1.  Dress code Casual.

Officers:  you do not need to wear a uniform.  There will be people there in blue jeans.

2.  Location

We are going to be in two different places on the two days we are there.

On Friday, the first day, we will meet at 7:30 am in the Command and Staff College building, right next to the Gray Research Center. You should have no trouble at the gate.

To stay overnight:  Crossroads Inn is a hotel on the base, less than a mile from the venues.  It is at 3018 Russell Rd, Quantico, VA 22134 Phone  (703)630-4444

On Saturday, we will meet at 8:00 am at the Expeditionary Warfare School, also on the base in Quantico.  We will give those directions on Friday.

3.  Food

We are looking for volunteers for food and drink.  Coffee, water and snacks are most welcome. Please contact me and Scott Shipman if you are able to help. [Note: Scott Shipman is bringing coffee. Someone volunteered for water and bagels, but I misplaced the note—drop me a comment/email to close the loop.]

4.  Tempo

We are cramming in a lot of information and a lot of presentations…and a lot of people. I know that the math does not add up on our schedule; people can contract or expand as needed. It is my intent that we will eat right there in the room, both days, and take breaks right there as well.

5.  Next

It is my intent that we will start doing this twice a year. I am planning to start a Boyd and Beyond 2013 conference in Silicon Valley / Monterey / Palo Alto area next spring, IN ADDITION TO our usual October event in Quantico.  I am convinced that people there will be intrigued by our group and will want to participate. I have started talking to people about how, and where, to do this.  If you have ideas, bring them and we will discuss.

Scott and I look forward to seeing everyone in a month!


Stan Coerr

Boyd and Beyond 2012 Friday 12 October

0730-0815 Stan Coerr intro

Dr. Terry  Barnhart :  Ten-minute teaching modules  throughout conference

0815-0945 Present at the Creation

Chet Richards: Closing the OODA Loop: Boyd, the Conceptual Spiral, and the Meaning of Life (60 min)

Greg Wilcox: Boyd’s: People, Ideas, and Things, In That Order (30 min)

Dr. Terry Barnhart : Ten-Minute Teaching Modules throughout conference


1000-1200 The Rise of the Marines

Brigadier General Stacy Clardy USMC: John Boyd, Quantico and Marine Corps Enlightenment (60 min)


Captain Paul Tremblay USMC: Boyd and Bravo Company: Tempo in Ground Combat (60 min)

Terry for Ten

1215 Lunch brought in

Terry for Ten

1245-1345 Boyd and the Real World

Katya Drozdova: Afghanistan, Force and Tempo (30 min)
Marshall Wallace: NGO Team Decision Cycles in Crisis: Boyd in Action (30 min)

Terry for Ten

1345-ENDEX Holding the Grail

Mike Miller: The Boyd Archives: Lecture and Tour Round-Robin

To archives: small groups, 30 minutes each

Concurrent in classroom: Case Method Instructors (Bruce Gudmundsson/Damien O’Connell).

GI Wilson: How it Happened

Boyd and Beyond 2012 Saturday 13 October

Terry for Ten

0800-1030 Boyd and the Brain

Venkatesh Rao: What does “inside the Tempo” Mean? (60 min)
Critt Jarvis: Ecolate OODA (30 min)
Michael Moore: WinBowl II (60 min)

1030-1300 Boyd in Battle : Insurgency

Pete Turner: Human Terrain Systems and COIN (30 min)
Tom Hayden: Boyd and COIN (60 min)
Mike Grice: The Second O: The Effect of COIN on Orientation (30 min)

Adam Elkus: OODA and Robotic Weapons (30 min)

Terry for Ten

1300-1500 Boyd and Business

Jake Wood and William McNulty: Boyd and Bureaucracy: Starting Rubicon (30 min)
David Diehl: Boyd in the Cyber Conflict Domain (30 min)
Mike Grice & Jonathan Brown: Boyd Cycle in High-Pressure Business (30 min)
Chris Cox: Boyd and Politics (30 min)

Ten for Terry

1515-1545 Boyd and Beyond IV Silicon Valley Spring 2013

Stan Coerr: Next Steps

Cross-posted at To Be or To Do.

