Andrew Marshall

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Andrew W. Marshall, "the Pentagon's 81-year-old futurist-in-chief, fiddles with his security badge, squints, looks away, smiles, and finally speaks in a voice that sounds like Gene Hackman trying not to wake anybody. Known as Yoda in defense circles, Marshall doesn't need to shout to be heard. Named director of the Office of Net Assessment ("the Pentagon's internal think tank"[1]) by Richard M. Nixon and reappointed by every president since, the DOD's most elusive official has become one of its most influential. Today, Marshall - along with his star protégés Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - is drafting President Bush's plan to upgrade the military." "The Marshall Plan" by Douglas McGray, Wired, February 2003.

"Put in charge of the Bush administration's proposed major military overhaul by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he has sharply polarized the defense community. Marshall's allies and proteges revere him, calling the Office of Net Assessment 'St. Andrew's Prep.' His enemies despise him, deriding his acolytes as 'Jedi Knights'."[2] (See Andrew Marshall Acolytes / Jedi Knights for a listing.)

"Marshall played a major role in, among other things, the conceptualization of the 'revolution in military affairs' (RMA) and is currently playing a major role in the Bush administration's defense review (Quadrennial Defense Review). Much of the work of ONA is highly classified, and it has been difficult to understand just what is involved in 'net assessment'." Autumn 2001.

Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest identify Marshall as a neoconservative.[3]


The February 10, 2001, Washington Post article "Bush Review Of Pentagon Sets Stage for a Shake-Up" by Thomas E. Ricks states that

"The military's opposition to Mr. Marshall's recommendations is 'likely to be fierce,' predicted a person involved in the review. ... But Mr. Marshall holds two aces. He has a decades-long relationship with Mr. Rumsfeld. And the Bush campaign's defense stance, laid out in a speech at the Citadel in South Carolina in September 1999, relied heavily on ideas nurtured by Mr. Marshall over the years.

"The publicity-shy Mr. Marshall is something of a legend in national security circles, both for his longevity and for his far-reaching network of acolytes across the government, academia and the defense industry. At 79, he is said to be the only current Pentagon official who participated in virtually the entire Cold War, beginning in 1949 as a nuclear strategist for Rand Corp., then moving to the Pentagon as a civilian official in 1973. He has been kept in his current job by every president since Richard M. Nixon.

"Despite his age and experience, Mr. Marshall's views are hardly conservative. In recent years, he has gained a reputation as a radical reformer and has antagonized many top officers."

"'Today, our military is still more organized for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century - for Industrial Age operations, rather than for Information Age battles,' Mr. Bush said then. It was a line that could have been taken from any number of reports produced by Mr. Marshall's office, formally known as 'the Adviser to the Secretary of Defense for Net Assessment.'"


Jason Vest, "The Dubious Genius of Andrew Marshall, American Prospect, February 15, 2001:

"...according to [author] Ken Silverstein, if there's a good description of Marshall it's that he's, 'one of the most effective pork-seeking missiles ever deployed by the military brass.' While this may be overstating matters a bit, given Marshall's desire to gut a slew of conventional weapons programs, it seems to ring true if you're interested in national missile defense. As a key witness before Donald Rumsfeld's Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Marshall played no small role in convincing the commission -- whose findings have been cogently criticized by numerous analysts -- that a real threat is imminent.

"'Though Rumsfeld's commission made no recommendation whatsoever on National Missile Defense, it dealt with the issue very artfully,' says Jonathan Pollack. 'In fact, if that commission had a methodology, it was a very Marshallian methodology -- you can posit these circumstances, and if you posit the following it's feasible this next thing could happen.' National Missile Defense deployment should, Pollack adds, be looked at under the larger rubric on the -- currently in vogue -- doctrine of 'homeland defense,' which focuses on protection from ballistic missiles and terrorism, and offers a lot of moneymaking potential to defense contractors. 'This is going to be a gravy train,' he says."


From "Inside the Ring", April 6, 2001:

"If you want to research the writings of Andrew Marshall to see where his Pentagon strategy review is likely headed, a security clearance is mandatory. Mr. Marshall, director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, rarely publishes his thinking in unclassified forms.

