Peruvian Submarines – or Why Planning Reform Always Fails

A tale told by a shady and unreliable character in a bar in Hamra Beirut. Looking at the internet is certainly elaborated, but is more fun and teachable in its fable form, so ill tell it as I was told it.

The US was conducting a wargames exercise. In a moment of sadism against a bunch of misfit staff officers they were assigned the Peruvian team. Countering asymmetric threats was the obsession post-Vietnam.  The Westpoint grads US team decided on a seaborne invasion, easy, after all Peru had no submarines.

The entire invasion fleet was sunk in the wargame.  The Peruvian team had won the most unlikely victory in the Pentagon history.

‘But, But you had no submarines?  How did you do it.’

‘That’s classified.’

‘The exercise is over’

‘Ok we bought some old subs on the black market from the Chinese’.

Ever since US destroyers were designed to counter Peruvian submarines, even though it didn’t have any.

Of course the Peruvian team had quickly worked out the Westpoint team’s strategic weakness, that they thought Peru had no submarines and so didn’t include countermeasures in the limited ‘points’ they had for the wargame.  Whereas the Peruvian team had spent every point they had on submarines.

Ever since the Pentagon has run a ‘Red Team’ exercise against every new strategy and technology.  Of course the Chinese have spied on these and know exactly what to do.

The lesson for planning reform is clear.  There will be many trying to make every exercise of reform fail, and from all sides.  Unless you anticipate and counter their moves it will fail.  You will never anticipate all such moves. So the more opportunity their is for challenge, delay and discretion the more opportunities you give to be sunk by a Peruvian submarine.

Of course if you dont have to fight wars all the better, a Utopian hope in much of planning.


3 thoughts on “Peruvian Submarines – or Why Planning Reform Always Fails

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