What Polar Bears Can Teach Us about Mission Creep
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV NORFOLK VA JOINT ADVANCED WARFIGHTING SCHOOL
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Since the announcement of the Afghan drawdown in 2011, the Joint Staff has experienced a significant increase in the demand for ground forces from the Combatant Commands. These requests intended to use the forces for theater campaign plans focused on steady state or Phase 0 operations. Mission Creep, the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, is often an outcome of such steady state operations. Because the military is increasing steady state operations, mission creep is inevitable, particularly in a resource constrained environment. Adapting to mission creep, at the joint planning level, is increasingly necessary because of the complexity of steady state operations. The goal of this paper is to underscore the importance of adaptation at the joint planning level due to the challenges of increasing military complexity. The paper first outlines how stability tasks in military operations contributes the growth of Mission Creep and develops some essential concepts. The paper then uses the Siberian intervention of 1918-1920 as a historical case study to employ the concepts and provide timely lessons to joint planners. The paper concludes by proposing three recommendations that flow from the case study. Specifically, Combatant Commands must have more dialogue with civilian policymakers, exercise more discipline in assessing partnership programs, and advocate for more allocated forces. If implemented, these efforts will improve the civil-military relationship and better balance innovative planning and prevention of reckless action.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics