Leadership: April 21, 2004


The American Department of Defense is trying to revive the use of Red Teams. These are the teams of players in wargames, or simply members of some project, who try and come up with novel ideas a battlefield foe might be capable of. On the face of it, Red Teams are a practical and necessary thing. But in the real world, a good Red Team just gets in the way of carefully laid plans and programs that required lots of compromise to get everyone on board. The Pentagon is a very political place, with many powerful interests trying to get their way. The only solution is often a compromise that gets everyone in agreement. But the compromise often doesnt make the most sense militarily. Thus unneeded bases remain open, needed weapons and equipment is not bought, or is obtained in smaller than desired quantities. Sometimes unwanted weapons are built, because it is politically expedient. 

Now you would think that wargames of hypothetical future battles would not be affected by Pentagon politics and compromises, and a good Red Team could give you a realistic taste of potential enemy brain storming and surprises. This has not always been the case. Often the Red Team exposes serious deficiencies in current equipment and plans. But the military and civilian leadership have to look at those problems and determine if they are solvable in the current political climate. Often its easier to just ignore the Red Teams efforts. Better yet, to avoid the risks of someone leaking the Red Teams report, its been popular (and quite common) to have a Red Team in name only. 

So the current Department of Defense effort is ambitious, and asking a lot of officers and civil servants who see themselves as more in danger from the White House and Congress than from some hypothetical enemy on a future battlefield. The paper bullets of today are real, and can end a career just as quickly as real bullets can kill you in that make-believe battle. Unless the new Red Team is (paper) bulletproof, they are not likely to survive. 

What does survive are unofficial Red Teams, which operate off the radar. These efforts provide realistic assessments for senior military and civilian leaders. In effect, these Red Teams are parts of unofficial think tanks maintained many of these senior leaders. Some of these think tanks are temporary organizations, others are official enough, but not doing what their stated mission implies.




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