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Boyd & Beyond 2013 Retrospective Day II.

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

To continue the review of the  Boyd and Beyond 2013 Conference, Day II. ForDay I go here.

0800-0900 Major Jeremy Renken “A Theory of Strategy”

Photo: Whiteboard.....

Photo: Major Jeremy Renken. " war is a communicative act"

“War is a communicative act”

The theoretical heavy lifting of the conference was done by Major Renken, who filled an enormous whiteboard with diagrams and notes, an address about the nature of strategy that needs to become a journal article. Declaring that “theory must be more than categories” and “explain and predict”, Renken methodically laid out a paradigm he described as a “prism of efficacy” for constructing strategy and engaged in a lively Q&A for more than an hour.  One of the best presentations at Boyd & Beyond 2013 and I hope that Renken goes on to fully develop and publish his thesis or work it into a book. There needs to be more questioning of old assumptions

0915-1000 LTC Bob Weiman ” Strategic Legalism: Indicator of Bad Strategy According to Boyd

Photo: LTC Bob Weiman. "Strategic legalism is the use of laws or legal arguments to further larger policy objectives without regard to facts or laws"

” If I had a dollar for every time in this room when we talked of ‘commander’s intent’ I could have retired on the Commandant’s pay”

Another controversial brief. Bob Weiman, one of the original “Dirty Dozen” , blasted the politicization of the military justice system under the Bush and Obama administration and the effects of illegal command influence to try to  secure the “right” verdicts to satisfy domestic civilian political needs – a doctrine he called “Strategic Legalism”. This is a kind of lawfare waged by national leadership against their own troops, defined as “…the use of laws or legal arguments to further larger policy objectives regardless of the facts or laws”. Numerous case studies, but especially the Haditha trials were examined.

1015-1115 Carlos Balarezo & Robert Paterson ” Get inside your own OODA Loop: A Practical Tool”

Photo: Carlos Balarezo.  "Just like the evolution of energy, there has been an evolution of   our institutions...." Photo: Rob Paterson. "With the world wide web,what happened 100,000 years ago in a tribe of 35 ppl is now happening globally. ..."

 “With the world wide web,what happened 100,000 years ago in a tribe of 35 ppl is now happening globally.”

Balarezo and Paterson discussed the meta-history of human society in terms of revolutions in energy systems and their corresponding evolution in institutions and the death or downward spiral  that comes when a tipping point is reached of approximately 15% their prime flows ( revenue, talent etc.) are removed.  The Social network can be leveraged to empower individuals under the thumb of old, machine age, bureaucratic institutions and Balazero and Paterson are developing such a network for health, diet and preventive medicine.

1145 -1245 Dave Diehl “Boyd and the Cyber Domain”

Photo: Dave Diehl on Cyber Domain." The tools behind the tools move mountains.....what deep strategic errors have we made?"

” The tools behind the tools move mountains…..what deep strategic errors have we made?”

Diehl, the self-described “tool-using primate’ at his software enterprise ( a post above chief software architect) gave a strategic overview of the inherent tensions in designing cyber security between providing a high assurance system ( incredibly hard, very expensive, constraining) and a low assurance system that permits user creativity and evolving capabilities ( easier, flexible, cheaper but far less secure). Diehl also explained that this mismatch had to be addressed with active defense over three time frames, human, cyber and digital with a correct ( but counter-intuitive to industry) alignment of design capabilities with problems.

1300-1400 Dr. Jim Roche “Boyd, Neuroscience and the Decision Cycle”

Photo: Jim Roche. " implicit guidance and control.....is about true

” Implicit guidance and control…..is about trust” 

Roche put the history and structure of Boyd’s OODA Loop in the context of recent findings of neuroscience  and brain research, the automaticity of some decision making, chunking of information and other aspects of neural processing.

1415-1515 Pete Turner and Dr. Rich Ledet ” Mass Communications in Support of Political Development”

Photo: Pete Turner "You have to win politically, culturally and socially....we did not test our message with the locals" Photo: Dr. Rich is considering something...can you guess what it is?

“You have to win politically, culturally and socially….we did not test our message with the locals” 

Offering a serious dose of “ground truth” at the village, district and provincial level in Afghanistan, Turner and Ledet made a sharp critique of US programs in Afghanistan that was congruent with LTC Dziengeleski’s perspective from Kabul. The interaction between ISAF commanders and local political authorities, provincial notables and elders have been marked by conflicting messages, poorly designed incentives, social distance and insular orientation to satisfying faraway military bureaucracy.  Turner and Ledet call for genuine and independent empiricism in evaluating and modifying assistance programs based on F2F, often qualitative, assessment.

The conference then, after a wrap-up by Colonel Stan Coerr,  adjourned for a tradition known as “Boyd& Beer” graciously hosted by J. Scott Shipman and his lovely wife Kristen, where the convo continued long into the night over delicious food and drink.

One of the best Boyd conferences ever.

Boyd & Beyond 2013 Retrospective Day I

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

“I was an up-and-comer in the Air Force. I was selected early for Major. I was selected early for Lieutenant Colonel. And then I met John Boyd….”
– Jim Burton

In terms of depth and intellectual firepower, Boyd & Beyond 2013 was among the best of the conferences dedicated to the memory and strategic legacy of Colonel John Boyd. Every presentation was good and at least four ventured into the realm of outstanding.  Spanning two roughly twelve hour days, there was enough time for speakers to engage in a genuine give-and-take with the audience and for general debate to flow.  Conference organizers LTC  Colonel Stan Coerr and J. Scott Shipman deserve thanks and recognition for the success of the conference that saw participants from all service branches, the intelligence community, the defense industry, academia, the professions, scientists, private sector, retirees, students and special guests Col. Jim Burton and Mary Ellen Boyd, daughter of Colonel John Boyd.

See a superb photographic presentation of Boyd & Beyond 2013 by John Davis here.

The two day agenda:

0730 Introduction – Stan Coerr, master of ceremonies…. 

Stan kept everything focused and moving, kept us fed and did much of the behind the scenes trouble-shooting

0800-0900 Michael Niehuser  ” The Colonel John R. Boyd Oral History Project”

Photo: Dr. Michael Niehuser "do something strikingly original"

“Do something strikingly original…”

This was a fantastic kick-off to the conference. Niehuser is interviewing Boyd acolytes, associates and adversaries and creating transcripts of their recollections of John Boyd as a theorist, fighter mafia guru and military reformer. Niehuser discussed his interviews and then let the stories speak for themselves.  This needs to become a book!

0920-1020 LTC Francis J. H. Park, PhD ” How the USMC Came to Maneuver Warfare” 

Photo: Maneuver warfare and Gulf War I.

“Maneuver warfare is a religion….”

Park, an active duty US Army strategist spoke for an hour plus without notes on the evolution of maneuver warfare in the USMC from an idea to an insurgency by the “Dirty Dozen” ( a group including presenter Bob Weiman and future General James “Mad Dog” Mattis) to doctrine. Then came the test of battle – coalition operations during the Gulf War – and the degree to which a Boyd influenced concept was involved in the first defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. A tour de force brief!

1040-1140 Col. Jim Burton “Recollections of John Boyd”

Photo: Col. Jim Burton" [John Boyd] made generals very nervous"

[John Boyd] made generals very nervous” 

Col. Burton is the man who famously challenged the Pentagon over the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and whose dramatic resignation in protest caused Congress to force a re-design on the Department of Defense so that the carrier would be something more than a rolling crematorium for the men inside. A close associate of John Boyd and the subject of nightly Boyd phone calls, Burton spoke on the occasion of his donation of  his private papers to the John Boyd Archive located at the Al Gray Center.

1215-1315 Michael Moore “Boyd and the Big Picture”

Photo: Michael Moore. "Magicians fool us when we accept their starting points..

“Magicians fool us when we accept their starting points. Boyd was not fooled; he did not accept that the superior MiG15 was beaten by the F86 because of some ‘magic’. Boyd dug. And he came up with the OODA. With one way of re-picturing the OODA, we can go beyond what Boyd has left us…” 

British psychologist Michael Moore’s presentations nudge his listeners to insight, parceling out clues modeled on Boydian theory, moving from physical periphery to moral center.

1335-1405 LTC Andrew Dziengeleski “Operational Planning in Afghanistan or How John Boyd Rolled Over in his Grave”

Photo: LTC Andrew Dziengeleski "what we have done in Afghanistan has made zero difference....our orientation was wrong..."

