Boyd & Military Strategy
"One of the most able and successful
brains I met in any army. Needless to say, he never
rose in the war above the rank of colonel."
Minister David Lloyd George on
Colonel Richard Meinhertzhagen (WW I)
Independent of any specific geographical
conflict, what sorts of strategies deal best with the types
of conflict that go under the names "fourth generation warfare,"
"low intensity conflict," or, as favored by the late American
strategist, Col John R. Boyd, "highly irregular warfare"?
For our potential adversaries have surely learned that to challenge
our high technology fighters and tanks in a "fair fight" will
only produce defeat, but they may also be learning from Somalia,
Bosnia, Kosovo, and especially Iraq that there are other ways to achieve
Boyd's insights on what makes an effective
competitor may help us understand our strengths as well as our
vulnerabilities in this new environment and what we should do
to achieve our national interests at acceptable cost.
invitation "to be or to do?" As
reconstructed by Robert Coram.
5/05/07 Distributed operations and
command: a history, by Eric M. Walters, MA, MSSI. Col.
Walters (USMC) summarizes the history and theory of maneuver
warfare and offers thoughts on its future. Excellent
introduction to the subject (and refresher, if need be).
slideshow with notes (3.7 MB) or
PDF (493 KB). Also by Col. Walters:
The next war: Four generations of future warriors - 2.5
MB PPT 10/2003
11/18/06 Book Preview:
Strategy, and War - The Strategic Theory of John Boyd
by Col Frans Osinga, Royal Netherlands Air Force.
What Lessons Can the Agile Community Learn from a Maverick
Fighter Pilot? By Steve Adolph, University of British
Columbia Vancouver, B.C. Canada (PDF 177.37 KB)
US Air Force
Academy to honor the late Col John R. Boyd.
Boyd's OODA Loop, by Chet Richards. Short
PPT overview, with revised notes.
OODA "Loop" From "The Essence of Winning and Losing," with
commentary. Revised and expanded. [142KB PowerPoint presentation.
Please play as a
slide show, and there are a few notes.]
The Cognetic Effect: Understanding the Power of
Perception Manipulation in an Unrestrained Communication
Environment, AU Quick Look 06-15, by Major Bruce
John, USAF. Great strategists from Sun Tzu
to Boyd have insisted on shaping the adversary's
orientation. As Johnson puts it: When perception
manipulation undermines support for US policies,
it is a direct threat to national security and should
be addressed by US Grand Strategy. [349 KB
The DNI review of The Utility of Force,
by General Sir Rupert Smith.
of Grand Strategy, Part one in a three part analysis of
grand strategy in a 4GW Era. By Fabius Maximus
Patterns of Conflict? by Chet Richards. Need a
spiffy topic for your next dissertation?
Are There Five Rings or a Loop in Fourth Generation Warfare?
A Study on the Application of Warden's or Boyd's Theories in
4GW, Juerg Studer, Major, Swiss Air Force. (382 KB PDF)
with Martin van Creveld, by Sonshi.com
Disoriented Again - Why Do They Get it Wrong? by Dr. Don
MacCuish. An in-your-face look at why this moral
warfare stuff is important. Prepared for the Maine
Strategy Conference. (674 KB PPT, with notes.)
Thoughts on Strategy, catalyzed by the 16th Strategy
Conference at the Army War College, by Chet Richards.
PowerPoint with notes (243KB PPT.)
O-O-D-A Loop and the Infantry Company Commander, CPT
Aaron Bazin. Republished with permission from the
January-February 2005 Infantry Magazine. (82KB PDF)
About Deception, by Fred Feer. Deception�along with
surprise, menace, and ambiguity�forms one of the cornerstones
of Boyd's strategy. Feer, long an aficionado of such matters,
offers another take. Readers may enjoy comparing Feer's analysis
with Boyd's definition: An impression of events as they are
A Boyd Sampler, By
Chet Richards, 2004 (PDF 1929.26KB)
and Officer Survival: How Understanding The Boyd Cycle and Non-Verbal
Communication Can Save a Law Enforcement Officer�s Life!Lt
Fred T. Leland Jr., Walpole (MA) Police Dept.
and Negative Leadership Models, ENS Steven Mason, USN.
Innovative application of Boyd's organizational climate to leadership
at all levels. (78KB PDF)
Marine General: Leading
From Iraqi Battlefield Informed Key Decisions by Elaine
Grossman, Inside the Pentagon. Leading from the
front worked as well in Iraq as it did for Rommel.
