April 17, 2020
One of the concepts one learns in the military that is applicable to any business, including the business of oneself, is the concept of “defense in depth,” which although typically used to mean fighting a defensive battle within geographical space using multiple defensive positions, in the upshot actually refers to “time AND space” AND fluidity of action as an expression of capability. It is the expression of capability in time and space that allows one to overcome adversity. As a concept, the expression of capability is applicable to manifold contexts of varying scopes.
When an immediate threat emerges that puts one on defense, a threat that clearly is existential on some level…say a highly contagious and deadly disease, immediate action is warranted at the point of contact, but more broadly, in time and space in terms of expending, replenishing, and re-building capability (also known within the military as “combat power”).
On the surface, most neutral observers will view the immediate reaction to the threat as that singular defining event of action (e.g., “this mess”), and once completed, their mindset returns to a “business as usual” orientation.
However, regardless of the mindset, “business as usual” is not the case. Getting back to business as usual requires much, much more, in terms of restoring capability as described below using a military framework as guidance.
Immediate Action [Drill]
All “combat arms” units in the U.S. military train in what is known as “immediate action drills,” which are predefined sets of [re-]actions executed immediately upon encountering a predesignated trigger event, such as walking into an ambush, or suddenly making “contact” with enemy forces (in some contexts referred to as a “meeting engagement”). Upon encountering the trigger event, the predefined actions are immediately executed, initially by rote as a matter of survival. Thirty years ago, the U.S. Infantry defined eight “immediate action drills;” that is, eight survival trigger events, one being “React To Contact.”
React To CoVID-19
Using U.S. Infantry vernacular, the actions presently unfolding worldwide in reaction to the CoVID-19 threat are “React To Contact” immediate actions, where survival actions are executed as a reaction to encountering an immediate deadly threat. In the context of immediate action, most normal activities (i.e., production, commerce, freedom of movement, et cetera) suddenly are interrupted or suspended in various ways, because a focused response is required as a matter of survival to the immediate deadly threat in lieu of normal activities.
Fight To Live
Note also that “immediate actions” are not remedial in nature; the intent is not to “fix;” rather, they are reactive, for the purpose getting control of a situation in the face of an immediate, sudden, deadly, and unanticipated threat. For example, the governors of 41 U.S. states each have implemented immediate actions intended to get control of a deadly threat to their individual “AO.” (I.e., in order to “flatten that curve” locally.) Those governors are not attempting to fix anything; they’re in survival mode, and are trying to limit losses and gain control of the event.
“Lock-downs” and “stay at home” directives are themselves an expression of the capability of authority in the CoVID-19 context.
Another indicator of immediate action is the sudden “re-supply” (of capability) of the friendlies engaged in the fight on an emergency basis. This could be emergency redeployment of reinforcements (i.e., healthcare workers), equipment (i.e., ventilators, meds), support (i.e., field hospitals/mortuaries), and most certainly items to support individual combatants’ survival and morale needs (i.e., toilet paper, food, PPE, $1200 per, et cetera).
From the perspective of any participant, the hallmark of an immediate action fight is a situation seemingly disconnected, reactive, chaotic, exceedingly noisy, casualties are accumulating, and [normal] operational capability is rapidly expended. It’s obvious a fight is in progress.
To emphasize: …[normal] operational capability is rapidly expended. (Read: “…no toilet paper,” “…no ventilators,” “not enough beds,” et cetera.)
Command And Control
Local commanders in the fight are challenged first and foremost with understanding the scope and magnitude of the threat while in the midst of the fight, which will only become clear as time passes and the threat is addressed.
One may readily see this situation in play in such films as Saving Private Ryan, where upon landing on Dog One [actually, Dog Green Beach on Omaha Beach], Captain Miller first and foremost gets out of the immediate kill zone (“Anywhere but here!”) and then starts asking critical questions: “Who’s in command?” (“You are sir!”) “TSG Horvath, do you know where we are?” (“Right where we’re supposed to be…”); then issues immediate instructions: “Grab weapons and ammo…” This is exactly the type of confusion that reigns on contact with a hostile force, man or nature. Witness any CoVID-19 “hot-spot” for the confused reports.
