Perkins provides senior NCOs clarity on future Army
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FORT BLISS, Texas (Oct. 5, 2015) -- In an age of uncertainty, Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, spent the morning of Sept. 30 providing clarity on the Army's operating concept and the role of the senior noncommissioned officer, or NCO, in mission command.

Perkins began the discussion by explaining the purpose of TRADOC and its role in the future force to the 454 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy on Fort Bliss, Texas.

TRADOC does a lot of things, Perkins said, but it is known as the architect of the Army - the designers of the future Army, which is looking at 2025 to 2040 and what capabilities the Army needs to have. TRADOC is the "design-build firm" for the Army.

As the designer of the Army Operating Concept, Perkins said the institution took a look at past concepts and found the 1981 AirLand Battle Operating Concept to be a powerful example of what the operating concept does - ask the big questions.

"The first question it asked was 'What echelon of war are we going to design the United States Army to operate in?' That is a big question. It didn't get wrapped around small questions," he said.

Perkins cautioned the group to take the time to ask big questions and not get wrapped around the axle with small answers.

"Before you march off on small answers, the most important thing you have to do is define the problem. Define the problem you are trying to solve before you spend all night trying to solve it," Perkins said. "Beware of people who define the problem by taking the answer they want and rewording it in the form of a problem."

The second thing an operating concept does, Perkins said, is describe the operating environment. AirLand Battle was designed to go to battle with Russia in the central plains of Europe alongside NATO, a well-known coalition. Everything was known in AirLand Battle Concept.

The problem the AirLand Battle Concept identified was "Fight outnumbered and win." Using that template, Perkins said, TRADOC came up with "Win in a Complex World," with complex being defined as unknown, unknowable and constantly changing.

"As an NCO, you have to understand the logic of how we get to where we are," he said. "Words have meaning, and the good thing about doctrine is you get to define what the meaning is. All I need to know is whether I am building an Army for a known world or an unknown world. Because those are two different armies. If it is unknown, you design, build and buy things differently."

In order to win in a complex world, Perkins said the Army must conduct unified land operations and ask itself the big question, "But what are we for?"

"It is very powerful once you decide what you are for, because you can start grading what you do," he said.

To come up with that answer, TRADOC used Google's mission - to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful - as an example that provides clarity in purpose. From there, TRADOC defined what the Army is for - "To seize, retain and exploit the initiative to get to a position of relative advantage."

"That could be to get the advantage against the Taliban, Hurricane Sandy, some humanitarian disaster - whatever you are dealing with," he said. "[It is a] relative advantage because the world is constantly changing; what is an advantage today may be a disadvantage tomorrow."

Turning his focus to mission command, Perkins said to conduct unified land operations, the Army must institute mission command, a multi-warfighting function and command philosophy. "In mission command, we balance command and control - not to ensure compliance, but to empower the initiative.

Perkins said leaders need to give their Soldiers the mission-oriented orders by understanding, visualizing and describing the mission.

"Mission command is all about leadership because if you don't have leadership, you cannot execute mission command," he said. "If you can't conduct mission command, you can't do unified land operations, and if you can't do unified land operations, you probably are not going to win in a complex world."

Perkins also urged the class to "never lose clarity in the search for accuracy," and that its job was to conceptualize and not get caught up on the small things.

TRADOC's commanding general ended with a discussion on the Army profession, where he told the students they are the stewards of the profession.

"You own the profession," he said. "Because you own the profession, we lean on you … we trust that you know what you are doing, you will give your life to do that, and that is the only reason we are ever going to be able to win in a complex world."

Related Links:

U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Inside the Army News

STAND-TO!: The U.S. Army Operating Concept

STAND-TO!: 2015 Global Force Symposium: "Win in a Complex World"

U.S. Training and Doctrine Command

Army Operating Concept, "Win in a Complex World"