***OTH Anniversary*** Returning to Marshall: Mastering Risk by Understanding It

Leaders must remember that risk is inherent in all military operations. Identify the risk, mitigate the risk, and accept prudent risk.

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Returning to Marshall: Mastering Risk by Understanding It

Joint Doctrine does not sufficiently and separately address risk as both a necessary part of military operations and as a series of hazards to the force. Risk is not just a list of “things to avoid and mitigate,” but instead must be identified and categorized into two separate classes: accidental and operational. A conflation of these two types of risk directly contributes to the perception that the US military is a “risk averse” organization that refuses to allow for and appropriately reward prudent risk-taking. Thusly, Joint Doctrine must specify the differences between accidental and operational risk in a more deliberate way than it currently does in order to provide clarity to commanders and staffs.

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What Horse Racing Can Teach the Warfighter about Prudent Risk

Commanders must be willing to allow risk to be assumed at every echelon and to encourage prudent risk taking throughout his/her command. On an increasingly unpredictable battlefield, commanders must seek every opportunity to rapidly and effectively seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. An understanding of the risks associated with any and all actions must be thoroughly understood in order to most effectively seize on overlaid risk opportunities while avoiding underlaid ones.
By Tom Flounders

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