Marine General: Iraq
War Pause 'Could Not Have Come At Worse Time' by Elaine
M. Grossman, Inside The Pentagon. Raises serious
questions about how deeply senior DoD leaders understand maneuver
Conflict: Motivations, Objectives and Strategies, By Michael
A. Breeden. A new synthesis of conflict in the tradition of
Interested readers can find excerpts from
Boyd's Discourse on Winning and Losing in HTML format,
as well as presentations by several of his colleagues, at "Theory
of Maneuver Conflict" on
and Business. The next section presents the elements
of the Discourse in their original format.
on the Spring 2003 campaign in Iraq by Bill Lind, one of the
creators of maneuver warfare and co-author of the
Brought to You By ... by Maj Jeffrey L. Cowan, USAF.
A most readable introduction to Boyd and his work. Originally
published in the US Naval Institute Proceedings.
Tribute To John R. Boyd, by Harry Hillaker. The designer
of the F-16 pays his respects to the father of the F-16. From
the July 1997 edition of
Code One, the
Martin Aeronautics Company magazine for the fighter community.
The Strategy of the Fighter Pilot, by Keith Hammonds.
Boyd's simple, elegant OODA loop works great in business, too.
In the June 2002
A Discourse on Winning and Losing
This is the title Boyd gave to his collection
of briefings on competitive strategy (widely known as the "Green
Book," with apologies to Wittgenstein). Defense and
the National Interest is pleased to present these as a resource
for research and implementation. Except as noted, they are Adobe Acrobat
(.pdf) images of the actual charts used in his legendary 8-hour
briefing sessions. You are welcome to download these for
your personal use, but in accordance with Boyd's express wishes,
these versions are not authorized for commercial reprint.
Please note that they are copyrighted by the Estate of John
R. Boyd. (Download a free Acrobat reader
The Abstract and Conceptual Spiral (July/August 1992).
An overview of the rest of the Discourse and introducing his
"Pattern for Vitality and Growth" (411 KB)
Patterns of Conflict
(December 1986 - 1544KB PPT) Boyd's monumental look at what makes any organization
competitive. Encompassing 2,500 years of the history of conflict,
this briefing introduces his famous "OODA loop"
concept. Now also in
(811 KB) and in
PDF of the
original, typed version (2845 KB).
for Command and Control (May 1987) Perhaps the most approachable
of Boyd's briefings and as applicable to business (or to the
PTA) as to war. (399 KB)
Also available in HTML on
and Business. Now also in MS PowerPoint:
138 KB in native PPT
and 88 KB as a PDF.
Game of ? and ? (June 1987 - 312 KB PPT) The heart of competitive
strategy. A noted psychiatrist recently observed that
the goal of Boyd's strategy is to inflict severe psychological
trauma on the opposing commander prior to any actual engagement.
This briefing tells how to do it. Now also in
KB) and as a
the original, typed version (573 KB).
[Presentations of Patterns, Strategic
Game, and Organic Design are available by Dr. Chet
Richards, a colleague of the late Col John Boyd. Arrangements
may be made through Tarkenton & Addams, Inc.
� please contact Jeannine Addams, (404)
Destruction and Creation (September 1976) Boyd's original
paper on strategy, linking such diverse sources as G�del's Incompleteness
Theorem and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to the practice
of strategy. (in HTML with links to Chuck Spinney's commentary
The Essence of Winning and Losing (January 1996) Boyd's
"Last Briefing" A 5-chart summary of the Discourse, including
the final version of the "OODA loop." (in HTML on
Conception for Air-to-Air Combat (August 1976) Although
predating and so not included in the Discourse, this
briefing is an important way station on the road to the OODA
loop. Here is where Boyd concluded that there was something
missing in his own energy-maneuverability concept and ended
with the observation that "He who can handle the quickest rate
of change survives." This proved to be the observation that
led Boyd from air-to-air combat towards a more general theory
of competition. (1,292 KB .pdf)
Aerial Attack Study, by Capt John R. Boyd, USAF, revised
11 August 1964, declassified. (7.6 MB PDF)
Before the OODA loop � even
before energy-maneuverability �
there was aerial attack. Probably not very useful to
the average business or military strategist, but it could be
considered as the first step on the path to
Patterns of Conflict.
Precedes the Discourse by some 20 years.
A Swift, Elusive
Sword, What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd did a National Defense
Review? By Dr. Chester W. Richards, Fall 2001 Boyd
Conference. (PPS 329.50 KB)
Elusive Sword, presented at the Fall 2001 Boyd Conference
in Quantico, Virginia. A 180 KB PDF slide show that illustrates
Operations: New Wine in Old Bottles," Lt Col John N. T.
Shanahan, May 2001. Doctrine in the 21st Century must
deal with opponents who change rapidly to adapt to our technological
superiority. The best way to deal with these "complex
adaptive systems" is with a doctrine that produces shock and
paralysis, not one that tries to bludgeon them into submission.
