The Art of Net Assessment and Uncovering Foreign Military Innovations: Learning from Andrew W. Marshall’s Legacy

July 22, 2020

Journal of Strategic Studies

“Andrew W. Marshall, who shaped the way in which contemporary international security experts think about strategy, has been mostly associated with the invention of net assessment. The intellectual sources of this analytical technique, and of the related competitive strategies concept, could be traced to Marshall’s efforts to uncover Soviet post-World War II defense transformations. This article outlines the essence of these Soviet innovations – the empirical frame of reference that inspired Marshall. It provides a new perspective on the history of the net assessment methodology, advances the debate within strategic studies over the nature of military innovations, and offers insights for experts examining defense transformations worldwide.”

The Fog of Strategy: Some Organizational Perspectives on Strategy and the Strategic Management Challenges in the Changing Competitive Environment

August 2017

Comparative Strategy 36(4): 275-292

“The purpose of this article is to discuss some conceptions of strategy (and why it is difficult) and the need for a long-term perspective on strategy (including carefully studying competitors/opponents), and to emphasize the organizational nature of strategy (most strategies are developed by and implemented in organizations). We offer elements of an organizational framework for thinking strategically about national security, and some thoughts about implications for the education of future strategists.”

The Flaring of Intellectual Outliers: An Organizational Interpretation of the Generation of Novelty in the RAND Corporation

April 2015

Organization Science

“Much of intellectual history is punctuated by the flaring of intellectual outliers, small groups of thinkers who briefly, but decisively, influence the development of ideas, technologies, policies, or worldviews. To understand the flaring of intellectual outliers, we use archival and interview data from the RAND Corporation after the Second World War. We focus on five factors important to the RAND experience: (1) a belief in fundamental research as a source of practical ideas, (2) a culture of optimistic urgency, (3) the solicitation of renegade ambition, (4) the recruitment of intellectual cronies, and (5) the facilitation of the combinatorics of variety. To understand the subsequent decline of intellectual outliers at RAND, we note that success yields a sense of competence, endurance in a competitive world, and the opportunity and inclination to grow. Self-confidence, endurance, and growth produce numerous positive consequences for an organization; but for the most part, they undermine variety. Outliers and the conditions that produce them are not favored by their environments. Engineering solutions to this problem involve extending time and space horizons, providing false information about the likelihoods of positive returns from exploration, buffering exploratory activities from the pressures of efficiency, and protecting exploration from analysis by connecting it to dictates of identities.”

The Hidden Hand Behind America’s Foreign Policy

January 23, 2015

The Wall Street Journal

“In the annals of strategic thought from Sun Tzu through Carl Von Clausewitz, and the chronicles of long public service from Queen Victoria through Adm. Hyman Rickover, Andrew Marshall has an honorable place.”

The Quiet American

January 8, 2015

The Economist

“He rarely speaks in public and almost never to the press. Most of his reports are secret. A historian once asked if even his brain was classified. But for over four decades Andrew Marshall’s judgments, emanating from a small office in the Pentagon, have guided American defence policy.”

In Search of a Successor for the Pentagon’s “Yoda”

January 2, 2015


“Since Andrew Marshall founded the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment in the early ’70s, he’s been the only person to head the think tank. But at the age of 93, Marshall—nicknamed “Yoda” after the sage extraterrestrial character from “Star Wars”—is retiring, according to the Washington Post.”

“Yoda” Still Standing: Office of Pentagon Futurist, Andrew Marshall, 92, Survives Budget Ax

December 4, 2013

The Washington Post

“Yoda is the nom de guerre for Andrew W. Marshall, the 92-year-old futurist who directs the Pentagon’s obliquely named internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment. A fixture in national-security circles since the dawn of the Cold War, Marshall contemplates military strategy and apocalyptic scenarios that could emerge in the decades to come.”

In Search of Strategic Foresight

November 1, 2013

Foreign Policy

“The current situation is such that the U.S. cannot afford to continue devoting resources to defense without a well-thought-out strategy for competing…We can no longer indulge in the ‘rich man’ strategy of insuring against all possible adverse futures…We can no longer afford to compete by simply doing more of the same.”

Pentagon Weighs Future of Its Inscrutable Nonagenarian Futurist

October 27, 2013

The Washington Post

“From his office deep inside the Pentagon, Yoda has outlasted the Cold War, countless military conflicts and 10 presidential elections. But can he survive the sequester? Yoda is the reverential nickname for Andrew W. Marshall, a legendary if mysterious figure in national security circles. A bald, enigmatic 92-year-old strategic guru, he resembles the Jedi master of “Star Wars” fame in more ways than one.”

The Marshall Plan

February 1, 2003

Wired Magazine

“For 40 years, the man Pentagon insiders call Yoda has foreseen the future of war – from battlefield bots rolling off radar-proof ships to GIs popping performance pills. And that was before the war on terror.”

Scenarios: Uncharted Waters Ahead

September 1985

Harvard Business Review

“It is fashionable to downplay and even denigrate the usefulness of economic forecasting. The reason is obvious: forecasters seem to be more often wrong than right. Yet most U.S. companies continue to use a variety of forecasting techniques because no one has apparently developed a better way to deal with the future’s economic uncertainty.

Still, there are exceptions, like Royal Dutch/Shell. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Shell developed a technique known as “scenario planning.” By listening to planners’ analysis of the global business environment, Shell’s management was prepared for the eventuality—if not the timing—of the 1973 oil crisis. And again in 1981, when other oil companies stockpiled reserves in the aftermath of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, Shell sold off its excess before the glut became a reality and prices collapsed.

Undoubtedly, many readers believe they are familiar with scenarios. But the decision scenarios developed by Shell in Europe are a far cry from their usual U.S. counterparts. In this article and a sequel to come, the author describes their evolution and ultimate impact on Shell’s management.”

Optimal Ways to Confuse Ourselves

Autumn 1975

Foreign Policy
No. 20, pp. 170-198

“We have all been waiting for the Great Debate on strategic arms so widely heralded a year ago. But it is hard to conduct any debate, much less a great debate, when language is used with almost no relation to the world it is supposed to describe. Contrast what has been happening to strategic forces and what we say has been happening.”