The Effectiveness of Military Organizations
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The Effectiveness o f 1 Allan X. Millett, Williamson Murray, and Kenneth H. Watman Military effectiveness is the process by which armed forces convert resources into fighting power. A fully effective military is one that derives maximum combat power from the resources physically and politically available. Effectiveness thus incorporates some notion of efficiency. Combat power is the ability to inflict damage upon the enemy while limiting the damage that he can inflict in return. The precise amount of necessary damage depends on the goals of the war and the physical characteristics of the armed forces committed to its prosecution. Resources are assets important to military organizations: human and natural resources, money, technical prowess, industrial base, governmental structure, sociological characteristics, political capital, the intellectual qualities of military leaders , and morale. The constraints that military organizations must overcomeare both natural and political. Natural constraints include such things as geography, natural resources, the economic system, population, time, and weather. Political constraints refer to national political and diplomatic objectives, popular attitudes towards the military, the conditions of engagement, and civilian morale . Obviously, no precise calculation of the aggregate military effects of such disparate elements is possible. But it is essential to reach a judgment about the possibilitiesopen to a particular military organization in a given situation. Only then can one compare national armed forces, possessing vastly different characteristics, problems, and enemies, in a fashion that can explain their relative effectiveness. Some relationship exists between military effectivenessand victory. If "victory " were the sole criterion of effectiveness, however, one would conclude that the Russians were more effective than the Finns in the "Winter War" of 1939-1940 or than the Germans in 1941-1945. However, a detailed examination of those struggles suggests that this was simply not so. Rather, the Finns and Germans functioned more effectivelyat the operational level with Professors Allan R. Millett and Williamson Murray teach military history at The Ohio State University and are co-principal directors of the Mershon Center's Military Effectiveness Project, sponsored by the Director of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense. The former executive director of the same project, Mr. Watman is now a research associate of Rand-Santa Monica. The completed first phase of the study will be published in three volumes by Allen t 3 Unwin in 2987. The views of the authors do not necessarily ref7ect those of the Department of Defense. International Security, Summer 1986 (Vol. 11, No. 1) 01986by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 37 International Security I 38 limited resources than did their opponents. Victory is an outcome of battle; it is not what a military organization does in battle. Victory is not a characteristic of an organization but rather a result of organizational activity. Judgments of effectiveness should thus retain some sense of proportional cost and organizational process. Military activity occurs at four different levels: political, strategic, operational , and tactical. Each category overlaps others, but each is characterized by different actions, procedures, and goals. Therefore, one must assess military effectiveness separately at each level of activity. It is doubtful whether any military organization is completely effective at all four levels simultaneously . No doubt this results from human limitations, but it also reflects the fact that the prerequisites for effectiveness at one level may conflict with those at another. For example, American military forces in South Vietnam might have increased their effectiveness at the tactical level by a greater willingness to close with the enemy instead of relying so heavily on indirect firepower. However, the price would likely have been higher casualties and therefore reduced political effectiveness.* When such conflicts occur, the organization may have to choose to diminish effectiveness at one level in order to enhance effectiveness at others. Since the basic characteristics of military effectiveness cannot be measured with precision, any examination must rely on more concrete indicators of effectivenessat the political, strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Therefore , we have divided this article into four sections. Each begins with a general description of a level of military activity and then examines various aspects of effectiveness for that particular level. The answers provided aim to focus attention on the various...