Why the Army should fire some generals

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by bruno, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    Messages:
    3,001
    Likes Received:
    301
  2. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    7,547
    Likes Received:
    1,009
    Well, if you're going to expect us to be thoughtful.... :rolleyes:
    I had read it yesterday and thought it raised some good points and was basically a good idea. It would also serve as an "example" in that the top folks aren't immune from a draw down while somewhat encouraging to the officer ranks that usually suffer the most from such an event. I won't hold my breath though.
     
  3. JMS

    JMS Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    11
    I think the article has some points, but it does seem to discount the ability of intelligent humans (specifically the Generals and Colonels) to learn and adapt, perhaps even better than jr officers.
    I'm also suspicious of the cavalier manner that the author talks about replacing these people, like they are worn out car parts. These guys (and gals) have put a lot of time in, excelled, did what was needed of them, etc. ... and now, since the world changed, they are to be sidelined? Seems a bit like a knee jerk reaction. I suspect some might say, 'yes the world changed, and it has changed before ... several times, and it will change again.' Perhaps having competent, thoughtful, seasoned folk in charge who can manage how change happens may be the best course. Does that mean the jr officers should be ignored? Of course not. I think a middle course makes sense here.
     
  4. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,241
    Likes Received:
    275
    The current crop of generals and colonels have excelled at being promoted. Whether the DoD promotes people for the right reasons is more of the issue.

    I've seen some good people sidelined and some careerists (in the negative sense of the word) be put into the promotion fast-track. I've also seen people put in leadership positions that they simply don't fit in, because that's the way the system works. That doesn't always happen, but I fear it happens more than it should. At least in the AF, OPRs are inflated and things that should be meaningless metrics or "tie-breakers" at best become the defining criteria for how people are rated. The comic here sums it up pretty well! http://truemilitaryintelligence.com/performance-reports

    (I have seen some truly great leaders fast-tracked as well, so the system isn't completely broken.)
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    Perhaps we've worked with different general/flag officers, but there are very few I would describe as flexible. Having staff support certainly helps to appear that way.

    I also generally reject that the "best and brightest" are the individuals who rise to the flag/general ranks. Yes, there ARE some very impressive, intelligent, stars out there, but there are some very underwhelming individuals from 1 to 4 stars, who have to scratching your head, wondering how THEY made flag. This is true of every servicep; Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
     
  6. cb7893

    cb7893 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2011
    Messages:
    1,063
    Likes Received:
    379
    Interesting you use the term the "best and brightest". For you youngsters, "The Best and the Brightest" was the title of a book written by David Halberstam about the evolution of US involvement in Vietnam. The title referred to the brilliant and previously successful appointees John Kennedy plucked from industry and academia to run foreign policy, the Pentagon and the CIA.

    No one epitomized this type more that SecDef Robert McNamara. Plucked right from Ford where he had presided over much of the rapid growth in the post war passenger car biz. When it was time to ramp up US military involvement in Vietnam, McNamara was able to apply his organizational and bean counter skills using measurements like troop numbers, bomb tonnage, enemy dead, etc. to measure success. Generals Westmorland and LeMay were more than willing to take the resources and be judged by the accepted metrics.

    I find it interesting because of the parallels between the careerism (always a pejorative term when I use it) in US Auto industry during and following McNamara's time, and the natural tendency of all large organizations with limited accountability to devolve into a cesspool of careerism.

    One doesn't need 20/20 hindsight to understand that Ford, GM, Chrysler, American Motors, had no foreign competitors, since Europe and Japan were still rebuilding in the 1950's. They knew one thing, how to churn out cars the way they churned out tanks, jeeps, planes, but they did not how to compete, which became brutally apparent within a decade.

    I'll let you folks assess the level of careerism in the US military. I only know what it looks like in the end.

    I can add nothing to the discussion of the best way to "right size" the military. I would be anyway, but I will be a keen observer of the process as the DF of a soon-to-be-minted (hopefully) Army 2Lt. I do know it will be impossible to right size it, if there is no consensus as to the mission and the costs we are willing to bear.

