So I was stuck representing the Army at a Department of Defense-wide meeting hosted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense all day today. We were talking about a currently contentious piece of security cooperation policy. As one might expect, the meeting quickly degenerated into a bland war of words over bureaucratic turf, but I did notice one thing: Even in a community that is as abstracted from the soldiers in the field as security cooperation policy, the cultural stereotypes about different DoD components still hold true.
The security cooperation community recently experienced in a significant slowdown in one its main policy processes. In response, each military department proposed a solution that largely matched up with the strategic preferences described in Carl Builder's classic The Masks of War:
1. The Navy thought the problem could be fixed by giving the military departments more autonomy and delegated authority.
2. The Air Force wanted to introduce a cutting-edge information technology application to improve communication and situational awareness.
3. The Army argued that each service should dedicate more manpower to tackling the issue.
In addition to the predictable responses of each military department, the proposals of the other DoD components present were fairly stereotypical. The Missile Defense Agency thought increasing visibility with the executive branch was the answer, while the Defense Threat Reduction Agency believed we should take the issue to Congress. Not surprisingly, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wanted to throw out current procedures and rules in favor of a high-risk, experimental approach.
The entire meeting was so ironic that if you had thrown in a Mountie, a Sumo wrestler, a mariachi band and a French guy in a beret smoking cigarettes, one might easily mistake it for an elaborate costume party -- or as I saw it, a cruel joke.