Strategists: The Next Generation

MAJ Matt Cavanaugh discusses five key characteristics which will differentiate the next generation of strategist, each tied to tidal trends in the strategic environment that will drive the next 35 years.

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Speaking Truth to Power: What Does the Army Strategist of 2025 and Beyond Look Like?

By Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Bazin

Recently in Washington D.C., Army strategists gathered to discuss their profession.  Discussions revolved around issues important to the Army’s Functional Area 59 and its civilian equivalent, Career Path 60.  Among topics such as promotions and assignments, the group discussed areas such as ISIS in Iraq and the growth of the cyberspace domain.  

One panel’s discussion focused on the question, what does the Army strategist of 2030 look like?  On this point, the panel’s dialogue revolved around what separates a strategist from other specialties (such as Advanced Military Study Program planners), the need (or non-need) for a well-defined brand, and the current policy on what strategists do across the Army and joint force.  Many traits needed by successful strategists came up over the course of three days of discussion, including the need for strategists to lead change, think strategically, and speak truth to power.  

The discussion of professional identity is a valuable one, and is paramount to the future of the field.  This brief article seeks to neither reconcile all of the disparate opinions in one model, nor suggest that one model is even possible.  This article simply provides one point of view for future discussion and debate.  Moreover, the hope is that this article serves as a point of departure that individuals can use to determine their own beliefs on what a strategist should be, know, and do. 

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The Strategist’s Mission Statement, Version 2

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

Frank Hoffman and I are in raging, intense agreement – for the most part.  

I wrote a short essay this past week describing my thoughts on a “Strategist’s Mission Statement.”  This was a return to first principles – what is a strategist and what does one actually do?  For example, if military strategists around the world, from Kabul to Korea, had a plaque on their desk citing their unique contribution to the nation, what would it read? 

I started with a basic framework. There are three components to an effective mission statement: what does a strategist do, how does the strategist succeed, and why does the strategist ply his or her trade? 

Here was my 39-word effort:

“To skillfully select and balance achievable ends, available means, effective ways, and acceptable risk to exploit some degree of control of the enemy and environment to secure military objectives, desired political outcomes, and strategic narratives consistent with national interests.”

The first clause speaks to the tactical levers the strategist pulls; the second clause is how the strategist gains initiative over the opponent; the third clause provides the success aim: strategic victory.

Over at War on the Rocks, Hoffman quickly responded with this discerning 33-word adaptation:

“To artfully design and coherently link achievable ends, allocated means, effective ways, with acceptable risks to generate, exploit and sustain a competitive advantage against an enemy to secure desired political effects and outcomes.”

I’ll pause here to offer my genuine thanks to Hoffman for his critique.  I’m mindful that the battlefield punishes vanity (see: Achilles), so I welcome and appreciate such erudite counsel. To paraphrase President Reagan, for professional purposes, I am completely willing to exploit the wisdom and experience of my superiors.  Let’s see what we can learn from this (geeky) strategic boxing match.

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