LANPAC: Winning Future Wars Requires Strategic Thinking

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Winning future wars requires more than firepower, Gen. David G. Perkins, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, said Wednesday at the LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Hawaii. Firepower, he said, can deliver a tactical or battlefield victory but only national power will win future wars.

Without national power, “it is almost impossible to win at a strategic level,” Perkins said at the event hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare. Winning on a strategic level requires giving the enemy multiple dilemmas, while a battle can be won by presenting a single dilemma, he said.

“If you don’t have multiple dilemmas for the enemy, eventually they will figure out how to get around the one you have provided,” Perkins said. “They will avoid our strengths. They will avoid our targeting them.”

“It is much more like chess than checkers,” he said, calling checkers “a targeting drill” while chess allows victory with your adversary maybe having more pieces but no options because of strategic moves. “The Army has to operate more like chess than checkers,” Perkins said.

Leadership development is a key to this type of thinking, Perkins said, teaching people they need to be able to adjust to different environments through innovation so they can operate in a new place, face a new threat or need a new strategy. The “rate of innovation,” being quick thinking, developing new strategy and doctrine, and having an acquisition process that can more quickly deliver weapons could determine future victories, he said.

Perkins’ keynote speech focuses on the Army’s new operating concept, called “Winning in a Complex World.” “The future is not the environment we have all used growing up,” he said. “If you don’t change your systems and processes, you are not going to get the outcome you want.”

Retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the former Army chief of staff who is president and CEO of AUSA, said he sees the problem facing the U.S. Army as similar to looking at a child’s kaleidoscope, requiring quick and innovative leaders. “You don’t know what you are looking at, glass or stones. And, every time you turn it, you see something new,” Sullivan said.