Douglas Macgregor

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Douglas A. Macgregor
BornPennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1976–2004
RankColonel (ret)
Commands held1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry
Battles/warsBattle of 73 Easting, Operation Desert Storm of 1991
AwardsDefense Superior Service Medal
Bronze Star ("V" Device for Valor in Combat)
Meritorious Service Medal (4)
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
National Defense Service Medal (2)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars)
Kuwait Liberation Medal
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
French Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze
Parachutist Badge
Ranger Tab

Douglas A. Macgregor is a U.S. Army Colonel (retired), author, and consultant.[1]

Career and education[edit]

Macgregor was educated at the Wm. Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, at the Virginia Military Institute and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a BS in general engineering in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia[2] in international relations in 1987.[3] Macgregor was the "squadron operations officer who essentially directed the Battle of 73 Easting" during the Gulf War.[2] Facing an Iraqi Republican Guard opponent, U.S. troops with 10 tanks and 13 Bradley fighting vehicles destroyed almost 70 Iraqi armored vehicles with no U.S. casualties in a 23-minute span of the battle.[2] As Macgregor was towards the front of the battle involved in shooting, he didn't "request artillery support or report events to superiors until the battle was virtually over, according to one of his superior officers."[2] The risks he undertook "could have been criticized had the fight turned ugly."[2]

At a November 1993 exercise at the Army's National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, Lt. Col. Macgregor's unit vastly outperformed its peers against the "Opposition Force." The series of five battles usually end in four losses and a draw for the visiting units; Macgregor's unit won three, lost one, and drew one.[2] Macgregor's unit dispersed widely, took unconventional risks, and anticipated enemy movements.[2]

Macgregor was a top Army thinker on innovation according to journalist Thomas E. Ricks.[4] He "became prominent inside the Army" when he published Breaking the Phalanx, which argued for radical reforms.[4] Breaking the Phalanx was rare in that an active duty military author was challenging the status quo with detailed reform proposals for the reorganization of U.S. Army ground forces.[5] The head of the Army, United States General Dennis Reimer, wanted to reform the Army and effectively endorsed Breaking the Phalanx and passed copies out to generals; however, reforming the U.S. Army according to the book met resistance from the Army's de facto "board of directors"—the other four-star Army generals—and Reimer did not press the issue.[6]

Many of Macgregor's colleagues thought his unconventional thinking may have harmed his chances for promotion.[2] While an Army NTC official called him "the best war fighter the Army has got," colleagues of Macgregor were concerned that "the Army is showing it prefers generals who are good at bureaucratic gamesmanship to ones who can think innovatively on the battlefield."[2] Macgregor was also seen as blunt, and to some, arrogant.[2] Despite Magregor's top post-Gulf War NTC showing, his Army career was sidelined.[2] The summer of 1997 marked the third time the Army refused to put him in command of a combat brigade,[2] "a virtual death warrant for his Army career, relegating him to staff jobs as a colonel for the remainder of his service."[3]

Macgregor was the top planner for General Wesley Clark, the military commander of NATO, for the attack on Yugoslavia.[3]

In the fall of 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had read Breaking the Phalanx, insisted that General "Tommy" Franks and his planning staff meet with Colonel Macgregor on 16–17 January 2002 to discuss a concept for intervention in Iraq involving the use of an armored heavy force of roughly 50,000 troops in a no warning attack straight into Baghdad.[7]

Macgregor left the Army in June 2004.[8] He is the vice president of Burke-Macgregor, LLC, a consulting firm based in Reston, Virginia,[9] and he occasionally appears as a guest commentator on television and radio.


