This is EXACTLY what I was talking about at the NATO C2CoE last year: https://youtu.be/QYnsXQf8p4o

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 17, 2022Liked by Dominic Cummings

Regarding war games, this article on warontherocks about a wargame conducted TWO WEEKS before the Ukraine conflict is incredible, as much as for what it didn't predict as to how accurately it called the invasion:-


Similarly if you're interested in looking at / playing more wargames try...

-The COIN series by GMT games - Andean Abyss and Cuba Libre are generally considered the best.

-Twilight Struggle - Iconic simulation of the Cold War. The online version is very good.

-'Root' - a more family friendly type of wargame...

Interestingly a lot of commercial wargames are now used by military colleges for proper simulations. They even used a combination of published games to simulate a 'three front' global war scenario:


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Ukraine's achievements to date, against apparently overwhelming odds, illustrate the effectiveness of Boyd-level agility vs. the establishment. To follow your points:

They know their enemy, understand tech & hitech armed responses;

That area of Europe is systemically multi-lingual;

They are imaginative, inventive, innovative;

They are 'can do', think and react fast!

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 10, 2022

"A BRIGHT SHINING LIE" by Neil Sheehan about a US army general in Vietnam who correctly analysed where US strategy was going wrong but could not persuade top brass.

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Eric Schlosser COMMAND AND CONTROL A collection of Nuclear accidents and very near misses due to a variety of human errors. Also NEIL SHEEHAN

A FIERY PEACE IN A COLD WAR a dissection of the Cold War told through technological innovation and the eyes of Bernard Schriever et al.

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Do you agree with professor hsu that progress in satellites and missile technology have rendered the aircraft carrier obsolete? Would love to hear your story of how they were viewed inside the British military establishment. Even if you don’t think they are, surely for a country like Britain having two is wildly extravagant. A blog on your efforts to sort out military procurement and move technological progress forward and the stubborn bureaucracy you faced would be fascinating. Swarm troopers by David handling is my recommendation, gives a good account of how drone technology is proliferating and causing for headaches for established players

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"A swift, elusive sword" by Chester Richards.

Boyd acolyte and member of the 'fighter mafia' spells out how he'd run the Pentagon, given the chance.

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You have many quotes from Mueller, but do not clearly identify the source. Can you tell us where these quotes come from?

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FCASW project.

Why do we only provide (in the grand scheme of things) a modest sum of funding for a project like this?

How do we prioritise funding specifically for military procurement such as this?

Papers re to improve funding..

A common analogy of your work plus other academics i read re procurement is the SPEED in which they operate. Surely better creating new institutions to tackle this problem S opposed to re wiring existing ones

Personally interested as

V v big bet assuming a major conflict will not occur warranting use of anti ship missile until 2028, current missile OOA 2023… why don’t MSM publish headlines like this?

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Two books, charting the areas where the Rhodesian Armed Forces made significant strides in maximising the effectiveness of their very limited resources against vastly superior numbers.

- "Counter Strike From The Sky" by JRT Wood - Details the development of combined operations (Fireforce) as a counter-insurgency tool with wildly successful results.

- "Pamwe Chete" by Col. Ron Reid-Daly - The Selous Scouts developed a groundbreaking counter-insurgency methodology (Pseudo-ops) that massively disrupted terrorist infiltration into Rhodesia.

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Some of the best weapons are the ones that don’t shoot. One of those may well be the collective thinking of a military establishment. A good read is “The Culture of Military Innovation” by Dima Adamsky. The opening chapters are a bit heavy but reading the conclusions and working backwards is quite insightful.

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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict by Dr Mike Martin - ex-Army fluent Pashto speaker on how US/UK completely misunderstood motivations/incentives in Helmand.

I think you might mention this in Kill Chain/Pentagon War notes, but 'Israel's Edge' by Jason Gerwirtz on the Talpiot programme and how they recruit the cream of the 50k Israelis who reach draft age each year to be taught by some of the world’s top minds in mathematics, physics and computer science, as well as some of Israel’s best strategic leaders.