(378 KB MS Word document.)
Bulging Muscles Won't
Win The Next War, By David Hackworth. Gustavus Adolphus
was a master of using a small, highly trained and motivated,
agile force�a l� Boyd�to defeat his fearsomely-armed, but ponderous,
imperial adversary. Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century,
we have become the muscle-bound imperials. Reprinted from
Soldiers for the
vs. West�The Strategic Challenge of the 21st Century.
How operating inside an opponent's OODA loop can help achieve
the ancient goal of "formlessness." Originally presented at
the Air War College in 1995. 1.5 MB PowerPoint presentation.
Because Boyd was not well known to the public
(or even the military) at large, many people are unfamiliar
with his career and the origins of his strategy. For those
who are interested in learning more, Defense and the
National Interest presents a collection of biographies and
synopses of his career.
John, By Chuck Spinney, originally published in the Naval
Institute Proceedings. This is the most approachable
introduction and overview, written for a general audience.
Force Fighter Pilot to Marine Corps Warfighting: Colonel
John Boyd, His Theories on War, and their Unexpected Legacy,"
thesis by Major Jeffrey L. Cowan, U.S. Air Force, for the Master
of Military Studies degree, USMC Command & Staff College.
A new professional biography that traces Boyd's career and development
of his strategic concepts. Written from the viewpoint of a USAF
fighter pilot, but with a solid background in doctrines and
practices of land warfare.
Essential Boyd," Dr. Grant Hammond, Director of the
Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College.
An in-depth study of the evolution of Boyd's strategic ideas
by one of the Air Force's leading civilian strategists. Goes
into considerable detail on the origins and implications of
Boyd's concept of using time as a weapon. On
Coram's biography of Col Boyd. Published in November
2002 by Little, Brown & Company, New York. Available at
Importance of Boyd and the OODA Loop, an excerpt from the
recent book, Modern Strategy, by the distinguished British strategist
and author, Colin
Is America Inside Its Own OODA Loop??? January
4th Generation Warfare & the Changing Face of
War, October 15, 2004
Bad Was U.S. Intelligence About Iraq??? August 20,
Oil America's Achilles' Heel in Iraq??? August 17,
in the Crosshairs � Preventing Genocide ... or Another
Case of Post-Modern Imperialism??? July 29, 2004
to Win, July 19, 2004
an Intelligence Czar Fix Our Broken OODA Loops???
July 17, 2004
OODA Loops: The Triumph of Faith & Interests Over
Facts & Reason, May 30,2004
to Dumb Down Your OODA Loops, May 17, 2004
Snowflakes from SECDEF Repair a Broken OODA Loop???
October 31, 2003
#499 Is America Inside its Own OODA Loop in Afghanistan
and Iraq??? October 23, 2003
Short Tutorial on the Moral Essence of Grand Strategy,
September 11, 2003
Search of a Sensible Grand Strategy (IV): Alliance
SITREP on Eve of War, March 19, 2003
Gadfly and the Falcon (Re: Boyd: The Fighter Pilot
Who Changed the Art of War (Robert Coram, Little
Brown, 2002) November 18, 2002
Review: BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the
Art of War, November 5, 2002
Col. John Boyd Beat the Generals,
August 12, 2002
Great American Gong Show: Woodrow Wilson Meets Dr.
Strangelove, February 23, 2002
Question: Are Sanctions on Iraq a Sensible Grand
Strategy? September 24, 2000
Problems Suggest a Deeper Question: Ready for What?
March 17, 2000
Synchronization Dumbs Down Your OODA Loop, March
Question of Values (II) Why Awarding Medals is Like
Cog Maintenance in a Fredrick Taylor Production
Line, November 15, 1999
The Question of Values, November
Asleep at the Switch in Versailles
.. or ... Why Nonlinear Realities Overwhelm Linear
Visions ... or ... Why did Slobo Cave? September
Mess With the OODA Loop, June 24, 1999
Real Revolution in Military Affairs � or � Can NATO
Cope with 4th Generation War?
May 29, 1999
By Shootings and Moral Influence,
May 16, 1999
Driving Bill and Madeline Bananas,
April 28, 1999
A Balkan Sun Tzu vs. the NATO Clausewitz:
A Tentative Interpretation of the Serbo - NATO War,
April 4, 1999
Ready for What? � Will Street Fighting
be in Our Future? March 23, 1999
READY FOR WHAT? -- Black Hawk Down:
A Story of Modern War vs. The Oracles in the Cave,
March 5, 1999
Ready for What: The Sclerotic Mentality
of Star Wars vs. the Poor Man's Nuke,
December 6, 1998
John, October 9, 1998
Admiral Gehman Changes His Tune
� or Why Emperors Lose their Clothes, August 28,