Why I Don’t Want a Red Team Messing with My Plan


Let’s pretend that I’m a stubborn, arrogant decision maker. My stakeholders are pressuring me to red team my current plan. The last thing I want is a red team nosing around in my business, so I decide to list the reasons why I think it’s a bad idea. (Of course, this list is just for me; I would never share it with the stakeholders.) Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • I already know I’m right. (I usually am, and even when I’m not, I can still show how I was right by changing the context of the debate.)
  • My opponents are manifestly incompetent. (And I, of course, am manifestly competent.)
  • I have plenty of time to adjust my plan if necessary. (After all, my opponents are manifestly incompetent.)
  • I’ve already invested too much in the current plan. (And it’s a very good plan.)
  • I’m afraid of what the answer might be. (What if I missed something? It’s unlikely but possible … )
  • I don’t want a red team messing with my operations. (What if they break something while they’re testing it?)
  • If the red team’s recommendations differ from my current plan, it’s better that I don’t know. (Then I can claim ignorance.) [quickly scratched out]
  • I might have something to hide. (Just kidding …) [even more quickly scratched out]
  • In the end, my stakeholders won’t support any change in the agenda, schedule, or budget. (Besides, it took me long enough to get them all on board.)
  • I don’t have enough time. (We’re already behind schedule.)
  • I don’t have enough money. (We’re already over budget, and I need a reserve in case something goes wrong.)
  • I don’t know where to find a red team I can trust. (Red teamers seem to have an unreasonable desire to get at the “truth,” whatever that may be!)
  • Things are moving too fast. By the time the red team finishes its assessment, events will have overtaken it. (A red team will just slow me down. I can react faster without them.)
  • A red team will just introduce confusion and disagreement. We need unity right now. (And if things do go wrong, it’ll be a lot easier to explain why we didn’t have time for a red team than it will be to explain why I didn’t listen to it.)
  • It’s not really about the plan anyway; it’s about [another issue]. The plan is just a red herring. (I’m playing a hypergame.)

Help me out here. There must be more reasons …


  • The core reason many do not like Red Teams looking over their plans is the simple fact that a large number of planners do not understand the insurgency they are engaging.

    Yes they may have 4 or 5 rotations into Iraq of Afghanistan but do they really understand the insurgent and his ecology?

    Can they when making a plan and the decisions concerning that plan—tell you what the envisioned 2nd, 3rd or even 4th degree effects of that plan will be? Simple answer is NO and when a Red Team potentially looks at it—it is from that perspective.

    Counter insurgency requires being a chess player and US BCT and BN Cmdrs are just not chess players even with years of deployment experience AND they definitively do not think like an insurgent.

  • Here’s another one: Go ahead and run your Red Team but lean on them to give you the ‘right’ answer.

  • AND after leaning on them claim that your plan after it was reviewed was totally correct from the beginning.

  • Why did you wait until you “had a plan” to ask for a red team? Why didn’t you engage a red team during the initial design/development phase. As I see it, where red teams really help is identifying the major issues–the unstated assumptions that are guiding you down the wrong path, etc.
    If a red team isn’t engagted until near the end of this process, if there is a major problem, it requires fundamental redesign, not just re-planning and refining. Engaging a red team early can obviate some of the issues above and also help the plan become more flexible (even if the command/group doesn’t agree with the red team conclusions, they may be able to account for them, or be prepared to implement them when/if necessary.

  • Red Teams will almost never be brought in early as they would be viewed as an enabling element used to check the original thinking. RTs are not inherently viewed as part of the military decision making process UNLESS a very active 2 brings them into play—actually they fit into the process via the IPB cycle based on subject matter knowledge.

    Currently a BCT has approximately (any given time) up to 10-13 different enabling organizations/elements all competing to get there voice heard.

    Great idea to include early–just based on experience– do not see it happening.

  • I find it interesting that red teams are not inherently viewed as part of the military decision making process. This shows a lack of objectiveness on the part of military planners – as exemplified in Mark’s list. The same lack of objectiveness interferes with the insertion of CNO into military exercises – the common statement is that CNO cell activities get “white carded” so the exercise can continue along conventional, kinetic lines.


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