Assignment: Pentagon


Assignment: Pentagon

How to Excel in a Bureaucracy

Fifth Edition

Maj. Gen. Perry M. Smith, USAF (Ret.)
Col. Daniel M. Gerstein, USA (Ret.)

296 pages
4 illustrations, 5 appendixes, index


September 2020


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2020


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2020


$26.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Selected for the 2019 Commandant’s Professional Reading List, Assignment: Pentagon takes the reader on an insider’s tour of the Pentagon, describing how the headquarters for the world’s largest multinational “corporation” functions. The reader gains insights into how this bureaucracy functions as well as the stresses and strains inherent to such a complex organization. Now in its fifth edition, Assignment: Pentagon remains the best practical guide for anyone who works for the Pentagon or any other large bureaucracy.

Eminently readable, Assignment: Pentagon is the essential guide for the newly assigned military person, fresh civilian, or interested outsider to the Pentagon’s informal set of arrangements, networks, and functions that operate in the service and joint service world. With updated information about jobs and Pentagon vernacular, this fifth edition delivers a wealth of practical advice and helpful hints about surviving the challenges of working in “the Building.” If you’ve been assigned to the Pentagon or are starting work for any large company, you need to read Assignment: Pentagon.

Author Bio

Maj. Gen. Perry M. Smith, USAF (Ret.), is a teacher, speaker, TV and radio commentator, and best-selling author. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War he appeared as a military analyst for CNN, PBS, and NBC News. He is the coauthor of Rules and Tools for Leaders: From Developing Your Own Skills to Running Organizations of Any Size, Practical Advice for Leaders at All Levels.

Col. Daniel M. Gerstein, USA (Ret.), is a national security professional and technology expert who has served the United States not only in senior government positions but also in uniform, industry, academia, and think tanks. He is a frequent news contributor and has published numerous books, articles, and commentaries, including most recently The Story of Technology: How We Got Here and What the Future Holds.


“Should be stamped ‘MUST READ’ and provided to every person headed for a job in the Pentagon.”—Gen. John A. Wickham, U.S. Army (Ret.)

“A wealth of practical information.”—Marine Corps Gazette

“The kind of information you’d get in an informal conversation with an old Pentagon hand.”—Armed Forces Journal International

“All military services should add it to their recommended reading lists.”—U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings

“Loaded with anecdotes, management and leadership principles, and get-ahead techniques that can be applied effectively to private as well as public service.”—Airpower Journal


“Unlocks the language and customs of The Building.”—Washingtonian

Table of Contents

Preface to the Fifth Edition
Part 1. An Introduction to the Pentagon
1. A View of the Building
2. Realities and Myths of the Pentagon
3. Pentagon Truisms
4. The Strange Language of the Puzzle Palace
Part 2. The Key Players
5. Where Were You When the Page Was Blank? The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Action Officer
6. The Branch and Division Chiefs: A Forgotten Breed
7. Flag Officers, Senior Civilians, and Political Appointees: The Need for Leadership
8. The Services
9. The Joint Staff
10. The Office of the Secretary of Defense
11. The Interagency Arena
12. Working with Defense Contractors
13. The Pentagon’s Constituents
Part 3. Running the Pentagon
14. The Complex Pattern of Rivalry and Competition
15. Understanding the Process (and Keeping the Gears Turning)
16. In Search of Research, Development, and Innovation
17. Operating in the Tank: A View from the Inner Sanctum
18. How to Give and Receive Briefings in the Pentagon
Part 4. Enjoying the Tour
19. Rules of Thumb: Helpful Hints on How to Get Ready to Work, Survive, and Thrive
20. Difficult Bosses
21. Military Ethics in the Pentagon
22. The Heartbreak of House Hunting
23. Family, Cultural, Academic, and Job Opportunities
24. Conclusions: Back to the Future
Appendix A: Recommended References
Appendix B: Transition into the Pentagon Checklist
Appendix C: Interviewing
Appendix D: Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations
Appendix E: Department of Defense
About the Authors

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