"The key, associates say, is to read the writings of his disciples. Or, as one Marshall friend framed it in a 'Star Wars' analogy, study the Jedis to learn the teachings of Yoda.

"One Jedi is Andrew F. Krepinevich, a former Army officer who worked with Mr. Marshall in the Net Assessment Office, a bastion of futuristic brainstorming.

"Mr. Krepinevich, who directs the private Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has taken on added importance. He is working on the Pentagon's future strategy study group headed by Mr. Marshall. It is one of about 12 panels assembled by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to plot a new course for the U.S. military.

"When Mr. Krepinevich writes, as he did recently, that four Trident submarines should be converted to land-attack missile platforms, it's a good guess that Mr. Marshall endorses the idea.

"Marshall watchers say his ideas show up in the writings of other proteges, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and James G. Roche, a retired Navy officer who is in line to be the next Air Force secretary.

"'There's this whole network of Marshallites out there and that's how his work gets out,' says John Hillen, who has participated in Mr. Marshall's yearly military study program at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I."


"The Illusion of a Grand Strategy" by James Der Derian, New York Times, May 25, 2001:

"Andrew Marshall ... was handpicked by Mr. Rumsfeld to guide the strategic review. Yet Mr. Marshall and his views remain enigmatic. Well-known if not adored by a tight circle of civilian and military strategists -- the so-called church of St. Andrew -- Mr. Marshall has been nearly invisible outside the defense establishment. A RAND Corporation nuclear expert beginning in 1949, he was brought by Henry Kissinger onto the National Security Council then appointed by President Nixon to direct the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment.

"He has been there ever since, despite efforts by some defense secretaries to get rid of him. His innocuous-sounding office comes with a big brief: to assess regional and global military balances and to determine long-term trends and threats.

"Insiders say Mr. Marshall was behind some of the key strategic decisions of the Reagan years. His strategy for a protracted nuclear war -- based on weapons modernization, protection of governmental leaders from a first strike and an early version of Star Wars -- effectively beggared the Soviet war machine. He advocated providing Afghan resistance fighters with the highly effective Stinger missiles. He tagged AIDS as a national security issue.

"Supporters call Mr. Marshall iconoclastic and delphic; his detractors prefer paranoiac or worse. No one has ever called him prolix. At a future-war seminar that he sponsored, Mr. Marshall mumbled a few introductory words and then sat in silence, eyebrows arched, arms folded, for the remaining two days. His only intervention came at the end. He suggested that when it came to the future, it would be better to err on the side of being unimaginative. After that experience, I better understood why he has been called the Pentagon's Yoda."


Nicholas Lehman, in "Dreaming About War" published in The New Yorker, July 16, 2001, writes:

"The most important promoter of the R.M.A. in America has been Andrew W. Marshall, the head of the Pentagon's obscure Office of Net Assessment, a cult figure in his own right, and one of the most curious and interesting figures in the defense world. People with decoder rings knew that Bush's speech at the Citadel had been drafted by Marshall's corps of allies and that it endorsed Marshall's main ideas

"Bush promised that, as President, he would order up 'an immediate, comprehensive review of our military' and give the Secretary of Defense 'a broad mandate to challenge the status quo.' Sure enough, this February, only a couple of weeks into the Bush Administration, newspaper stories reported that the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, would be conducting a broad review of the military--or, rather, that Andrew Marshall would be conducting it on his behalf. During the Clinton Administration, William Sebastian Cohen, as the Secretary of Defense, tried, without success, to exile the Office of Net Assessment and Marshall, who is seventy-nine, to the National Defense University. Now, in 2001, it looked as if Andy Marshall was back--emphatically so, in a position of higher influence than at any other point in his long career.