Higher-Higher Doesn’t Know
Reports from the ground to “higher-higher” reflect the lack of conclusive information on the ground (“Dog One IS NOT open!” and [to paraphrase] in the CoVID-19 context: “…deaths have not yet peaked” and “…we don’t have the data”); those commanders can only guess at the broader picture, a situation that will only clarify with time.
It should also be noted that during the immediate action fight, commanders in the fight (e.g., governors, medical management, mayors) are rarely engaged in single, personal combat. Rather, they are managing their assigned fighting forces engaged in the immediate action: directing units of various sizes to respond: “do this…thus and thus,” all with the intent of defeating the immediate threat, and asserting control of their particular “AO.” (I.e., area of operations of each commander.)
Gaining “Fire Superiority”
As one force or another “gains fire superiority” and comes to dominate the action, that action peaks and “rolls off,” and the immediate action comes to a conclusion; as one outcome or another.
The recent worldwide reports of locales getting over the peak of the present disease, are indicators that the immediate threat is receding by locale, initiative is obtained, control is being asserted, and the present actions are approaching climax by locale.
Another indicator of gaining over CoVID-19 is the increasing percentage of “recovered” when compared to “all known cases.”
The visual evidence of the end of an immediate action are the reduction/departure of the original threat, fall-off of casualty rates, the friendly troops “winding down” and collecting themselves (and higher numbers of “recovered” patients), and individually milling about recovering from their very heavy expenditure of energy and other resources. The situation resembles the calm after the storm, when the sun comes out, with everyone relaxing. (TSG Horvath: “That’s a magnificent view.” CPT Miller: “Yes it is.”)
As all are relaxing, they are not yet ready to “get back to work” (read: get back to business as usual), yet the damage resulting from the storm remains, strewn about the battlespace. Left to themselves, and as the immediacy of the threat dissipates, the individual survivors will be disorganized, without common purpose, sub-optimizing their actions, and will mill around recounting “war stories” about the fight.
Here they will stay, unless directed to common action.
Consolidate and Reorganize
As the immediate threat recedes and control of time and space is attained, the immediate action ends and is followed by another set of actions (or phase) known as “consolidate and reorganize,” which starts after the immediate threat is defeated. “Consolidate and reorganize” itself is initiated “on command” or by a series of commands.
The nominal purpose of consolidate and reorganize is to get control of those “friendly forces” that are scattered hither and yon across the battlespace as a natural result of the chaos of the just completed fight; and get them consolidated into effective (read: productive) units and reorganize them so they may repulse any [additional] counter-attack. Read: the second or third wave (i.e., re-occurrence) of the threat.
To restate: the nominal purpose of consolidate and reorganize is to secure/stabilize the present position against further loss. This entails re-establishing and protecting capability in situ.
…And now the work of consolidating and reorganizing begins.
The subtle but ultimate purpose of the consolidate and reorganize actions are to provide a mechanism to transition from the chaos resulting from the fight against initial threat, back to “business as usual,” a state that can only occur within a secure/stable environment. This is a transition phase that ends as the threat itself no longer re-occurs, “operating capability” is locally re-established with resources at hand or that may be procured, and security/stability is established.
Time And Space
In terms of time and space, the immediate action fight happens fast with high energy, reflecting the crisis nature of the threat; and is resolved relatively quickly (one way or another). Thereafter, the consolidate and reorganize phase requires greater time and usually more space, and a whole lot of “direction” from commanders to re-focus follow-on efforts, reflecting the re-establishment/re-building of capability. Read: “lots of back to work and re-deployment orders.”
As the original threat does not re-occur over time (that is, second, third, and subsequent “waves” are defeated in turn), and the tasks of the consolidate and reorganize phase are completed, the transition to “business as usual” occurs.
Differentiated from both the immediate action fight and the consolidate and reorganize phase, which both occurred “on trigger/on command,” the transition to business as usual is indicated by visible and parallel activities that look and feel like “normal day-to-day operations;” and this transition occurs without specific demarcation points. It just kinda’…morphs into being (as folks get back to normal).
