21 Feb

One Marine’s View: Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving

Maj Pain:

You have heard of the reports, how 20,000 Marines and perhaps up to 300,000 civilian government workers have been and will be furloughed “fired” this month alone.

Despite that in the first time in America’s history while at war, we are shrinking our military, an organization that is 5th in federal spending however has been victum of half of the proposed federal cuts is being demolished. Why? Why are all of our warriors leaving the military? In the below article, the number one answer is “frustration with military bureaucracy”. More on that below.

However, there are a lot of warriors getting out (between Dec 2012 and today) because they don’t like where this administration is headed, how they are picking their leaders and how they are manipulating your servicmembers. I have never seen a mass exodus of good quality warriors in my entire career. I’m not talking about those being given early retirement, I’m talking about those leaving short of retirement and not being able to get away or out fast enough. What does this say about our leadership?

Time for a C-Gar

Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform.

John Nagl still hesitates when he talks about his decision to leave the Army. A former Rhodes Scholar and tank-battalion operations officer in Iraq, Nagl helped General David Petraeus write the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual, which is credited with bringing Iraq’s insurgency under control. But despite the considerable influence Nagl had in the Army, and despite his reputation as a skilled leader, he retired in 2008 having not yet reached the rank of full colonel. Today, Nagl still has the same short haircut he had 24 years ago when we met as cadets—me an Air Force Academy doolie (or freshman), him a visiting West Pointer—but now he presides over a Washington think tank. The funny thing is, even as a civilian, he can’t stop talking about the Army—“our Army”—as if he never left. He won’t say it outright, but it’s clear to me, and to many of his former colleagues, that the Army fumbled badly in letting him go. His sudden resignation has been haunting me, and it punctuates an exodus that has been publicly ignored for too long.

Why does the American military produce the most innovative and entrepreneurial leaders in the country, then waste that talent in a risk-averse bureaucracy? Military leaders know they face a paradox. A widely circulated 2010 report from the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College said: “Since the late 1980s … prospects for the Officer Corps’ future have been darkened by … plummeting company-grade officer retention rates. Significantly, this leakage includes a large share of high-performing officers.” Similar alarms have been sounded for decades, starting long before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made the exit rate of good officers an acute crisis. When General Peter Schoomaker served as Army chief of staff from 2003 to 2007, he emphasized a “culture of innovation” up and down the ranks to shift the Army away from its Cold War focus on big, conventional battles and toward new threats. In many respects (weapons, tactics, logistics, training), the Army did transform. But the talent crisis persisted for a simple reason: the problem isn’t cultural. The military’s problem is a deeply anti-entrepreneurial personnel structure. From officer evaluations to promotions to job assignments, all branches of the military operate more like a government bureaucracy with a unionized workforce than like a cutting-edge meritocracy.

After interviewing veterans who work at some of the most dynamic and innovative companies in the country, I’m convinced that the military has failed to learn the most fundamental lessons of the knowledge economy. And that to hold on to its best officers, to retain future leaders like John Nagl, it will need to undergo some truly radical reforms—not just in its policies and culture, but in the way it thinks about its officers.

All They Can Be?

It would be easy to dismiss Nagl’s story, except you hear it almost every time you talk to a vet. In a recent survey I conducted of 250 West Point graduates (sent to the classes of 1989, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2001, and 2004), an astonishing 93 percent believed that half or more of “the best officers leave the military early rather than serving a full career.” By design, I left the definitions of best and early up to the respondents. I conducted the survey from late August to mid-September, reaching graduates through their class scribes (who manage e-mail lists for periodic newsletters). This ensured that the sample included veterans as well as active-duty officers. Among active- duty respondents, 82 percent believed that half or more of the best are leaving. Only 30 percent of the full panel agreed that the military personnel system “does a good job promoting the right officers to General,” and a mere 7 percent agreed that it “does a good job retaining the best leaders.”