"Marshall is the last active member in government of a cadre of strategic thinkers that took form more than fifty years ago at the original think tank, the RAND Corporation, in Santa Monica, California. The best-known member of the group, and still a hero to conservatives, was Albert Wohlstetter; other members were Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers; Herman Kahn, a model for Dr. Strangelove; and James Schlesinger, later the Secretary of Defense and the man who, in 1973, created the Office of Net Assessment and installed Marshall as its head. All these people were involved in what Kahn liked to call 'thinking the unthinkable'; that is, working through precise scenarios, based on game theory and statistics, for what would happen in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. There was particular emphasis on how the United States might survive a first strike and still be able to launch a second strike.

"In his early years at the Pentagon, Marshall concerned himself with other matters. In the eighties, he performed studies concluding that the Soviet Union had become much weaker than most people imagined it to be. For the past decade and a half, every July at the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island, he has conducted his celebrated 'summer studies,' in which invited experts spend a week pondering a question posed by him.

"Marshall, a small, bald man with wire-rimmed spectacles who dresses in the manner of an unreconstructed nineteen-fifties organization man, has a peculiarly strong mystique. For a defense intellectual, he hasn't published much, and in public settings he doesn't say much, either, often mumbling in a low voice, or questioning but not answering, or simply saying he has nothing to add to the discussion. The medium through which he works is his protégés, who are extremely loyal. These days, the people he knows in high places include Rumsfeld; the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz; the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage (a principal author of Bush's speech at the Citadel); and the Secretary of the Air Force, James Roche, who worked for Marshall in the seventies.

"The Revolution in Military Affairs, Marshall's main cause for the past ten years, can be seen as a return to his RAND roots. There is a substantial R.M.A. literature, and one should be cautious about attributing all its main points to Marshall, but most of it posits a version of conventional war that would be waged in much the same way as nuclear war, with strategists at remote computer screens targeting precision missile strikes. The R.M.A. has been up and running--in seminar rooms, at least--for long enough now that it has a language all its own (such as 'deep-strike architecture,' 'systems of systems,' 'info dominance,' and 'asymmetric competitors'), which, like all insider jargon, has the effect of pushing non-members away."


From "Missile defence is about money and it's here to stay" by Elaine Lafferty, Irish Times, July 25, 2001.

Andrew Marshall "was part of a group formed nearly 50 years ago at the Rand Institute in Santa Monica, California, whose job it was, in the words of a member named Herman Kahn, a model for Dr. Strangelove, to 'think the unthinkable'. In other words, they played war games and imagined horrifying scenarios.

"Since the 1980s Mr Marshall has been a promoter of an idea first posited in 1982 by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, then chief of the Soviet general staff, called RMA, or 'Revolution in Military Affairs'. The RMA, in general terms, opines that technological advances have changed the very nature of conventional war. Rather than conflict conducted by ground troops, the new conventional war will be conducted almost like a nuclear war, managed by strategic defence and computers at remote locations targeting missiles at enemies.

"The 'battlefield', as it once was known, would no longer exist. War, in the RMA lexicon, would be conducted by spy satellites and long-range missiles, by computer viruses that would disable the enemies' offensive and defensive systems, and by a 'layered' defence system that would make the US impenetrable.

"For most of the last decade, and certainly under the Clinton administration, Mr Marshall and his protégés, who include both Mr Wolfowitz and the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and secretary of the air force James Roche, languished in various hinterlands, including a stint for Mr Rumsfeld in the pharmaceutical industry. Mr Marshall ran seminars at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. Neither technological advances nor the political climate existed to make the RMA feasible.

"What a difference a vote in Florida can make. During the campaign Mr Bush had promised an 'immediate, comprehensive review of our military'. And just weeks into the new administration, Mr Rumsfeld ordered exactly that, to be carried out by . . . Mr Marshall!"


"The 'Revolution in Military Affairs' Has An Enemy: Politics" by Michael Cantanzaro, American Enterprise Institute, October 2001:

"Perhaps the most renowned theorist of a revolution in military affairs is Andrew Marshall. Director of the Pentagon's internal think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, and the intellectual leader of Rumsfeld's review, Marshall has at times been treated as a pariah by the Pentagon establishment. He is a survivor, though, and at age 79, having worked on military strategy, for a period longer than the entire Cold War, has become a cult figure around whom reformers rally. 'Marshall is something of a revered figure among those who know him and worked for him,' said D. Robert Worley, a Marshall protege, and now a senior researcher at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a defense think tank.