Kelly Vlahos Spoons John Nagl Over COIN

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

There is quite a buzz going in mil and defense blogger circles over the recent op-ed savaging in The American Conservative by Kelley Vlahos regarding Dr. John Nagl and COIN. Unfortunately for Vlahos, little of it that I have seen online or privately is favorable – including from some people who I know are less than well-disposed toward COIN or the COINdinistas.

Speaking as someone who was one of the earlier voices to remark that the political moment of pop-centric COIN had passed, I found Vlahos’ post to largely be ill-tempered, context-distorting, schadenfreude.

But hey, judge for yourself. My comments will be in normal text:

Learning to Eat Soup with a Spoon 

….Then Tom Ricks, Washington Post correspondent-court scribe, conducted a full-blown high school popularity contest, literally ranking the “brains behind counterinsurgency’s rise from forgotten doctrine to the centerpiece of the world’s most powerful military.” In this cringe-worthy “top ten” published in Foreign Policy in December 2009, Ricks places “King David” Petraeus at Number 1, and then Nagl, whose Oxford dissertation-turned-Barnes-and-Noble-bestseller Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife made him a counterinsurgency “scholar,” among other bright lights of the time. Nagl, Ricks predicted, would be “in a top Pentagon slot within a year or two.”

That was just three years ago. Today, there is no better symbol for the dramatic failure of COIN, the fading of the COINdinistas and the loss that is U.S war policy in Afghanistan than this week’s news that Nagl is leaving Washington to be the headmaster of The Haverford School, a rich preparatory school (grades k-12) for boys on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

Hmmmm. I guess General Petraeus as CIA Director and General Mattis as Combatant Commander of CENTCOM are therefore examples of a rare form of career failure.

And really, only a subpar military officer would involve himself in educating young people. Shame on you, John Nagl, for joining such a shady group of misfits.

….That’s right — Nagl, once called the Johnny Appleseed of COIN, who reveled in his role as face man, tutoring reporters with practiced bookish charm on the “the new way of war,”  and burnishing his personal story to convince everyone that he was a counter-insurgent before his time — a modern T.E. Lawrence — is packing up for good. Turns out that despite all the high hopes, the COINdinistas hit the brass ceiling with a smack, especially once it became clear that the magic they sold was a bag of beans….

Again, most of the COINdinistas, so-called, have not hit some kind of brass ceiling  nor are they secretly running the Army or the administration. Most are  in perfectly respectable but unremarkable ranks, institutional positions or jobs in the private sector. HR McMaster is now a brigadier major general, Con Crane is a director at the US Army Military History Institute, Kalev Sepp is a lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, Montgomery McFate holds the Minerva Chair at NWC,  General Jack Keane sits on several corporate boards, Fred Kagan is still at AEI,  Andrew Exum is at CNAS, David Kilcullen is the  CEO at Caerus Associates and so on.

By Washington standards, this is a relatively modest level of policy influence or promotion (Petraeus and Mattis excepted). If you want to look at rapid advancement through political connections, consider Al Haig rising like a rocket from LTC to full general and NATO Supreme Commander due to his proximity to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Or the unusually gilded career path of Colin Powell.

That said, there are many grounds, theoretical and practical, to find fault with pop-centric COIN theory and FM 3-24, from an anti-empirical legacy assumption of a Maoist model of insurgency, to a fundamental confusion of tactics and operational art with strategy to the hardening of COIN from a fairly flexible emergent doctrine in Iraq into a rigid, micromanaging, ROE dogma in Afghanistan. COIN is ripe for revision, not excision and substantive, informed, critiques of the wars of the past decade are sorely needed by scholars, military officers and defense intellectuals. Irregular conflict is never going away any more than war will go away.

Unfortunately, Vlahos was too busy with gossipy smears on Nagl’s character to make any substantive points of that nature which would have made her column something more than ad hominem rubbish.

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