Is this so terrible? One can argue that every system has flaws and that the military should be judged on its ultimate mission: maintaining national security and winning wars. But that’s exactly the point: 65 percent of the graduates agreed that the exit rate of the best officers leads to a less competent general-officer corps. Seventy-eight percent agreed that it harms national security.

The shame of this loss of talent is that the U.S. military does such a good job attracting and training great leaders. The men and women who volunteer as military officers learn to remain calm and think quickly under intense pressure. They are comfortable making command decisions, working in teams, and motivating people. Such skills translate powerfully to the private sector, particularly business: male military officers are almost three times as likely as other American men to become CEOs, according to a 2006 Korn/Ferry International study. Examples abound of senior executives who attribute their leadership skills to their time in uniform: Ross Perot, Bill Coleman, Fred Smith, and Bob McDonald, the new CEO of Procter & Gamble, to name a few. The business guru Warren Bennis reflected in his recent memoirs, “I never heard anything at MIT or Harvard that topped the best lectures I heard at [Fort] Benning.”

Read more

       

About Curt

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

13 Responses to One Marine’s View: Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving

  1. Smorgasbord says: 1

    This reminds me of obama’s comment about wanting a civilian security force as strong as, and equally funded as the military. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2yGzHfy7s If he wants to defeat the military, it would be a good idea to demoralize and reduce them down as much as possible first. Just like the military usually bombs a target before they send in the soldiers.

    No liberal has ever told me why they think obama would want a civilian security force that large and strong. The smaller you make the military, the fewer will be needed to defeat it.

    This frog jumped out of the pot a long time ago.

    ReplyReply
  2. johngalt says: 2

    This worries me as my youngest is set to join the military, and most likely the Marines. It is, funny enough, one of the reasons that I, myself, got out back in 99′.

    ReplyReply
  3. Nan G says: 3

    Talking with those who intended to serve 20 years but left early about this is like asking a blind man to describe an elephant.
    Each one can only speak from his personal experience.

    But I think the writer here is onto the root cause.

    What I have despised over recent years is the Democrats referring to our military forces as ”BOYS.”
    This conjours up an image of children who need to be cared for instead of a fighting force of MEN.
    And, lately, with the firing of so many good Generals and Admirals, it seems there is a cleansing of the military of any old-thinking fighters.
    The new direction is to have a huge group of men and women all desiring pensions and benefits.
    Also, what is the reason to fight an asymmetric war from the ground – on even stand – with terrorists who are not in uniforms and use hostages to carry their explosive devices?
    Michael Biehn, as Hicks, in Aliens, famously said, “Nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
    Equal footing against fighters who have no rules or standards makes no sense whatsoever.

    ReplyReply
  4. MOS 8541 says: 4

    hagel is an arrogant, narcissistic idiot. He lied on his purple heart citations. The citations read like a fairytale from Peter Pan pancetta is and will continue to be a democratic whore. Wonder what he is going to charge for his speeches?
    Long term political failures and devoted democratic whores. As “Tip” O’Neil once said “everyone in DC has a price, just need to find the right person to pay it”

    ReplyReply
  5. sad to hear that, but seeing the arrogance of the LEADERSHIP,
    and fear of those superior to them intelectualy,
    bring them to use their power and acolyte DEMOCRATS ,
    TO MINIMIZE THE GROWTH OF ACHIEVEMENT FROM THOSE ABLE TO TAKE THEIR OWN JOB,
    AND FIX THE PROBLEMS OF THEIR BELOVED AMERICA. WHICH THEY PROMISED WITH AN OAT TO PROTECT FROM ALL ATTACKS, EVEN IF IT SHOULD DEMAND THEM TO TAKE ON THE LEADERSHIP
    IN A MATTER OF HOURS AFTER THE ATTACK DESCRIBED BY THE CONSERVATIVES ELECTED OF THIS NATION,
    YES THE WISH TO STOP THE RISE OF THE MILITARY INTELLIGENCE, AND SUPERIOR MIND AND KNOWLEDGE,
    AND REPLACE IT BY AN IGNORANT CIVILIAN POPULACE WHO SWORE TO THE PRESIDENT WITH A TOTAL DEDICATION TO OBEY ORDERS HIS ORDERS TO DESTROY HIS ENEMIES HE ALONE WITH HIS CREW HAVE IDENTIFIED,
    AND HE TRUST IN THE STRONG ARMS OF HIS DEDICATED
    MOB TO CREATE FEAR, AND DESTRUCTION AND WOUNDS AND DEATH TO WHOM HE DECLARE DANGEROUS ENEMIES.
    BECAUSE HE KNOW THE MILITARY WOULD NEVER ATTACK THE PEOPLE IN AMERICA.