"Marshall's career began in 1949 at the California-based RAND Corporation. For over 20 years, he, along with like-minded thinkers such as Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and James R. Schlesinger (Nixon's defense secretary), used elaborate war-gaming, incorporating advanced new concepts in statistics and game theory, to test the best strategies for corralling the Soviet Union. According to Eliot Cohen, another Marshall acolyte, Marshall and a team of researchers pushed development of weapons systems that 'would render obsolete large portions of the Soviet arsenal, or which would impose disproportionate costs' on Soviet military budgets."

"During the Clinton administration, Defense Secretary William Cohen and others tried to ostracize Marshall and the Office of Net Assessment. Now, having caught Rumsfeld's ear, Marshall is a central figure in setting future Pentagon priorities."


Andrew Marshall "grew up in Detroit and received a graduate degree in economics from the University of Chicago. He took a job at the RAND Corporation in 1949 and worked with nuclear intellectuals such as Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter. While there, Marshall and several colleagues played an important if hidden role in the 1960 presidential election when they served as advisers to John F. Kennedy and devised the bogus 'missile gap,' which JFK used to pillory Richard Nixon."[4]


"At the broadest level of national policy, discussions of US strategy for competing with the Soviet Union began in the late 1940s, when our relations with the Soviets began to change fundamentally for the worse and there was little or no prospect of a favorable turn of events in the foreseeable future. Studied interest in systematic planning for competing with the Soviets over the long term waned until 1968, when Andrew W. Marshall replaced James Schlesinger as director of strategic studies at RAND. Marshall's quest for a framework for structuring and giving direction to RAND's program of strategic studies led to his report Long Term Competition with the Soviets: A Framework for Strategic Analysis, published in 1972. This document was a seminal contribution to US strategic thinking in the post-World War II era. It reflects the strong influence of Marshall's interest, beginning in the early 1960s, in the subject of organizational behavior and in the efforts at the Harvard Business School to develop the field of business policy and strategy" [5]


From Fortune Magazine, January 26, 2004, by David Stipp:

What would abrupt climate change really be like? Scientists generally refuse to say much about that, citing a data deficit. But recently, renowned Department of Defense planner Andrew Marshall sponsored a groundbreaking effort to come to grips with the question. A Pentagon legend, Marshall, 82, is known as the Defense Department's "Yoda"--a balding, bespectacled sage whose pronouncements on looming risks have long had an outsized influence on defense policy. Since 1973 he has headed a secretive think tank whose role is to envision future threats to national security. The Department of Defense's push on ballistic-missile defense is known as his brainchild. Three years ago Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld picked him to lead a sweeping review on military "transformation," the shift toward nimble forces and smart weapons.

Note: "Since 1973 he has headed a secretive think tank whose role is to envision future threats to national security." One could wonder what this group was thinking about during the first eight months of 2001, while they had access to the extensive Hart-Rudman Task Force on Homeland Security report.


Please see listing of Andrew Marshall Acolytes / Jedi Knights.


