The successes and failures of flamboyant U.S. Army Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell in transforming defense in the 1920s have a lot to tell us about transformation today.
Transformation is a word appearing in nearly every speech by a high Department of Defense official these days. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a special study of it to provide input for defense planning. On 2 March 1999, Dr. A. W. Marshall, the DoD's Director of Net Assessment, predicted: "The price could be big if we don't get the right ideas and make the right organizational changes .... Where are we now? Well, I think we are in about 1924!"
Although the United States is clearly the world's strongest military power, the sense among defense officials is that we must exert ourselves to meet threats and environments that are changing rapidly. Many join Dr. Marshall in drawing parallels to the 1920s and 1930s, when rapid changes set the stage for World War II and weighed heavily on the scales of victory and defeat.