Memo to Commanders: Less Micromanaging
By Sandra I. Erwin
U.S. technological prowess has made it possible to centralize command-and-control functions in the military, to the point that a general sitting at the Pentagon can micromanage a war half a world away.
This may satisfy senior leaders’ yearning for efficiency but it also makes the U.S. military more vulnerable, especially in wars such as the ones it’s fighting today, says Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Joint Forces Command. Highly centralized and computerized command is not the way to go, he says, because the enemy could easily disrupt the network and cause chaos. “The U.S. military is the single most vulnerable military in the world when we overly rely on technical command-and-control systems,” says Mattis. “Centralized decision making equals single point of failure.” He cited Gen. David Petraeus’ mantra: “We must decentralize to the point of discomfort.”
Soldiers do not need to be micromanaged, says Mattis. They are capable of following a “commander’s intent,” or generalized instructions, without necessarily having detailed orders. “How’s that for change?” Mattis asks. “We’re going to have to restore initiative.”