Now Hear This - Innovate, Adapt, and Prepare

By Lieutenant Brandon Euhus, U.S. Navy

Looking at this through John Boyd’s concept of the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act), how we carry out the first two steps is absolutely crucial. We must determine our position in relation to the variables of technological advantage, geopolitical realities, current threats, and fiscal constraints. The close analysis and synthesis of relevant historical case studies provides a great starting point.

Lessons from World War I remain relevant. Both sides believed offense held the advantage, and a quick victory would go to the forces capable of tolerating incredibly high casualties. By late 1914 both sides had nearly exhausted their resources and focused on defense. Each attempted to adapt to new realities, but stagnation continued. Changes brought by the industrial revolution, compounded with the unpreparedness of military organizations, presented problems that Murray says, “were almost insoluble from the perspective of 1913.”

Germany, relying on a vigorous lessons-learned process, adapted to actual conditions and developed new doctrine advocating defense through well-executed counterattacks and maneuver warfare. Murray emphasizes the importance of adaptation during World War I, stating that in the 1914–18 timeframe, tactical developments “represent the most important and complex revolution in military affairs to occur during the course of the twentieth century and perhaps history.” However, Germany’s experience also shows that tactical adaptions will not make up for strategic ineptitude. The point here is that rapid technological advancements impact how wars are fought and push military organizations to determine their implications.

The institution that can turn innovation into genuine capability will have the distinct advantage. The Department of the Navy’s Transformation Plan 2014–2016 reemphasizes “the proliferation of unmanned systems” as a key goal. The Navy has the requisite institutional culture to take the lead on the development and inventive employment of these systems.

Unmanned systems will never be a panacea, nor will units ever have as many as they demand. However, leaders should anticipate greater employment of these systems and aggressively seek out applicable lessons learned, build relationships with industry leaders, obtain prototypes, and share new tactics, techniques, and procedures across the Department of Defense.

Lieutenant Euhus is assigned to Naval Special Warfare’s surface mobility command, Virginia Beach. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in political science.


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