It was in Vietnam that the centralization of control reached its apex, with the White House dictating bombing targets and division and brigade commanders playing "squad leader" in the sky." We reached a condition in which the chain of command was in a state of dysfunction. I have always maintained that a chain of command must function from the bottom up as well as from the top down -- with every squad leader making squad leader decisions and reporting to his platoon leader, "Here's what I found, here's what I did, and here's why I did it." When squad leaders have someone telling them not only what to do but also how to do it, they stop being leaders, and so do platoon leaders and company commanders. Initiative is stymied, and decision making is replaced by waiting to be told. Combat action becomes tentative, and military action bogs down.Whenever I hear about professors telling their students how many equivalents of reagent to add or Ph.D.s telling their associates which reaction conditions to use, I cringe. Letting chemists make their own decisions (and live with the bad ones!) are the best way for people to learn; it will grow good chemists and good decision-makers. Anything else, and you're just another pair of hands.
In Vietnam many low-level commanders were subject to a hornet's nest of helicopters carrying higher commanders calling for information, offering advice, making unwanted decisions and generally interfering with what squad leaders and platoon leaders and company commanders were trying to do. There is no more effective way to destroy the leadership potential of young officers and noncommissioned officers than to deny them opportunities to make decisions appropriate for their assignments. [Emphases added; hat tip Tom Ricks]
Friday, October 22, 2010
Give your chemists freedom!
There is quite a difference between being a chemist and being a soldier; nevertheless, I believe that both the military and science works well when decisions are pushed down to the lowest operational level. From an article by Gen. Frederick Kroesen in the August issue of Army: