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Allison, 1971

According to Graham Allison, the Cuban Missile Crisis and technology advances prompted a number of changes in military decision making. Allison writes "Advances in the technology of communications made it possible for political leaders in the White House to talk directly with commanders of destroyers stationed along the quarantine line. Advances in the technology of mass destruction created the possibility that acts by men on a single destroyer in that quarantine line could rapidly escalate to bring death to millions of Americans. Thus the governmental leaders had both the capability and the incentive to reach out beyond the traditional limits of their control. Maps in the 'Situation Room' in the basement of the White House tracked the movement of all Soviet ships. The members of the ExCom knew each of the ships by name and argued extensively about which should be stopped first, at what point, and how. Sorenson records 'the President's personal direction of the quarantine's operation ... his determination not to let needless incidents or reckless subordinates escalate so dangerous and delicate a crisis beyond control.' Thus, for the first time in U.S. military history, local commanders received repeated orders about the details of their military operation directly from political leaders -- contrary to two sacred military doctrines. This circumvention of the chain of command and the accompanying countermand of the autonomy of local commanders created enormous pain and surface friction. (p. 127-128)"

from Allison, G. T., Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co, 1971.

appeared in DSS News, August 18, 2002, Vol. 3, No. 17