George W. Marshall: The Pentagon’s Wizard of Oz?

This morning reader Rich Buckley sent me an interesting article, with the note:

Hi Ann,
The Washington Post had this to say about Andrew Marshall. Reading the article, I could not help feeling as though I had stepped into a dark chamber accidentally and temporarily interrupted an Illuminati meeting of the true power players behind the scenes as they were telling minions what to do … a chill ran up my spine:

Yoda still standing: Office of Pentagon futurist Andrew Marshall, 92, survives budget ax

December 4, 2013



Yoda has won a new lease on life at the Pentagon, although his independence will be curtailed.

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.

(U.S. Department of Defense/U.S. Department of Defense) – Andrew W. Marshall, director of the United States Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment. (U.S. Department of Defense)
Cutbacks at the Pentagon, however, had endangered Marshall’s own future and security. Defense Department leaders were considering whether to shutter or scale back his office, prompting a backlash among his influential acolytes on Capitol Hill, in think tanks and elsewhere in the federal government.On Wednesday, after a broad review of spending in the upper reaches of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Office of Net Assessment would be preserved. But he said Marshall’s fiefdom would be realigned on the bureaucratic flow chart so that Yoda would have to report to the undersecretary of defense for policy, instead of directly to the defense secretary.“This change will better ensure that its long-range comparative analyses inform and influence . . . overall strategy and policy,” Hagel said.

Advocates for Marshall had argued that maintaining his independence was critical to ensuring that his ideas would flourish and not be undermined by ideological rivals. But skeptics said it was difficult to scrutinize the intellectual value of his reports, most of which are classified, because of his reluctance to share them with others in the department.

Either way, Marshall was more fortunate than others who did not dodge the budget ax. Hagel unveiled a plan to cut 200 jobs from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, shrinking his front office from 2,400 employees to 2,200 by 2019.


A.K. I decided to dig a little further into this benign sounding “Office of Net Assessment” and noticed that most of the secretive reports it publishes on ghastly-future-scenarios-to-keep- Empire-salivating are produced by “outside contractors.” Yep, no doubt connected to the Military Industrial Complex that just keeps on trying to squeeze even more blood out of the desiccated turnip that is slowly morphing into the Untied States of America.

Check out these two stories:

Here’s the kind of thinking that wants to make sure this future scenarios think tank office stays up and running:

And here’s an example of somebody who looks at the situation without needing to profit from it.

Inside the Pentagon’s Idea Factory


Van Tol says ONA has no more than 15 staffers. Most of the work is done by outside contractors. Despite its size, the influence of the office has been vast since its creation in 1973 by Andrew Marshall, the guru-like figure who still leads ONA. Fred Kaplan, in his book Daydream Believers, profiles Marshall, the so-called “Yoda” of the Pentagon. Kaplan explains the key to Marshall’s longevity (he has kept his job longer than anyone at a policy level in Washington) — and his influence:

“he built a far-flung network of acolytes and loyalists: officers whose unconventional projects he had encouraged and helped to fund; analysts whose work he had sponsored and whose ideas he had helped form; and high-ranking officials, as well as committee chairmen on Capitol Hill, who simply valued having a man of ideas so high up in the Pentagon.”

The office reports to the Secretary of Defense, but “its informal channels are probably more important than what you’d find on an organizational chart” says Paul Bracken, professor of management and political science at Yale, who has written at length on net assessment.


A.K. Let’s face it. Which particular ghastly future scenarios unfold — which future weapon systems are produced for future which wars fought — depend mostly on “informal channels” — all of which are sourced in an entrenched power behind the scenes, 92-year old George Marshall, who has been at the helm of the Pentagon’s intensely secretive and ethically impaired left-brain think tank for fully 40 years.

We pull back the curtain, to discover the Wizard of Oz?

About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
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