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Help Wanted: Military Seeks Creative Minds

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2002 – It's not necessarily a bad thing if your thinking is somewhat different from your peers and superiors. You might be one of the creative minds America's armed forces need, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Future success depends on flexible, innovative people with vision, Wolfowitz told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee on April 9. During the 20th century, he pointed out, creative Americans developed amphibious warfare, aircraft carriers, stealth and nuclear-powered submarines.

"Great names like Billy Mitchell and Hyman Rickover are associated with such developments," he said. It's no secret that large organizations sometimes have a hard time adjusting to innovators' unconventional ways, he added, but even less iconoclastic officers also had difficulties when they clashed with "perceived wisdom."

"Between the wars," Wolfowitz noted, "one infantry officer began writing about the future of armored warfare, only to have his commander tell him that if he published anything contrary to 'solid infantry doctrine,' it would mean court- martial. The commander even tried to scuttle the officer's career. It took the intervention of (Gen. John) Pershing's chief of staff to put the soldier's career on a new path. That officer, so interested in the future of armored warfare, was Dwight Eisenhower."

He said the Defense Department's goal "is to encourage all the potential Eisenhowers who are thinking about war of the future. We need to accelerate the development of a culture that supports the sort of innovation, flexibility and vision that can truly transform the face of battle."

Today's armed forces are more receptive to innovation and innovators, the deputy secretary said. He cited the way Army Gen. Tommy Franks has experimented in Afghanistan. The Central Command chief has demonstrated "an openness to change -- an openness that is helping us win the war and transform the military."

"But, it will always be a challenge for a large institution like the Defense Department to encourage innovation while, at the same time, allowing the organization to continue getting its job done," Wolfowitz said. "We have to work constantly to encourage that creative tension."

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