Over Columbus Day weekend a group of almost 100 individuals from vastly different backgrounds came together for the inaugural Defense Entrepreneurs Forum 2013 (DEF2013.com) to discuss innovation in the military and how to affect positive change in a large organization. Held at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the DEF2013 audience consisted of military members (from midshipman to general officer), civilian engineers, academics, entrepreneurs, journalists and students. But most importantly, participants were there because they believed in the cause, not simply because they were getting a free weekend in Chicago. With the government shutdown cancelling official travel plans most participants paid their own way to DEF2013. They chose to spend three days with strangers, connected by a passion for their country and a dedication to improving the organizations that are tasked with her defense. This was not a place for detractors – every attendee was committed to being constructive and pragmatic in his or her approach to the toughest problems facing today’s military.
-“Good execution trumps a great idea.” It is easy to pontificate around the water cooler or to write an article on one of the dozens of military blogs. But an idea is just that, a bunch of words on paper. Put some skin in the game and try to implement your idea. It may not turn out exactly as you envisioned, but you’ll get further along than by doing nothing.
Why is DEF important to the Marine Corps?
Interwar periods are traditional times for innovation. Pete Ellis wrote his seminal work “Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia,” in 1921, twenty years before it became the foundation of the Marine Corps’ island hopping campaign in World War II. The transport of troops via helicopter, also known as vertical envelopment, was developed between World War II and the Korean War. More recently, in 1989 a young Captain John Schmitt wrote FMFM-1 “Warfighting”, codifying the Marine Corps’ adoption of Maneuver Warfare as doctrine.
Somewhere in our battletested Corps is the next Pete Ellis or John Schmitt. Nurturing these young innovative leaders is imperative to ensuring the continued success and relevance of our Corps. As we transition from of 12 years of combat, organizations and movements like DEF will help facilitate the type of thinking that we need to excel on the next battlefield. We at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum don’t claim to have all the answers, but we're working to ask the right questions.
Capt Mike "Squirrel" Christman is an AH-1W pilot and a board member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum 2013.