  • Breaking the Phalanx advocated that "the Army restructure itself into modularly organized, highly mobile, self-contained, combined arms teams that look extraordinarily like the Marine Corps' Air Ground Task Forces".[10]
  • In 2004, Magregor stated that he strongly supported war against Iraq.[11]
  • During the beginning of the Iraq War, Macgregor disagreed with those who wanted to slow the advance into Baghdad in order to fight Fedayeen paramilitary forces.[12]
  • In 2006, after seven retired generals criticized then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the war, Magregor faulted the generals themselves for poor war planning and the resulting complications in Iraq.[13]
  • In 2008, Macgregor stated he would argue that American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan "has produced very serious and negative consequences for American national-security interests".[14]
  • Macgregor's 2009 book, Warrior's Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting, argues that the failure to finish the battle with the Republican Guard in 1991 led to Iraq's second major confrontation with the United States in 2003.
  • In 2010, he strongly criticized the counter-insurgency strategy and escalation of troops in Afghanistan.
  • In 2012, he challenged general James Amos' stance on the United States Marine Corps. Macgregor argued that the military capability and pertinence of the Marines, along with Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, made them both "as relevant as the Army's horse cavalry in the 1930s".[15]
  • In 2014, he stated that U.S. Army is designed to benefit four-star generals, not brigade readiness.[16]
  • Macgregor says that David Petraeus, Martin Dempsey, and other generals consistently exaggerated or falsified the effectiveness of the Iraqi army because "the generals were simply cultivating their Bush administration sponsors in pursuit of further promotion".[17]

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Breaking the Phalanx: a New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997. ISBN 0275957934 OCLC 35172666[10]
  • Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. ISBN 0275981924 OCLC 52728785
  • Warrior's Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, 2009. ISBN 9781591145059 OCLC 313658347
  • Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, 2016. ISBN 1612519962


  1. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Win the close fight, The Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Richard J. Newman (28 July 1997). "Renegades Finish Last. A Colonel's Innovative Ideas Don't Sit Well with the Brass". U.S. News & World Report. 123 (4): 35.
  3. ^ a b c Thomas E. Ricks (16 April 1999). "Gung Ho but Slow. Why the U.S. Army is Ill-Equipped to Move Into Kosovo Quickly". The Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ a b Thomas E. Ricks (20 February 2002). "A Test Case for Bush's Military Reform Pledge? – Some Decry Transfer of Reform Advocate to Army Staff Job". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Paul Greenberg, "A Tale of Two Colonels", Jewish World Review, 5 May 1999. Greenberg compares the fate of Colonel DeGaulle and his book to Macgregor's noting it was the first by a serving Army officer to question the status quo since Billy Mitchell's work on air power.
  6. ^ Peter J. Boyer (1 July 2002). "A Different War – Is the Army becoming irrelevant?". The New Yorker.
  7. ^ See FRONTLINE documentary on the contentious planning that led to the seizure of Baghdad in 2003 <>. Also, see Bernard Trainor and Michael Gordon's book, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, (New York: Pantheon, 2006).
  8. ^ Thomas E. Ricks (6 July 2004). "U.S. Army Changed by Iraq, but for Better or Worse?; Some Military Experts See Value in Lessons Learned; Others Cite Toll on Personnel, Equipment". The Washington Post. p. A.10.
  9. ^ Douglas Macgregor, PhD, Colonel (ret) US Army, Executive Vice President Accessed 15 August 2010.
  10. ^ a b Stephen A. Cheney (Jan–Feb 1998). "The General's Folly: Old Thinking for a New Military". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Rumsfeld's War: Interviews: Douglas Macgregor". Frontline. 26 October 2004.
  12. ^ Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor (12 March 2006). "As war began, U.S. generals feuded". The New York Times.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ Richard Allen Greene (17 April 2006). "Vocal Rumsfeld critics break ranks". BBC News.
  14. ^ Douglas Macgregor, Marvin Weinbaum, Abdullah Ansary, Robert Pape (2008). "The"Global War on Terror": What Has Been Learned?". Middle East Policy. John Wiley & Sons. 14 (4): 1–25. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4967.2008.00366.x.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  15. ^ "USMC: Under-utilized Superfluous Military Capability."
  16. ^ "Our Army’s Headed for Collapse: Here’s how to fix it."
  17. ^ Vlahos, Kelley (9 October 2014). "The Iraqi Army Never Was". The American Conservative. Retrieved 9 October 2014.

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