Armed forces as learning organisations

Changes in the armed forces of the USA and Great Britain in the years 1990 to 2014 on the bases of regulations on insurgency accomplishment

Christoph Göd

This article goes into the matter how innovation is rendered possible in armed forces. First, the theory of Organizational Learning is introduced. Afterwards, this theory is concretely transferred to armed forces. The centre of this article is an investigation of the changes in the thought schools concerning insurgency accomplishment in the armed forces of the USA and the UK in the years 1990 to 2014. It is analysed which factors have rendered changes possible and which have hampered them. Starting with these factors, general derivations – which do not exclusively apply to insurgency accomplishment – for making possible and/or facilitation of innovation in the Austrian Armed Forces (AAF). Wars and armed conflicts remain similar in nature, their features change, however. As a consequence, armed forces ought to adapt to these changing features, or have to anticipate a change, in order to accomplish their missions successfully. In the course of his military scientific paper during the general staff course, the author dealt with the topic of changeability of armed forces. The results of this paper are the subject of this article. Concretely, on the basis of the armed forces of the USA and GB, the development of the thought schools concerning insurgency accomplishment from 1990 to 2014 were investigated, and especially what had led to the neglect of dealing with the topic of insurgency accomplishment, and how the investigated states adapted their armed forces to the requirements of insurgency accomplishment during this space of time. In the centre, there is the question to what extent and how the system of armed forces permits innovation. Here it becomes clear that changes in armed forces come from innovative persons, mostly officers. At the same time, it was outlined that the fostering of these persons depends on their superiors as well as on the culture of the respective armed force. Recognizing innovative persons represents a substantial leadership achievement of superiors. Being recognized alone, however, does not make it possible for them to realise their ideas and/or influence their realisation. For this reason, the military organisation must be established in such a flexible way that it allows to deploy innovative persons in respective positions. The AAF must have regulations for all possible operation scenarios at their disposal. Working out regulations absorbs a multitude of resources, and additionally, it is time-consuming. From the author’s point of view, it is therefore convenient to adopt regulations of NATO or other armed forces in an adapted form, in order to have regulations available quickly and to secure access to the necessary topics, at least until a respective Austrian regulation has been issued.