Protect The Force
As units/organizations transition back to “business as usual,” they get back to the recurring theme heard in military circles known as “protect the force” (the healthcare industry has a similar theme), which means manage and maintain the normal capability to conduct mission(s). (Read: maintain the capability to conduct business as usual.) in CoVID-19 terms, normal business, cultural, and government functions have been re-started and continue as normal.
So as consolidate and reorganized actions and tasks are completed, and the unit/organization again becomes ready to “continue mission,” and then actually makes the transition to “continuing [the original, normal] mission,” the theme of managing and maintaining capability permeates all levels of the force, from the individual soldier (or healthcare provider), up each echelon of the body/organization (e.g., hospital), all the way to the top (e.g., state government); each level managing the protection of capability within its own scope of control. (E.g., each individual soldier manages and protects his personal capability. Squad leaders manage and protect the capability of their squads. Et cetera.)
It is at this time that stocking and staffing return to normal. That is, “…toilet paper is [always] available” and “…we’re back to normal production.”
…And, it’s “continue mission:” back to business as usual.
It is important to understand that…
During the immediate action fight, we expend capability (to a greater of lesser extent).
During consolidate and reorganize we re-build/re-establish the capability we have at hand and that we can procure, in order to secure/stabilize our position, and transition back to business as usual.
During “protect the force” we manage and maintain normal capability, so that we are able to effectively execute the next immediate action.
So it’s now business as usual, until the next threat.
As the next threat unfolds, such as the next highly contagious and severe disease (“I’ll be baaacck…”), the next immediate action fight is executed as required.
Takeaways For The Denizens Of GaryNorth.com
There are several key “takeaways” from the foregoing; takeaways that may be leveraged by individuals to determine and implement plans for the future.
The above framework is applicable to all levels (or scope), such as at the individual level (i.e., SkippyDammIt, Inc.; Harry Hobbes, Inc.; et cetera) up to a large organization level, such as one’s personal community—one’s personal circle of dependents. For example, Infantrymen learn their skills within this framework at the individual and squad levels (i.e., individually within one’s personal circle of dependents), then at platoon and company levels.
Local, immediate associations of neighbors are an example of one’s circle of dependents; or, one’s immediate or extended family.
Application of the framework is shaped or affected by the “mission.” That is, an individual’s mission (in one’s own castle), or the missions of the extant levels of organization, such as one’s personal community (i.e., one’s personal circle of dependents: neighbors, family, et cetera); or perhaps, one’s church.
Success is significantly influenced by the ability to leverage (i.e., expend), build (i.e., conserve and replenish), and manage (i.e., maintain) capability, because it is capability effectively applied in an emergency and afterwards that “saves the day.” Without capability, only luck applies.
“Resources” (e.g., toilet paper) are only a component of capability, which also includes knowledge and skills, but more importantly, mindset, shaped or affected by time and space.
“Mission” is critical. Without a clear understanding of one’s mission, one can only react, because one does not have that singular, higher goal shaping one’s choices; and assuming one survives, is left milling around the battlespace recounting war stories. Then comes the counter-attack.
The “framework” may be documented in spreadsheet format as a planning action in terms of manage (i.e., maintain), build (i.e., conserve and replenish), and leverage (i.e., expend) capability (including resources). In spreadsheet format, the static lists found in The Alpha Strategy may be integrated with target levels, re-stock dates and quantities of both resources and capability, based on usage rates and other resource and capability management criteria shaped by mission; all easily updated as required.
Such planning documentation could provide both a holistic and detailed view of resource and capability management on an ongoing basis, as evolving.
In any immediate action and consolidate and reorganize actions, there may be multiple “missions” being pursued, reflecting different missions, some of which may not be obvious or consistent, where organizations or power centers affect decisions; the mission may be sub-optimized or superceded by various power brokers within and without battlespace.
There will always be a next threat; hence, the need for immediate action drills.
“Prepping,” although generally thought of as stocking up on stuff, as a lifestyle is really about establishing and maintaining capability.
“As a lifestyle.”