Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I, for one, am glad to see GEN Odierno's selection as the next Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) to replace GEN Dempsey. I've heard a number of reasons why he's a bad choice: Gulliver feels that having a wartime commander will be problematic (granted, he's quoting the President here), that his failure as a division commander in Iraq should have precluded his selection (I've heard this in private fora), or that he's risen too fast, too far, without an appropriate breadth of experience usually seen in a CSA (also heard in private fora). All jokes about the possibility of his taking the position to close down the Army aside, to all of this naysaying, I say bollox.
GEN Odierno was not, by any measure, a fantastic division commander and there is plenty recorded on that matter. But I think he has proven himself since then - as MNC-I commander and then USF-I commander. He has shown great adaptability in dealing with counterinsurgency during the Surge in Iraq and following that in dealing with what must have been a dicey diplomatic position in the drawdown (that continues today under GEN Austin's command). He may have spent most of the last decade in Iraq, but it's been such a unique time in Iraq that it has given him a very unique experience. In fact, his last year or so in Iraq and his command of JFCOM refute the idea that he was selected for his wartime experience (in spite of the President's statement). The fact that he's been chosen to close out Iraq and JFCOM show that he's widely respected in skimming the fat (if you'll pardon the term). With the Army facing imminent funding cuts, why would you not want your resident expert on making economies the guy to lead those economies? No, in this regard he's the perfect fit.
From my perspective, I think GEN Odierno gets a little screwed in who gets credit for whatever successes the Surge saw in Iraq. As the Corps commander during that time, it seems that a lot of the initiatives that saw success must have been his and not GEN Petraeus'. I'm sure it would be hard to delineate who started what, but if you examine U.S. policies in both Iraq and Afghanistan (understanding that the latter has many more complications - but look just at what the U.S. did), you'll see that many things were done in Iraq that assisted in gaining advantages there, but were not implemented in Afghanistan. Even after GEN Petraeus took command.
As a former planner, my Exhibit A is the use of Joint/Unified Common Plans between the military and civilian USG agencies as their agreed-upon counterinsurgency/development plan. Although not perfect, this simple method of making brigade commanders and PRT leaders jointly plan and brief (to GEN Odierno and the DCM) their 6-month to 18-month plan did wonders to get all of the U.S. actors on one page of music. It did wonders. And as far as I know, it is still not theater-wide policy in Afghanistan and we're seeing what we'd expect with interagency coordination. Yes, the Department of State deserves a ton of credit as well, but I think it's fair to say that this type of initiate, if not thought of, was at least implemented by GEN Odierno. You know what helps in times of austerity? Being able to work with partners outside of your organization to make the most of a bad situation. GEN Odierno has ample creds on that.
Let's all take a step back and take a look at what GEN Odierno has actually done since 2004. He's proven that he's not a Neanderthal commander any longer. He's shown is chops in leading large organizations facing drastic cuts. He's proven that he works well with others. And he does bring significant combat experience to the table - which any good CSA does in times of peace or war because war will always be the Army's business. That all said, he's a great pick for CSA in my mind - I endorse this selection and wish him the best.