“What we have done in Afghanistan has made zero difference….our orientation was wrong…”

In what was the most controversial address of the conference, LTC Dziengeleski spared no one in his blistering critique of American failures in Afghanistan and it’s costs, including himself, apologizing at one point to the audience for not having been able to have done more. His examples were legion and the debate provoked was the most vigorous of the conference and continued online.

1420-1450 Mark Hart “A Graphics Version of Operating Inside Adversary’s OODA Loops”

Photo: Mark Hart discussing part of his upcoming book, Developing Winners

This was different.Previously, use of Power point had been strongly discouraged at Boyd & Beyond but here Hart used animation to elucidate aspects and dimensions of the OODA Loop, including the famous aerial maneuver used by “Forty Second Boyd” to best adversaries in dogfight practices. Hart has an upcoming book soon to be published, Developing Winners.

1605-1650 Alexander Olesker ” Counter-Deception in the Information Age

Photo: Alex Olesker "deception and counter-deception are the same....channels are really important"

“Deception and counter-deception are the same….channels are really important”

In a brief about the principles of deception in the cyber world, Alex discussed “Hacking the OODA Loop” with unexpected inputs, influencing action,  “Bending the map” and the deception cycle, illustrating his points with humor and case studies.

End of day 1 – more to come!

The Review of Boyd & Beyond 2013…..

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013


Is underway – growing longer than I anticipated – which is a good thing.

Be finished sometime Tuesday


LTC Bob Weiman, who had a presentation on the question of the Laws of War vs. Rule of Law paradigms, that particularly  resonated with me given my diplo history background, had a great review of his impressions that I did want to get lost in the comments section:

Boyd and Beyond 2013…ideas, discussions and breadcrumbs

Another Boyd conference has come and gone at Quantico and this is the fourth held aboard the Marine Base in that many years. The presentations are thought provoking, discussions enthusiastic and the Boydian commandeer excellent.

The conference opened with Michael Niehuser and his work on: “Colonel John R. Boyd Oral History Project: A Search for The Truth”. Yes! About time and long overdue. I believe I spent a little more time with Michael then most and he is definitely hooked on the Col Boyd story and those earlier followers we call acolytes. When he is done with this project it will prove to be exceptional. The Boyd, von Mellenthin and Balck re-invasion of Russia story was priceless.

In my mind, two basic issues are associated with Col Boyd and his compendium of briefs. The first is the existing institutional resistance and skepticism. The second is the incompleteness of Col Boyd’s work. I say incomplete because he did not write his book and that is a criticism I hear frequently from across the informal debating podium. These two issues provide opportunities or gaps that the Boyd Conference participants exploit. As Boydians, the more we discuss, debate, investigate and evolve the more likely we overcome the institution resistance.

Concerning the incompleteness; as Boydians, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. We recognize the robustness and utility of his work and at the same time have an endless stream of questions on his meaning and intent, especially concerning the practical application within our particular professions.

The good news is Col Boyd’s work drops trails of breadcrumbs across everyone’s mental “tapestry” that shows the least interest. These breadcrumbs trails are the guide to completeness. On military side, when I listen to that first incoming salvo of “Patterns of Conflict”, Col Boyd talked about “Tiger Jack”. Major General John Shirley Woods 4th Armor Division led Patton’s Third Army across Europe. The second time I heard “Patterns of Conflict “ the Colonel spoke about Major General “Terrible” Terry Allen Division Commander of the 104th Infantry Division. When asked why the General Allen stressed night attack training when it confuses his own troops, his reply was; “because it confuses the Germans more”. Detailed battle studies of these men and their tactics are needed to determine why they got Colonel Boyd’s attention as good examples.
Another example is Michael G. Moore’s (Integrity Psychologist) work and presentations. Michael has presented for the past three years and he has moved from tracking bread crumbs through the forest to a full exploitation of a gap. I believe Michael is executing (what we call in the military) a “rollup” using Boyd within his own professional field.
During the conference, Scott Shipman mentioned that when he went into the Boyd papers at the Alfred Gray Library, he saw pages of yellow legal pad where Boyd had written a line or phrase over and over and then suddenly changed one word. Here the breadcrumb is the “word” and the trail is the why he choose that particular word.

