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On War #299: Another Vandergriff Book

by William S. Lind
April 6, 2009

Don Vandergriff has published another book, which is good news for all who care about the future of the U.S. Army. Titled Manning the Future Legions of the United States: Finding and Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders, Don’s new book brings together many strands of Army reform to create a comprehensive and intelligent reform program.

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Don Vandergriff’s New Blog


He’s got it up and running.

Visit with him at

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Check it out at

cover_adaptive_leadership1.jpg Just a quick reminder: Don will be presenting some of his adaptive leadership techniques at the Adaptive Leadership Conference on March 19. There are still places available, and as an extra, added bonus, attendees will get to hear from Mike Wyly (how to get your organization to embrace these techniques), Dale Stewart (applying adaptive leadership to crisis management), and me (on adaptive leadership and the OODA loop).For information and to register, please call Greenville (SC) Tech +1 864.250.8800.

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Adaptive Leadership Training in DoD

Developing an Adaptability Training Strategy and Policy for the DoD
Interim Report (1.5 MB PDF)

William R. Burns, Jr.
Waldo D. Freeman

Institute for Defense Analysis, October 2008


Among Army pilot efforts, the Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM) originated
by Major Don Vandergriff (ret.) while teaching ROTC at Georgetown University
illustrates the critical role played by instructors and mentors in developing adaptability. (31)

A number of training commands have shown an interest in using all or parts of
ALM. However, since the training has not been applied in a universally consistent
manner and there are no metrics associated with it, indications of its value are anecdotal.  We find it encouraging that junior officers who have had the training and have subsequently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have credited the training with being their best preparation for their real world and very dangerous assignments, where being adaptable is essential to success. (51)

Comments are welcome; please observe our comment policy.

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A Workshop: Deciding Under Pressure…And Fast

Tuesday March 24th 2009 (8:30AM-4:30PM)
Taunton Holiday Inn
700 Myles Standish Blvd.
Taunton, MA 02780

If you’re interested in a hands-on workshop with Don Vandergriff and Fred Leland, this is the next one on the docket.

More information on Fred’s site.

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Reductio Ad Absurdum, Navy Style

Chuck Spinney
10 December 2008

My good friend Pierre Sprey forwarded this amazing quote by Vice Admiral Bill Gortney. Pierre’s comments are in BLUE and Vice Adm Gortney’s comments are in italics. My comments follow and are so marked.

An utterly convincing testimonial, from an expert witness with flawless credentials, regarding the benefits of quality over quantity for the fleet:

“The U.S. commander in charge of the waters off Somalia, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, told CNN on Monday that he thought it would take a force of 61 warships to safeguard the sea lanes just in the Gulf of Aden, compared with the 14 international ships now patrolling off the Horn of Africa. If the U.S. Navy alone had to provide a force that size, it would take every destroyer and cruiser in the fleet, plus three frigates. ( Navy Times, 12/09/08 )”

Pierre continues: In other words, the USN’s pursuit of ever more “capable” ships has provided America with a fleet that is incapable of handling the Somali pirates.

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America’s Defense Meltdown

Sometime within the next few weeks, the Center for Defense Information will publish a major anthology by the A-List of the shadow defense establishment.  Plus, I have a chapter.

This is a unique volume by a collection of authors that have never collaborated to this degree before and, it is safe to predict, will never again.  They include:

  • Tom  Christie, close colleague of John Boyd’s, co-author of the energy maneuverability papers, and my boss at the TACAIR shop in PA&E
  • Bob Dilger, guru of the A-10’s gun, the GAU-8, and who showed how competition could reduce the cost of munitions by 90% while improving quality; long-time advocate for close air support
  • Bruce Gudmundsson, retired Marine and author of seven books, including the classic Stormtroop Tactics (available from our book store)
  • Bill Lind, who needs no introduction to DNI’s readers
  • Doug Macgregor, hero of 73 Easting, author of Breaking the Phalanx and Transformation Under Fire
  • John Sayen, also retired Marine, author, and one of the best military analysts writing today (he and Doug Macgregor co-reviewed my chapter)
  • Pierre Sprey, another of Boyd’s closest colleagues, driving force behind the A-10 and a major influence on the F-16.  Now runs Mapleshade Studios in Maryland.
  • Jim Stevenson, long-time author, publisher, and defense analyst; wrote the classic study of defense program mismanagement on the A-12
  • Don Vandergriff, another author who needs no introduction; probably the leading expert on instituting leadership programs for 4GW
  • GI Wilson, another colleague of Boyd’s, member of the team that put together FMFM-1, and co-author of the paper that coined the term “fourth generation warfare.”
  • Winslow Wheeler, who also edited the volume, long-time congressional staffer, and author of another classic, The Wastrels of Defense.

I’ve attached the TOC, Preface, and Exec Summary (186 KB PDF).  More information soon on how to obtain the complete volume when it’s published.  [The title page of this version is for a notional Obama administration — had to be one or the other; I’m not making predictions.]

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On War # 260: Ancient History

William S. Lind
May 27, 2008

When the world was young and hope dared live in Washington, a small group of people put together something called the Military Reform Movement. Its purpose was to measure defense policies and programs by the standard of what works in combat rather than who benefits financially. Launched in the 1970s, it peaked in the early 1980s and was gone by 1990. Why did it fail? Because in a contest between ideas and money, the money always wins.

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More from the ALC

The schedule was: Don Vandergriff leading off with a couple of adaptive leadership games designed to illustrate, not just talk about, the factors that produce leaders who can thrive in unpredictablecon2.jpg situations. I did a Boyd briefing, which I’ll post later. Mike Wyly told about his experiences in the campaign to get maneuver warfare into the Marine Corps in the late 1970s and the 1980s and drew lessons for any organization that tries to change. Dale Stewart wrapped up with observations for the crisis management community — particularly police and fire fighters — and some of his experiences in working disasters from Indonesia to Hurricane Katrina.

The Q&A focused on application of the ideas to the attendees’ organizations, ranging from first responders to venture capital.

In the picture, Mike Wyly is setting the Schwerpunkt while I try to stay unobtrusive.

Long day – more later.

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Adaptive Leadership Conference is Underway


Don Vandergriff holds forth — undoubtedly illuminating some esoteric facet of tactical decision gaming — at the VIP party.

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