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General Oelstrom Addresses Students on Military Strategy

During a recent visit to campus, Lieutenant General Tad Oelstrom spoke to members of NG and NH on the central role strategy plays in military planning, and specifically how military strategy has many connections to strategic planning in the business world.

General Oelstrom, the former superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Executive Officer at The U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany was on campus at the invitation of HBS Strategy Professor Mike Roberto.

General Oelstrom, a Three Star retired Air Force General, spoke of strategy in the context of a mission he directed to protect Shiite Muslims in marshes in Iraq. The result of the operation was the establishment of the often tested “no fly zone” for Iraqi aircraft.

He outlined the importance of contingency planning surrounding the establishment of rules surrounding the no fly zone in Iraq. “How we came to define the no fly zone in terms of air superiority, the response of our allied forces to potential violations, and the involvement of the Saudis all required careful strategic planning prior to implementation,” Oelstrom said.

Oelstrom went on to note that the process for war planning from World War II to The Gulf War has essentially stayed the same, “planning cells at the highest levels of the Defense and State Departments plan strategy and carry decisions down the information chain to military commanders and finally, the soldiers serving in our armed services.”

Oelstrom told students that it is important to identify what a military mission is all about and then to identify critical goals, criteria for success and an end game that allows commanders to know when a mission is complete. Oelstrom ended his presentation to students by noting that the U.S. has set the military standard for the world, and this standard can only be maintained through careful forward planning.

The General said that Space would be the next major area requiring military build up. “The U.S. needs to strategically plan how it plant to weaponize space. This is critical because if we don’t manage to weaponize space, someone else will”.

General Oelstrom is currently serving as the head of The National Security Program at The Kennedy School of Government. Professor Roberto has made it possible for interested students to view a video of the session by contacting HBS media services.

March 11, 2002
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