    My hope is that the right people in the Congress, Oval office and Pentagon will have the forethought and courage to make the right changes now, thus avoiding the kind of slow motion train wreck given us by the "careerists" (the term is only pejorative) in Detroit.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  7. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Messages:
    2,807
    Likes Received:
    444
    I agree with some of the points in the article. Perhaps, I am part of the problem, a senior officer that needs to retire, but I think the article is very one sided.

    Why are we cutting CPTs/MAJs but not LTC/COL/BGs? Most retiring military officers are at rank of LTCs or higher. As for quality, perhaps cutting CPT/MAJ will give us a better chance to have better LTCs or higher. Do good CPT/MAJ suddenly become bad when they get promoted to LTCs? I am pretty sure with controlled promotion rate and retirements, don't have to cut LTC or higher to reach the desired number of LTCs or higher. I don't know the exact percentage, but active duty Army LTCs with 22 +/1 a few years are hard to find as by that time they don't they are not going to pay COL and they had 3 year time in grade to retire in the current rank.

    The current junior officers might be more "open minded and willing to adapt to a fast changing culture that is today's military." But can they learn to work within the system? Sometimes I get a sense from junior officers that it's never their fault, it's the system's fault. The simple question I ask what have you done to fix the system. Any officers can find faults, only good officers will fix the fault or mitigate its effects.
     
  8. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    I was going to say "maybe it's time for the system to change" but then you mentioned that. It might be fair to follow that up with, the old fogies guarding the systems aren't exactly prime on "fixing the system" when they see junior officers as having to "work within the system." To take that a step further, how many junior officers have been "corrected" for trying to "fix the system"... and I think we all know, these days a "correction" can end a career.

    To be fair, generally it was my fault. The fault of the system, in my mind, was not to forgive my personal faults, but in the end, I was better off, and in my opinion, the Coast Guard wasn't. That's not just my story, but it's repeated again and again. And again and again, the general theme is "work within the system". So be it. But assume, if that's how it's going to work, that you will lose some very smart folks who aren't entirely built for "in the system" thinking. And before you say "then they don't belong" I will say I don't disagree, but I think the services do, and will continue to, suffer. And you'll get the same general mix of senior officers and flag officers, some smart, some dumb, some good leaders, some all about themselves, and all built for "the system."

    I'm on the outside looking in. I probably wasn't quite cut for that system mold. I'm OK with that. I would in a non-defense related industry, and that distance has been even more refreshing. But I do know, from my many friends in each service that that junior officer morale (O-1 to O-4 generally) isn't high. I know a number of senior enlisted and commanders (O-5) who aren't impressed with the direction things are headed, and for the most part, their complaints are well-established "system" issues, and are generally self-inflicted by the services.

    And from the outside looking in... I'm not losing any sleep. You will either figure out how to live within the current system, the system will change and you'll learn how to live within the new system, or you'll leave. And if leaving is your path, the "system" will only be stronger, rightly or wrongly.

    It's much bigger than "Hey JO making $56,000 a year with 10 people above you in the chain of command, how are YOU fixing the system" and much more about is the system really that ready for for change? Can the hearts and minds and intestines of the senior leaders take it? I don't think so. I don't think flag officers or generals are willing, or able. And THAT is a problem.... which I don't believe will be fixed.
     
  9. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,241
    Likes Received:
    275
    From what I've seen, often times ideas for change never make it to the person who actually has the authority to implement a change. The screening by the several layers of "middle management" usually kills ideas that rock the boat. Sometimes rightfully so, but sometimes because one of the middle managers doesn't think their boss will like the idea.
     
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    Very true. And it's no unique to the military. Supervisors are judged by the performance of their subordinates. How strong will a supervisor look with a subordinate who tries to "fix" the system?
     
  11. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Messages:
    2,807
    Likes Received:
    444
    If you can't fix the system, what do you do? I think it's an American mentality that if there is a problem, there is a solution. I think some problems don't have solutions and you can't do anything about it other than working with it.

    Most will agree that other SAs should adopt the CG model of not using nomination. A junior officer that just started working in the admissions office might think that's what we need to do, tell his or her boss that's what we need to do, and the boss says we can't (Perhaps, the admissions office already made the recommendation and it made it to the DoD legislative liaison office. or the DoD legislative liaison office told the SA, they can have five things only). So the junior officer complaints about it and thinks the boss is just guarding the system.

