RC#13 To Lead(Part 2): Model for Interagency Effectiveness

Book Review

America’s Army: A Model for Interagency Effectiveness

By Brig. Gen. Zeb B. Bradford, USA (Ret) & Lt. Gen. Frederic J. Brown, USA (Ret)

Praeger Security International, 2008, XIV + 250pp, appendix, notes, bibliography, index, 3 figures, $ 49.95 (cloth), ISBN-10:  0313350248, ISBN-13: 978-0313350245

Review by Dag KJE von Lubitz, Ph.D., M.D.(Sc.), Adjunct Professor, College of Health Professions, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan 48858 and Consulting Scientist, MedSMART, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 (www.med-smart.org)

 …the concept of “Teams of Leaders” represents what leadership in the modern world should be about, it’s implementation ought to be contemplated by leaders at all levels as the means to improve morale, performance, and efficiency of the organizations they lead.

Many in the civilian world will wrinkle their noses and put the book back on the shelf merely by reading the first two words of the title: “American Army.”  Equally, many readers devoted professionally to Homeland Security or Disaster Management will raise their eyebrows questioningly, then dismiss the book after loosely leafing through it.  Filled with military acronyms, referring to Army’s programs, devoting passages to Army’s policies and structure, the inattentive reader will readily miss the most critical part of both the title and the book: “…a Model for interagency effectiveness.”  Missing that second line of the tile may be a perilously grave error, particularly for those engaged in Homeland Security.  It may be the error with the potential of affecting one’s own professional life, the lives of others, and, for all we know, the nation.

      It is not an unusual fact that soldiers entering the civilian world made great contributions to solving its daunting problems.  Europe will forever remember General Marshall and his Plan, the citizens of New Orleans will never forget General Honoré coming to the city at the head of his troops and saving it from total chaos.  This time, two distinguished soldiers, Generals Bradford and Brown do the same to the highly complex world of Homeland Security.

      This is not a book about how the Army “does things.”  Instead, it is a book in which the authors condense several years of theoretical and practical thinking, practical problem-solving, and organization-wide dissemination of completely new approaches to highly complex operations conducted by an equally complex organization in the environment for which this organization has not been either built or prepared.  The problems of interactions among complex subcomponents of an already complex organization are analyzed in the context of information technology (IT), information management (IM), and knowledge management (KM), and their most efficient use as the essential tools of a completely new approach to leadership in the dynamically changing, entirely unpredictable environment of the “new world.” It is the world in which governmental organizations like DHS, Department of Defense or State, NGOs, and global range corporations operate on a daily basis.

      Post Vietnam period left the Army is a state of cultural shock.  Yet, the Army did not dissolve into a conflicted, demoralized organization whose capacity to serve national defense would continue to dwindle away in a protracted war of accusations, blame-passing, and internal discord.  Instead, the Army “stood down,” rethought, re-energized, and re-invented itself into a dynamic, flexible learning organization capable of accommodating its doctrines to the requirements of the new, rapidly changing environment in which it now operates.

      Following the horror of 9/11, the civilian world reorganized, regrouped, and, in its own, centuries-long tradition created a new massive bureaucracy whose ineptitude was starkly revealed following Hurricane Katrina, then on several less well-publicized occasions.  Much has changed from those harrowing days.  Yet, even today, the “new DHS” is still affected by continuing inter-and intra-agency wars for dominance and primacy that negatively impact on the overall efficiency of effort.  Bradford and Brown provide solutions to many of these woes.

      The release of the book coincides excellently with recent remarks of DHS’s Secretary Chertoff on problems that hamper the efficiency of his Department1, the release of a Reports by GAO (General Accounting Office)2 and DHS’s own OIG (Office of Inspector General)3 pointing out significant deficiencies in implementation of managerial functions, and, finally, the publication by Partnership for Public Service of a report on Collaboration in Times of Crisis4. Viewed in their context, Brown and Bradford offer a template for actions whose implementation, even within the relatively short time left, will allow the outgoing senior administration of DHS to leave an indelible mark on the Department’s future development, setting it on a new course required to adequately meet the forthcoming challenges

      The concept of Teams of Leaders (ToL) is pivotal to the book and should attract particular attention of all within DHS community as the source for the completely new approach to training, exercising, and operations, and collaborating.  ToL permits the user to develop unprecedented operational flexibility.  More importantly, however, by exploiting all advantages offered by IM and KM, ToL serves as the pivotal social networking tool which both allows and facilitates the development of actionable understanding essential for mission success.  ToL is the foundation of interagency collaboration.  Thus, since the concept of “Teams of Leaders” represents what leadership in the modern world should be about, it’s implementation ought to be contemplated by leaders at all levels as the means to improve morale, performance, and efficiency of the organizations they lead.

       It is essential to realize that the notions presented by the authors apply as much to the Army as to DHS, Department of State, major corporations with globally distributed operations, or universities with their diverse, and often colliding, populations of scholars, students, and administrators.  The book must not be seen with the monocular vision of prejudice against “things military,” but with a very open mind willing to consider often very hard-won lessons of others in order both to avoid similar errors, and, more importantly, to eliminate “reinventing the wheel.”  Neither must the text be viewed as another study of one of the elements that together comprise the fighting doctrine of the “Army of the Future.”

      Many a reader will say after the last page: “I have been doing similar things before.”  I did.  What is really important and also startlingly new is the fact that, for the first time, the authors offer a theoretical and practical background to what many of us were doing intuitively, realizing that this was the right approach, “the way to go.”  The book provides thus a pivotal point from which to adopt, expand, build, and improve.  This is the greatest merit of that volume, and the reason why I consider “American Army: A Model for Interagency Effectiveness” the best book on the subject I have ever read.  For all working in Homeland Security and its associated territories Bradford and Brown should be considered as what the Army would call “Field Manual 01.”  Or simply – FM One.






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