'The end game is to produce soldiers with great military and scientific backgrounds who are trained to think like nobody else in the world.'

Obviously driven by circumstance (small population, limited pool of fighting age citizens, existential threat from neighbours) but would be very interesting to see what could be learnt from this approach. Spillover into the civilian economy from skills/thinking is also very notable.

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Mar 11, 2022Liked by Dominic Cummings

"Randall (Birmingham University) developed a solution for microwave radar, the multicavity magnetron, demonstrated in 1939 and produced orders of magnitude more power than earlier magnetrons in America or Britain. The Tizard mission (1940) brought the multicavity magnetron to America and it was eagerly embraced by NRL. Randall began work on his device after he'd been recruited autumn 1939 into a consortium of scientists coordinated by the director of scientific research of the British Admiralty."

Randall was from my hometown. A town which once produced trains from the Vulcan works and Matilda 2 during WW2 and other numerous- companies producing numerous things that no longer exist. The grammer was knocked down, the technical college was knocked down the high schools were failing and also knocked down, replaced by an academy. Growing up community activities disappeared. The town became a dormitory town for communtors, this has led to a regrowth in hospitality and leisure on the high street which is much improved. Most local jobs are now in large warehouses that surround the town. How can a small town like that compete with larger towns and cities when all its places for training and local opportunities have been hollowed out. How can we have innovation in those people who are best able to contribute are stuck in under performing parts of the country with shrinking opportunities to either develop something local or move to somewhere that has the opportunities and all the issues around housing that would highlight.

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Questions about 'operational research' (which you mention in your older essay '201702-effective-action-2'):

As you probably know, there currently is a government operational research profession (GORS): eg http://www.operational-research.gov.uk/

What do you think of them? Have you worked with them?

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I work with military procurement (not in the UK). One of the biggest hinderances are public procurement laws and well as MoD and other government procurement rules. They make it very time consuming, the military has to use the majority staff power on paperwork instead of actually doing the job of understanding what they need.

There is a pretty good course in the US at the Naval Postgraduate School under the Defence Resource Management Institute, which was set up by Robert McNamara. Here they teach the order should be Threat -> Strategy -> Funding -> budgeting etc... My experience is the military spends way too little time on the first 2. They dont really understand what they need at a fundamental level. This is partly because the bureaucrats at the DoD/MoD equivalent have 0 interest in attaining combat power and would rather satisfy the political classes. So time and energy goes to playing this budgeting dance rather than on strategy. The other reason is because the type of people who can think strategy dont rise to the top as they either leave or get filtered out because they aren't political enough (ENTPs ENTJs). As Boyd said: you can either BE or DO. Many at the top would rather just look part than actually do anything actually useful.

The 3 main weapons systems that seem to be helping the Ukrainians seem to be advanced anti-tank weapons like Javelin and NLAW as well as GBAD. The other seems to be Bayaktar TB2. TB2 is a great example of how slow countries are to adopt new proven tech. We now have 2 wars where this system is shown to be extremely effective, especially in a cost/benefit ratio. If I wanted to implement in my military it would probably take around 8 - 10 year. Which is a total nonsense.

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Not a book but Lindybeige has a couple of very interesting videos on you tube talking about the Battle of Atlantic and the Western Approaches Tactical Unit which I think touches on the Boyd OODA loop. This is the one on wargamers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVet82IUAqQ&t=1s. There was a more recent book about the unit, A game of bird and wolves (https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-game-of-birds-and-wolves/simon-parkin/9781529353211), I think was written afterwards but not got around to reading it.

I would also recommend the "we have ways of making you talk" podcast about WW2. Dominic you are dragged through mud a few times due to the 2019 height of Brexit related time period the podcast started and host opinions but I also remember a more back handed compliment in a later episode talking about citizen soldiers/conscription and how it changed the outlook of the army and how that lead to innovation. The podcast though is interesting because quite often they are talking about the operational level of warfare and how the allies innovated and prioritised during WW2.

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