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Old 08-15-2011   #61
bumperplate
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There is an additional complication:

A significant number of the "no-nonsense" guys are actually idiots who do not understand that being a senior officer is a nuanced, political job. They are noted by being tall or extremely short and engaging in shouting loudly until they get their way. And "their way" is usually a pretty crappy way of doing things. And they usually get away with their failures by shouting loudly and denigrating others as "pogues" and "fobbits".

I am currently infested with a couple of O-6s who fit this bill. And are actually more harmful than the so-called "careerists".

BTW, anyone who hits O-6 or E-8 is automatically a "careerist". There are no innocents here, and to pretend otherwise is either naive or deceptive.
You bring up an excellent point. Anyone that's spent five or more years in the military can see that there are nuances to senior officer ranks. I don't think any of us would deny that or state that the ability to operate in such an arena should be discounted. I think the problem is that around E8 and around O5, there seems to be a line drawn, whereby only those with the ability to function in that nuanced world are looked at as having promotion potential. That really draws down the pool of "applicants" to step into BCT and higher positions - at least, that's how I view it.

The problem is the following: there's no need for anyone E8 and below or MG and below to really live in such a nuanced world. They need to still be getting their boots dirty on a regular basis. Let the LTG and above take those regular flights to DC and elsewhere, and let them be the bridge between the "no-nonsense" guys and the "nuanced" guys. But, those GOs like their staffs, and they like them to be populated by like-minded individuals, hence the need to be nuanced and worldly come into sharper focus, further down the chain.

If we devote less of the chain to that nuanced and political environment, we'll assuredly see less of that influence down below, where we don't need it.

As others have pointed out, the up-or-out system is one of the root causes for this. It keeps us focused on the next promotion and the next job and the next OER. It takes away a lot of focus from the present, and from truly achieving any degree of excellence in our training or performing.
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Old 08-15-2011   #62
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The problem is the following: there's no need for anyone E8 and below or MG and below to really live in such a nuanced world. They need to still be getting their boots dirty on a regular basis. Let the LTG and above take those regular flights to DC and elsewhere, and let them be the bridge between the "no-nonsense" guys and the "nuanced" guys.
For officers O-5 and above there are only so many command and operations billets. For better or for worse it's the "nuanced' guys who will get them. It's a numbers game in which there are less spaces the further you rise to the top.

I think part of the reason so many guys and girls are employed in BS paper-shuffling jobs in TDA non-combat organizations -- those who were not command-selected -- is to find a way to keep a reserve of personnel on the payroll in case the Cold War or our current difficulties escalate into a real hot war. That way we have people to run a newly expanded Army should the need arise. In the mean time they can give PowerPoint presentations to each other and aspiring five-percent majors can have full-time jobs being PowerPoint typo-checkers.

Cynical though that may sound, the ability of our TDA and HQ Army to empire-build and fight funding battles with other organizations should not be underestimated.
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Old 08-16-2011   #63
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Good points from Pete. While I agree, I think that on the whole, such a system does more to damage our military than assist. Bottom line in my opinion is that any such escalation in a conflict, as you allude to, will be met by capable people stepping up. If it happens to be a SFC stepping into a 1SG position, or a MAJ climbing into a LTC position, then so be it. That's what battlefield promotions assist us with. I think it makes more sense to bring in more people to fill the bottom than to keep more than we need at the top and live with the day-to-day damage it does.

Just my $0.02.
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Old 08-16-2011   #64
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Default Pete's right but it about spaces, not faces.

Faces can be fired, spaces are hard to get (and keep) without some sort of justification -- though 35 plus FlagOs in ISAF is likely overkill...
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Old 08-16-2011   #65
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Pete,

I think a lot of it has more to do with the up-or-out promotion system and the 20 year vested retirement. There are strong incentives built into the system to promote people and once you get to O-5 almost everyone is going to stay until 20.
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Old 08-16-2011   #66
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Faces can be fired, spaces are hard to get ...
I remember the distinction between "spaces and faces" from when I attended the MANPRINT Staff Officers Course at Fort Belvoir in 1989. I was a contractor to the Army medical R&D guys at the time.

The acronymn stands for Manpower-Personnel Integration, an DCSPER initiative to make new Army systems more user-friendly. Doctrine-wise it consists of manpower, personnel, safety, training, health hazards, and human factors engineering. I had a 98 percent GPA and was the second or third-highest student there. Had I still worn the green suit I would have been awarded the alternate specialty of MANPRINT Staff Officer, one of the fuzzier ones.

The course was taught by two retired O-5s from MPRI, one Armor and one Field Artillery. The FA guy had been the S-3 and XO of my FA battalion when I was in Germany in '78-'81, so it was a nice reunion. Fred had been in 4th ID in Vietnam, Bronze Star with "V" and Purple Heart. Though he was a leg he was nobody's wimp.

My only regret about the course was the lovely Carly from Fort Rucker, a DA civil servant. We became very affectionate and I kick myself for not taking our friendship to a higher level. If you wait for that "struck by lightning" love feeling you may go to your grave waiting for it to happen.
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Old 08-19-2011   #67
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Pete,

I think a lot of it has more to do with the up-or-out promotion system and the 20 year vested retirement. There are strong incentives built into the system to promote people and once you get to O-5 almost everyone is going to stay until 20.
This in itself is a good reason to eliminate the fixed, 20 year retirement.

That, and a contribution plan will be much better for the great majority of servicemembers. A contribution plan will also be much less of a political football.

GEN Sullivan may want to stay on the gravy train, but screw him. He doesn't "get" the reasons behind the changes, anyway.
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Old 08-19-2011   #68
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This in itself is a good reason to eliminate the fixed, 20 year retirement.
I pretty much agree. Defined benefit retirement plans don't really work too well anymore for a host of reasons.
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Old 09-24-2012   #69
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Default standards of excellence

Pete. I agree with your premise but as we begin to downsize I think there needs to be a balanced approach to standards of excellence. Standards of excellence are very important but if we develop a generation of Soldiers/Professionals that fear taking risk then standards will not amount to anything because we will remain stagnant. As a FG officer, I know it is critically important to reward excellence and rewarding those individuals willing to go against the grain in pursuit of excellence. Going against the grain can sometimes lead to marginal results but the ability of our professionals to take risk is critical to remain mentally agile and professional development. I am committed to recognizing and mitigating.
**The views expressed in this are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, DoD or the US Government. **

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One of the things that has bothered me since around 1980 has been this obsession with "standards of excellence" and being "outstanding" all the time. It's not that I don't thing we shouldn't pursue those goals, it's that we're not there yet, in most cases have not been there, but pretending that we are can lead to a kind of dangerous self-deception and an atmosphere in which even to acknowledge that things could be better can come back on you for saying it in the first place.

We all agree that training in the U.S. Army should be better. But to admit that combat skills and overall efficiency could be better within an element under one's own control can be tantamount to confessing to professional dereliction of duty. Thus you better have a solution to the problem, or better yet, not say anything at all about it to any superiors. Just fix it as best you can, even if the solution is half-a**.

Thus these "standards of excellence" and this "outstanding" phenemonena can turn into a self-winding problem within the command atmosphere that leads to deficiencies not being resolved and things being covered up.

I remember around 1980 when U.S. Army Europe put a big emphasis on individual training in battalions while they were in garrison. The problem is the higher HQs sent so many inspectors around with clipboards with evaluation checklists that our NCOs and junior officers got stage fright and were afraid be torn a new one. Thus this conceit about being excellent all the time can prevent you from being even mediocre.
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