Custom «Military Innovation » Essay Paper Sample

Military Innovation

Within the scope of this research, we will analyze factors other than technology that can influence military innovation. In particular, we will argue that the three most important factors that have impact on military innovation are competition with other nations, changes in military structure and the effect of war on society, focusing on the periods of WWI and WWII. Modern social scientists have generated a number of works examining the origins of disruptive innovations. Although the literature on military innovations is enormous, each of the models developed is derived from two larger theoretical perspectives - balance of power theory and organizational theory - that vie to explain state behavior using different structural sources. (Evangelista 1988) Balance of power theorists argue that state actions are the result of rational thought, while organizational theorists argue that such actions are best understood as derived from standard patterns of behavior rather than from deliberate choices. (Evangelista 1988) We will review the three schools of thought that correlate with each of the three main factors outlined above.

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The first school, represented by Barry Posen, attempts to understand innovation as it relates to major changes in the international balance of power and competition between the nations. (Posen 1984) Drawing on this structural realist perspective, Posen identifies external threat and civilian intervention as the greatest determinants leading to innovation. Arguing that competition between the nations has greater explanatory power than organizational theory, he claims that a state's ability to innovate is a function of its security environment. Since states behave rationally, they react to insecurity by improving either the external balance - by acquiring allies - or the internal balance - by strengthening their militaries.

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When security threats are low, Posen argues, civilian leaders are content with incremental improvement. (Posen 1984) When threats to security are high, however, so are the incentives to achieve a disruptive innovation, and civilian leaders may directly intervene to impose and audit disruptive innovation. Posen offers the development of the Blitzkrieg in Germany during the late 1930s as an example: “In my judgment, to the extent that the German Wehrmacht achieved a doctrinal innovation that can be called Blitzkrieg, Hitler's intervention was decisive.” (Posen 1984) Posen suggests that civilian intervention produces military innovation either directly or indirectly through officers he calls military 'mavericks'. Mavericks provide civilians with the military expertise they lack as well as with an insider who can steer the organization down the desired innovation trajectory. In sum, Posen's model predicts that competition between the nations motivates civilian leaders to intervene directly or indirectly using military mavericks as proxies to force the military to change dramatically. (Posen 1984) When security threats are low, civilian leaders are content with incremental improvements.

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The second broad school of thought, as applied by Steve Rosen, attempts to understand innovation by examining changes in the military structure. Drawing on organizational theory, Rosen believes military organizations are capable of innovating on their own. He sees the impetus for reform as coming from within, due to changing military structure, and posits not only that civilian intervention is not required but also that it generally fails. (Rosen 1991) Rosen agrees that military organizations are stimulated by changes in the security environment, but he believes that innovation results when branches of the same service vie to become their service's dominant guarantor of security. When their capabilities overlap, competition arises, and senior military leaders both encourage and moderate these internecine squabbles. Innovation results when an emerging warfighting concept gains support among senior military leaders and then is endorsed by civilian leaders. Rosen also asserts that innovation requires 'product champions'- senior officers who advocate innovative approaches to warfare and open promotion paths for other reformers. (Rosen 1991)

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Having analyzed cases from the US Navy and the Marine Corps, Rosen argues that 'mainstream' senior military officers consciously adopt a two-part strategy to foster innovation. (Rosen 1991) The first part is to challenge old methods for waging war and propose new concepts to replace them, by means of changing the structure of the military itself. The second part focuses on managing the political struggle inherent in any attempt to implement new concepts. Successful implementation, Rosen posits, requires the creation of stable career paths to flag rank for younger officers who opt to experiment with the new concepts and develop innovative tactics and techniques.

Rosen's final proposition is that civilian intervention can be effective in promoting innovation if it supports senior military leaders in their pursuit of new warfighting methods. (Rosen 1991) He differentiates this type of intervention from the civilian intervention model advocated by Posen by stressing that the new concepts come from within the military. Rosen also disagrees that military mavericks are effective advocates of transformation. Britain's development of integrated air defense in the years immediately preceding World War II illustrates how Rosen and Posen disagree on this point. In Posen's view, British civilian executives visualized an innovative system of air defense and employed a 'maverick' officer, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding, to achieve their aim. (Posen 1984) Rosen, on the other hand, emphasizes internal interwar Royal Air Force (RAF) activities that formed the framework for the innovation, which civilian leaders later supported. (Rosen 1991)

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The third broad school of thought, advocated by Owen Cote, attempts to understand innovation by examining the effects of war on society. Vincent Davis was the first to recognize the importance of such effects. (Avant 1994) Subsequent studies supported the Davis proposition. Drawing on organizational theory, the researchers assert that strong effects that war has on society generate an environment conducive to innovation as senior military leaders attempt to secure their piece of the security pie taking such effects as an example of what may happen if the security undertakings are not financed in full.

Cote accurately notes that neither Posen nor Rosen assign causal significance to differing patterns of war effects on society when explaining military innovation. In his study, Cote argues that innovation and stagnation can be best explained by such effects. (Avant 1994) He draws support by analyzing the development of the Navy's Polaris and Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile weapon systems and the concomitant changes in US nuclear doctrine. Essentially, Cote takes Rosen's argument and deduces that war effects on society could have an even greater effect on innovation. He argues that the structural dynamics of war effects are different because power distribution is more evenly split between military services than it is within. (Avant 1994) This leads to different internal dynamics and outcomes in the innovation process.

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Those who might otherwise attempt to obstruct change generally champion internal groups promoting doctrinal innovations with interservice ramifications - in other words, they find it easier to support efforts aimed at goring another service's ox. (Avant 1994) Two ramifications are particularly supported. The first is an innovation that exports the cost of innovating to another service, and the second is when the innovation promises to increase the service's portion of the budget pie. In sum, Cote highlights that assessing the effects of war ion society can foster military innovation more efficiently than other factors frequently cited.

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