Since the mid-60’s to be in charge of the Pentagon you need a business school degree to be successful.
The American military is infatuated with the latest business models and their potential application for war. Bureaucracies are not agile organizations, as a rule, and just as the Pentagon institutes the previous decade’s top-selling business management method, it seems corporate America has already moved on to the Next Big Thing. A list of the 25 top-selling business management books, sorted by publication date, reads like a slightly delayed litany of ideal business-to-war manifestos. Nonetheless, in his most recent memorandum, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis echoed many of his predecessors in encouraging all members of the military to “bring business reforms to the Department of Defense.
Secretary Mattis follows a long line of similar efforts. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (1961-67) directly inserted systems analysis business practices developed while at Ford Motor Company into both weapons acquisition programs and war-planning/assessment models in an effort to increase military efficiency during the Vietnam War, with at least equivocal results in military effectiveness. Secretary William Cohen (1997-2001) similarly directed the Pentagon to initiate a revolution in military affairs (RMA) based on an ongoing “revolution in business affairs” to “streamline, … downsize, [and] outsource” for improved efficiency. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (1975-77, 2001-06), who served as the CEO of three major corporations between stints in government, transferred then-popular business modelling of information systems into the military through a process called transformation. Secretary Chuck Hagel (2013-15), in announcing the Defense Innovation Initiative (DII), flatly asserted that the Department of Defense “must embrace better business practices that are core to any modern enterprise, private or public.”