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The Challenges of Adopting a Culture of Mission Command in the US Army

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2014,23 May 2015

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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While the US Army has ostensibly embraced mission command doctrine, it has failed to live up to many of its central tenets. It unevenly practices mission command and has been unable to fully institutionalize its principles. Mission command, like its Prussian-German predecessor Auftragstaktik, is a cultural phenomenon that requires a very specific set of characteristics to function effectively. There are noticeable cultural barriers that are prohibiting the full adoption of mission command in the US Army. A breathless, decade-long pace of operations superimposed with environmental pressures, constrained budgets and resources, dramatic reductions in force structure and personnel, and major social and technological changes are affecting the organizational culture of the US Army. Internal organizational tensions stemming from competing value systems also threaten the institutionalization of a culture of mission command. The decentralized system of organizational control employed in Iraq and Afghanistan is fundamentally at odds with peacetime procedural control that favors more centralized control and less risk. Likewise, the development and implementation of high-end information technology creates a paradox for mission command.

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