    How I became a "guardian" of the system or made peace with myself is looking at the big picture. There are many things with the West Point Admissions office I don't like and think it's broken. I suggested some fixes - no action. Suppose I could have just walked away, but I decide not to as I believe I still provide valuable services to candidates as a FFR.
     
  12. JMS

    JMS Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    11
    I'm thinking these sort of system problems and such are very similar to any private sector organization large enough to need a systemic way of doing things. And I agree that to change how things are done one must be on the 'inside' and have enough experience working the system as designed AND understanding of why it was designed that way to intelligently suggest changes that don't upset the apple cart. The rules and systems were put in place for a reason, and while it may not satisfy the popular press, the reason is probably largely still there and valid. AS TPG and MemberLG ;and others state/ allude, once one knows the rationale behind the system in place, one is less inclined to scrap it. Tweek? Maybe. Then, too, one learns after a few lap around the block, that if one does not understand the system or the rationale behind it, then one is doubly circumspect about changing things. Now, all of that may not be apparent to the jr staff when they hear 'no.'
    Still, the author wants to fire/RIF Sr Officers because they 'might not' have the chops to change when change is needed. In other words, rather than do some root cause analysis (real work) lets just cut off some heads, devil cares about institutional knowledge, etc.
    Regards the Sr Officers who don't register on the intellectual Richter scale, well, pluck them out. Don't cut down the tree. Oh, yeah, that takes work, too. Now, how they got promoted to that spot is a systemic issue that needs to be examined, but I'm doubtful wholesale overhaul of the personnel system is what is needed.
    In my experience in State, local and Federal government as well now in the private sector is that Sr management that are viewed to be 'drones' today all have interesting histories. Commonly, they were all go-getters at one point and headed up some important program or other, etc, etc., but were now and finally, 'whipped into submission' by circumstances. They also realize they are 'hand cuffed to their desk' owing to the pension/benefits/etc. and changing jobs is not really an option any more, so they hunker down. It is the most rational decision in the world!
    So,in short, I feel the author of the article that prompted this interesting thread took the easy way out... a high altitude critique that satisfied a audience urge to 'fire the whole bunch' missed any meaningful detailed analysis, and oh, lets not forget... got him a pay check.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  13. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005

    Um, that boss is "guading the system." He just came up with a "that's how it is" response.... that's not really fixing anything. What does that junior officer do then, go above his boss? I'll give you one guess what happens to that junior officer after he does, especially these days, he puts on a suit and works somewhere else, and, if he went around his boss, likely because he was sent out the door. "We have rules"....

    The point is, unless it has a star or four standing behind it "the general wants..." junior officers will only accomplish some low level things (with some exceptions, of course), but nothing close to altering the "system."

    Reminds me of when I was a cadet. Cadets had to carry brief cases for their books. A cadet a year ahead of me routed a memo through the Commandant of Cadets to have cadets use backpacks. The cadet was entirely professional, followed the process, etc. It was "minor" in the grand scheme of the Coast Guard, but at CGA it was a "system change" (at least in our eyes). The Commandant of Cadets, an O-6, sent an email, with a number of comments, mostly lecturing and talking down to the cadets, and in the end, closed with "Backpacks? No sir!"

    You can imagine how that rippled through the Corps. Many lost respect for the captain. "...? No Sir" because a rallying cry.

    A year or two later that captain retired, most believed early, because of something else. And now, cadets DO have backpacks.

    If only that was the last time I saw this.... but it wasn't. You want to see uninspired leadership, get into the minds of the vessel naming board of the Coast Guard. They named a cutter after someone who manned a lighthouse for a long time.... because working at a lighthouse is "historically significant?" No. Because they needed a female, and the pressure came from a female 3-star.

    The rules and system were CERTAINLY put in place for a reason. But the closer you get to that decision making process, the less "pure" those reasons seem to be.

    Fix the system? No sir! --Compliments of the military's senior leaders.
     
  14. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,756
    Likes Received:
    1,005
    The difference I've seen between the hiring process (and retention process) of the public and private sectors is, the private sector is more likely to associate the return of its investment in an individual. Not getting things done? Bye!

    You don't see that in an "industry" whose money comes from a Congressional budget. My productivity as a GS-15 does go back to $XX from Congress...
     

Share This Page