I think Colonel Boyd would be excited observing us on this mental gymnastic dilemma of chasing breadcrumbs. He would be thrilled because we have all left the role of witness and ventured into the realm of thinkers, analyst and implementers. Well done Boydians, hope to see where you are on your breadcrumb trails next year and a special thanks to Stan and Scott for their time, efforts and hospitality.

Semper Fi, Bob Weimann

Thanks Bob!

Vlahos: Forty years of the Fighter Mafia

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

[by Mark Safranski a.k.a “zen”]

Kelly Vlahos, the often sharp-penned defense columnist at The American Conservative, has written an excellent tribute to Colonel John Boyd and his Acolytes:

40 years of the Fighter Mafia

….Boyd and Christie started the group on a very small scale in Florida, fueled more by beer and frivolity than anything else. Things got serious when Boyd and later Christie were brought to work at the Pentagon. They met Pierre Sprey, a self-described “subversive” in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, then occupied by Robert McNamara. Sprey was one of the “whiz kids,” but he believed the Air Force was doing everything wrong in Vietnam. He was an early proponent of close air support, which led to the development of the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog.”

“We were bureaucratic guerrilla warriors, fighting the system and deploying whatever underground means we could use,” including whistleblowing, leaking, and “suborning” members of Congress, Sprey says, half-joking.

“John Boyd came in as a maverick,” Sprey recalled. Initially, Boyd was brought to the Pentagon in the 1960s by a general who disliked Sprey’s ideas on close air support and was pulling together a group of eggheads to “disgrace” him. When the general left Boyd alone in the room with Sprey they “became fast friends, co-conspirators.” The rest is history.

By the time the group held its first Washington meeting in 1973, Sprey, Boyd, Christie, and test pilot Col. Everest Riccioni had designed the concept that was directly implemented as the F-15 and F-16 fighter programs—which have served as the core of American air power for the past 40 years. The group came to be known as the “Fighter Mafia” and expanded their circle to include other like-minded individuals with the same goals for reforming programs and building better weapons systems for the military.

“I’m proud of what we achieved, but it was only a drop in the bucket” relative to the massive size of the Pentagon’s budget and operations, says Sprey. “At least we got a few things done.”

Today, he adds, “we’re a network of subversives trying to cut the defense budget and campaigning against things that don’t work.”

Nice piece.  Read the rest here.


This would also be a good time to remind everyone that the Boyd & Beyond 2013 conference will be at Quantico on October 11th and 12th.  It’s free, but you must RSVP Scott Shipman or Colonel Stan Coerr. 

Boyd and Beyond 2013 Agenda, 11&12 October, Quantico, VA

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

[by J. Scott Shipman]


0730-0800 Introduction, Stan Coerr

0800-0900 Michael Niehuser (1 hour) The Colonel John R. Boyd Oral History Project:  A Search for The Truth

0920-1020 Francis J.H. Park (1 hour) How The USMC Came to Maneuver Warfare

1040-1140 Jim Burton — Recollections of John Boyd

Lunch brought in

1215-1315 Michael Moore (1 hour) Boyd and the Big Picture

1335-1405 Andrew Dziengeleski (35 min) Operational Planning in Afghanistan or How John Boyd Rolled Over in His Grave

1420-1450 Mark Hart (30 min) A Graphics Version of Operating Inside Adversary’s OODA Loops

1605-1650 Alexander Olesker (45 min) Counter-deception in the Information Age


0800 – 0900 Dean Lenane (1 hour) Using Boyd in Business

0915-1000 Bob Weiman (45 min) Strategic Legalism Indicator of Bad Strategy According to Boyd

1015-1115 Carlos Balarezo & Robert Paterson (1 hour) Get Inside Your Own OODA Loop: A Practical Tool

Lunch brought in

1145-1245 Dave Diehl (1 hour) Boyd & the Cyber Domain

1300-1400 Jim Roche (1 hour) Boyd, Neuroscience, and the Decision Cycle

1415-1515 Pete Turner (1 hour) Mass Communications in Support of Political Development


Slots remain to attend but if you have not, RSVP via email.

Cross posted at To Be or To Do.

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