Other SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • Net Book: Zalmay Khalilzad, John White, Andrew Marshall, "Strategic Appraisal: The Changing Role of Information in Warfare" (full report), RAND Corporation, 1999. "Explores the opportunities and vulnerabilities inherent in the increasing reliance on information technology."
  • The Definition of Strategic Assessment. In particular, scroll down to the section on "Department of Defense Net Assessments."
  • Past Revolution, Future Transformations, RAND Corporation, 1999. Complete book online. Also see Bibliography for names and article related to ONA and Andrew Marshall.
  • Thomas Parker, High-Tech to the Rescue in the Persian Gulf, Middle East Quarterly/Middle East Forum, June 1999: "Defense intellectuals tend to support the revolution in military affairs and its quest for a new generation of weapons systems; in contrast, those with vested interests to protect are skeptical. RMA advocates include senior Reagan and Bush officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle (both now advising Governor George W. Bush), Richard Armitage (author of a recent Congressionally-mandated study on the subject), Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University, and Zalmay Khalilzad of RAND. Andrew Marshall, the head of the Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment, an in-house think tank, has pushed hard for the RMA; while he had a close relationship with former secretaries of defense Cheney and Perry, his office was almost moved outside of the Pentagon under Secretary Cohen."
  • Ken Silverstein, The Man From ONA, The Nation, October 25, 1999.
  • Bill Keller, The Fighting Next Time, Why War?, March 10, 2002: "But Marshall's real public face is the legion of prolific R.M.A. proteges in policy institutes and universities whose work he has sponsored. His consistent theme (and theirs) for at least a decade has been that the nature of warfare is in for one of its periodic upheavals as nations adjust to two major developments. ... One is the perfection of long-range precision strike weapons that enable armies to fight from great distances and that make massive, conspicuous platforms like carriers and air bases more vulnerable. As our adversaries acquire more accurate missiles, Marshall argues, wars will probably be fought either from long range or by quick and comparatively small units that get in and out quickly. The other change is the emergence of information warfare, in which the most valuable assets are more powerful sensors--satellites, airborne cameras, handheld global positioning system equipment, robotic snoopers--that give the advantage to the side that can better read the battlefield and more quickly disseminate information to its commanders."
  • Bruce Berkowitz, War in the Information Age, Hoover Institution, Spring, 2002: "These technologies are turning over many traditional notions about how to wage war. Much of this new thinking can be traced to the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment and its director, Andrew Marshall. Although little known to the general public, the office has often been much more influential than its obscure title suggests. It is an in-house think tank for DOD charged with looking 10 or 20 years into the future, sizing up the threats the United States will face, and analyzing how we will match them. ... In the early 1990s, Marshall began to speak about a 'revolution in military affairs' (RMA). This revolution was driven mainly by the great changes that were under way in information technology. As a result of these changes, military forces would be able to have a better picture of the adversary and would be able to strike at him with precision weapons from great distance. The military would also need to become more mobile because large, stationary forces would be too vulnerable. ... Over the course of three decades, many promising majors, lieutenant commanders, and GS-13 civilians have done a tour through the Office of Net Assessment. These officers are now generals, admirals, and members of the Pentagon's Senior Executive Service and have considerable influence in drafting war plans and designing new weapons programs."
  • George Lewis, Pentagon Defense Strategist Previews Future Warfare, University of Kentucky Public Relations, July 11, 2002.
  • Amrish Sehgal, China and the Doctrine of Asymmetrical Warfare, BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR, July/August 2003: "That some of Andrew Marshall's worst fears are coming true is already evident. Japan's economy has been in the doldrums for the last 7 years. Its biggest market, USA, is itself locked in the throes of a recession. Given the major onslaught of Korean companies, perhaps the only large markets left to Japan are India and China. India's market for range of products that Japan makes, unfortunately for Japan, is already highly competitive, consumer oriented and service-intensive. China on the other hand is still somewhat of a command economy and is as large, if not larger, a market than India. Moreover, political considerations in China allow a better deal to be given to Japan than to South Korea. Indeed, China is going all out to woo Japan Inc. The day is not too far away when China emerges as Japan's largest investment market and trading partner. Chinese political pressure upon Japan to distance itself from USA can certainly be envisioned at such a juncture."
  • James G. Roche, Serving the Patriots of America's Air Force. Remarks at the Order of the Sword Induction Ceremony, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. September 13, 2003: "I also want to point out that one of my most important mentors is here tonight. He is my mentor, Bill Bodie's mentor, General Lance Lord's mentor, and he is Brigadier General Rich Hassan's mentor -- Andrew Marshall, one of the finest men in the Department of Defense. Andy was the head of the Office of Net Assessment when Admiral Farragut was around and was appointed to the job by General George Washington just before he relinquished command of the Continental Army. He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary last night. And ladies and gentlemen, tonight is his 82nd birthday. He is still working full time at our Pentagon. General John Jumper and I have often relied on one of his many sayings to help you cope with tough times. He once said to me, 'There simply are limits to the stupidity any one may can prevent.' General Jumper and I call upon that time after time."