Chapter 3 - The Military Revolution
The emergence of large, complex armies in the Iron Age brought into existence the specialized military staffs required to make them work. The invention of the military staff may be compared in importance with the rise of the administrative mechanisms of the state that appeared at the same time. The first military staff emerged in Egypt during the period of the Old Kingdom (2686-2160 B.C.). While the complete structure is unknown, an analysis of titles reveals ample evidence of a sophisticated staff organization whose organizational principle was based on function. There are titles for quartermasters, various officer ranks, types of commanders, and even specialist sections dealing with desert warfare and garrison functions. A clearer command structure emerged during the Middle Kingdom (2040-1786 B.C.), when titles for general officers in charge of logistics, recruits, frontier fortress, and shock troops were found. The command structure was almost fully articulated, and the appearance of titles for police patrols, district officers, and military judges suggested the presence of a military police force to keep order and discipline in the army. For the first time there is evidence of a military intelligence service, reflected in the title, "master of the secrets of the king in the army." The regular presence of scribes suggested that much of the administrative routine may have been committed to permanent record. By 1300 B.C., the Egyptian army showed evidence of special field intelligence units and, most surprisingly, the use of the commander's conference for staff planning on the battlefield.
The citizen armies of classical Greece were essentially part-time affairs, and there does not appear to have been any permanent staff organization except for Sparta, itself a military society. Yet, this period may have produced the first written treatises on tactics and strategy. Earlier evidence reveals the presence of cuneiform manuals for military physicians in Assyria, a datum that could imply that the Assyrians may also have written and used military textbooks to train their officers. The armies of Philip and Alexander, while more structurally articulated in staff organization than the armies of classical Greece, do not appear to have reached the level of staff sophistication of earlier armies. The structure of Alexander's army was essentially an extension of his personality, and did not survive long enough to acquire any institutional foundation of its own.
The height of military staff development was achieved by the Romans. Warfare had become so complex that complex organizational structures were required to fight it. So effective was the Roman staff organization that more than any other, it still serves as the model for modern armies. Each senior officer had a small administrative staff responsible for paperwork, and the Roman army, like modern armies, generated enormous numbers of permanent files. Each soldier had an administrative file that contained his full history, awards, periodic physical examinations, training records, leave status, retirement bank account records, and pay records. Legion and army staff records included sections dealing with intelligence, supply, medical care, pay, engineers, artillery, siegers, training, and veterinary affairs. There was almost nothing in the organization or function of the Roman military staff that would not be instantly recognizable to a modern staff officer.
The degree of sophistication and organization evident in the military staffs of the Iron Age was not achieved again until at least the armies of the Civil War. Even the armies of Napoleon, as sophisticated as they were thought to be for their time, did not equal the level of organizational skill of the Assyrian and Roman military staffs. In terms of operational proficiency, no army until the rise of the German general staff could match the Roman army.