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CHIPS Articles: Thesis Paper Review - The Importance of Operational Innovation in Irregular Conflict

Thesis Paper Review - The Importance of Operational Innovation in Irregular Conflict
By DON Innovation - July 27, 2017
Modern guerrilla (irregular) war involves a smaller force fighting an established professional force, usually belonging to a government. Modern conflicts are equal parts political and military due to one side’s attempt to undermine the authority of the government. In these conflicts, the smaller force seeks to mitigate the larger force’s strength through asymmetric means. For a superior force, operational innovation is vitally important because its technical advantages can be offset by the enemy’s strategies.

A force that emphasizes decentralized leadership and empowers lower level commanders will be more successful in an irregular conflict. Company level officers are in the ideal position to test new theories of organization and operation. Acceptance of these ideas by higher commanders allows for effective organizational change to be implemented.

This paper focuses on irregular conflict and how the Department of the Navy (DON) can best shape our forces to prepare for success in these types of conflicts. Specific examples cited include the Marine Corps conflicts in Latin America in the early 20th century and the Marine Corps Combat Action Platoon (CAP) program in Vietnam. The United States is not the only military capable of successful innovation; their adversaries can also innovate, as illustrated by their creation of the improvised explosive device (IED).

This paper was written while ENS Daniel Tapia was attending the United States Naval Academy. Read the thesis paper in its entirety here.

ENS Daniel Tapia was recognized with honorable mention for the 2016 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Innovation Award in the Innovation Scholar (Midshipman) category.

The SECNAV Innovation Awards recognize the top innovators within the Department of the Navy (DON). Their accomplishments are remarkable and serve as inspiration for the Navy and Marine Corps to think boldly and solve the fleet and force’s most challenging problems.

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