Most of the colonels and generals leading the Army were trained to fight World War III against the Soviets; most of the captains and majors have trained and fought against al-Qaeda, Sunni militias and the Taliban. Unfortunately, few colonels and generals have, in practical terms, been able to adapt their 1980s and ’90s training to the needs of today’s warfare.
The best evidence for this is that we didn’t win in Iraq and haven’t won in Afghanistan. Military journalist Thomas E. Ricks has argued that America’s generals and colonels have been largely responsible for these failures. Small, transient battlefield successes — the Sunni Awakening in Iraq and partnering with militias in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban groups — were largely products of enterprising junior officers: perceptive lieutenants, captains and occasionally majors. In the past three years, those officers have been promoted to captains, majors and lieutenant colonels — and now they’re the ones on the chopping block.
Another reason to consider promoting mid-level officers into substantial leadership roles is the military’s fast-changing culture. The younger captains, majors and lieutenant colonels did not, for the most part, grow up in a country or a military where being gay was automatically seen as disgraceful; they are also more readily able than prior generations to imagine women in combat. Empowering officers who can help solidify such changes will boost morale and enhance the Army’s fighting capability, especially at a time of austerity and decreased training opportunities. These officers have in many cases served alongside women in combat (or are women themselves). They’re better able to see them as warfighting equals than as irksome obligations or legal liabilities — making these officers ideally suited to help the military transition away from its current culture, in which serial rapists are slapped on the wrist or tacitly endorsed.
I am not suggesting that every colonel or general deserves to be fired to make way for a new generation. I do, however, think that trimming a similar number of colonels and generals — say, 10 percent of captains and majors — would create room for the change the Army badly needs. The number of generals remains constant at 230, and I don’t believe we need fewer colonels — just different ones — so this won’t reduce the actual number of senior leaders in the military. It will, however, open up senior leadership to younger officers. To do this correctly, Congress would have to select which senior officers to retire, at which point the military would select which officers to promote. It could be as straightforward as putting every senior lieutenant colonel, colonel and general under the microscope and getting rid of the least capable.
22 February 2014
Some controversial - but probably correct - ideas about how to cut the Army's end-strength.
Posted by Brant at 03:39