Unusually interesting article. Some aspects of problem I was aware. Disagree with several of proposed fixes. Understand Air Force has had some success with running an open bid system on upcoming assignments.
Why the Pentagon is failing to keep its best and brightest.
ForeignPolicy.com, January 10, 2013
As the war in Iraq wore into its most corrosive years, a problem began to emerge — the military, and especially the U.S. Army, was losing its young officers. Editorials were published and examples cited, and by early 2011, the crisis had been recognized at the military’s highest levels. But the young captains and lieutenants whose departures at the height of the Iraq war caused this soul-searching at the Pentagon are only half of the story, the superficial half; these are young warriors in harm’s way with young spouses and toddlers back home. The military’s retention crisis cuts deeper into the heart of the Army. The more complicated and more important half of the story is about the colonels.
Getting a great first assignment after commissioning is essential in climbing the professional military ladder, especially given the nature of Army promotions. Soldiers need to check exactly the right boxes — get the right jobs, go to the right professional schools on time, earn “distinguished graduate” from those schools — to prove themselves. And getting into the infantry, armor, or other combat-arms branches is considered important. If one is “going infantry,” the ideal path is to get light but not too light. Specialized units such as the Navy SEALs or the Army’s Delta Force might be too light, whereas mechanized infantry might be a shade too heavy.
Dick Hewitt graduated near the top of the class from West Point. His first assignment was with the legendary 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Hewitt, like many of the young officers that received so much attention at the height of the Iraq war, also decided to leave the Army a few years after the 9/11 attacks. But here’s the difference: Hewitt had served a full 20-year career. He had checked all the right boxes, even getting tapped to command a battalion when he was just a major. So when Hewitt decided to leave, it was not because the Army had a minor morale problem causing retention heartburn, but rather it was because of a deeper and more nuanced institutional dysfunction.
Tim Kane, the chief economist at the Hudson Institute, is the author of Bleeding Talent: How the U.S. Military Mismanages Great Leaders and Why It’s Time for a Revolution, from which this article was adapted. He blogs at balanceofeconomics.com.
Phi Beta Iota: Integrity matters. As Will Durant and Colin Gray and Max Manwaring and Ralph Peters have all taken pains to point out, morality also known as legitimacy is a strategic asset of priceless value. Corruption — the lack of integrity–across all elements of the US Government but particularly at the highest levels of the Pentagon (flags and senior executive officers) is the toxic mold of governance. If we do not get a Secretary of Defense who has both personal integrity and — much more important — selects aides with heroic proven integrity (no one now serving) — they will fail to make a difference. This is not rocket science. All that is required is intelligence with integrity. This is the soul of governance, the soul of democracy, the soul of a sustainable defense.
Durant, Will and Ariel Durant (1968), The Lessons of History (Simon & Schuster)
Gray, Colin (1999), Modern Strategy (Oxford University Press)
Manwaring, Max, Edwin Corr and Reobert Dorff, eds. (2003), The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century (Praeger)
Peters, Ralph (2011) Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security (Stackpole)