Military doctrine and the organization culture of the United States Army

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


United States Army, Organizational culture

Subject Categories

Political Science


This dissertation begins with the United States Army as an organization, a specialized, warmaking organization. The focus of this dissertation is on Army doctrine as a set of authoritative principles, approved solutions to basic questions of warfighting, of how to defeat an enemy. Army doctrine is the connecting link between theory and practice. It is also the mechanism by which the organization adapts to new challenges.

The underlying elements of this doctrine, those that define and nature of war and the role of armies, have been remarkably stable over time. This stability becomes interesting when it is contrasted with the changes in the types of conflict which the Army has become involved in since World War II.

From 1946 through 1989 Army doctrine remained clearly focused on mass warfare in Europe. This was true despite the fact that the Army's actual experience during the period was entirely with other forms of warfare and always in other geographic settings. This dissertation contends that little useful adaptation has taken place in Army doctrine since WWII and much of what has taken place is essentially an accommodation to technological change.

The persistency of the Army's failure to adapt, over a long period of time, and most recently, in the face of a political mandate to adapt, suggests a controlling explanation: the rigidity arises from the fundamental assumptions, the paradigm, upon which the American Army rests.

This dissertation contends that the failure to adapt stems from the defining elements of the Army's organizational culture, rooted deeply in its history and reflected in its doctrine: in particular the assumption that there are two separable, largely autonomous spheres of action which can be labeled "political" and "military," with the latter defined in narrow, essentially technical terms.

This separation originates in and is reinforced by the demands of Army professionalization which require that an exclusive sphere of expertise be defined. This is reflected and reinforced by a professional creed which makes avoidance of politics a basic value and leads to an assertion of moral superiority based in large part upon an avoidance of the "hallmark" of politics: compromise and ambiguity. The Army's essential beliefs about the nature of conflict and the role of warriors will not support the adaptations necessary to successfully conduct the most common forms of armed conflict in the late twentieth century, which are often morally and politically ambiguous and often open to a variety of compromised conclusions short of outright "victory."


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