    ReplyReply
  6. I ran into a new clip,from my local newspaper,
    something new but should have been done in the beginning of this war where soldiers are badly wounded or dead by the eids clusterd bombs buried under their feet, some triggered by remote control.
    here from OTTAWA , MILITARY EYES LASERS ON ARMOURED VEHICLES’
    WEAPONS WOULD GUARD AGAINST ROADSIDE BOMBS,
    THEY ARE LOOKING AT MOUNTING HIGH POWERED LASERS ON ARMOURED VEHICLES TO HELP PROTECT TROOPS FROM ROADSIDE BOMBS, THE CANADIAN FORCES want to put lasers on his fleet of cougars armored vehicles so soldiers can blast apart improvised explosive devices from a safe distance,
    HIENERGY LASER IS CONSIDER AS ONE OF THE MOST PROMISING TECHNOLOGIES
    TO PROVIDE THE CANADIAN ARMY WITH A NON PRECEDENT EDGE ,SAYS A CONTRACT NOTICE YESTERDAY. EIDS EVOLVED INTO THE DEADLYEST THREAT
    OVER THE COURSE OF CANADA’S TEN YEAR COMBAT MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN. OR THE 158 CANADIAN SOLDIRES KILLED, 93 DIED IN EID ATTACKS.
    INSURGENTS QUICKLY REALZE ROADSIDE BOMBS WHERE A FAR MORE EFFECTIVE TACTIC,
    THAN ENGAGING IN FACE TO FACE COMBAT AGAINST THEIR BETTER ARMS FOE,
    THEY LITTERED THE DITCHS, ROADS AND FIELDS OF AFGHANISTAN WITH MAKESHIFT BOMBS
    WHICH WHERE DETONATED WITH A PRESSURE SWICH OR BY REMOTE CONTROL.
    WHEN THE MILITARY ADDED MORE ARMOUR TO VEHICLES SO THEY
    COULD BETTER WITSTAND THE BLAST, THE INSURGENTS RESPONDED BY BUILDING
    EVEN BIGGER DEADLYER BOMBS, OFTEN BY STACKING EXPLOSIVES ON TOP OF EACH OTHER,
    LASERS COULD WELL BE THE KEY TO DEFEATING SUCH THREATS,
    THE MILITARY CONTRACT NOTICE SUGGEST. THE TECHNOLOGY HAS COME A LONG WAY IN RECENT YEAR, the document says , and LASERS ARE NOW CLOSE TO BEING USED IN THE FIELD,
    THIS RAPID EVOLUTION IS DUE TO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE “FIBER” RECENT TECHNOLOGY
    WHCH LED TO AN ABRUPT AVABALITY OF LOW COST AND ROBUST CORE LASER SYSTEMS
    READYLY AVAILABLE DEFENSE APPLCATIONS, WHICH THAT NOTICE MENTIONED,

    I felt compelled to write all the clip because I realize it was all necessary to know,
    best to whom is interested in that very important news

    ReplyReply
  7. to follow up on my previous copied comment from the local newspaper,
    one question I have is what about the remote control trigger or the pressured trigger,
    how do we neutralize those?
    is there a sensor to localize the one holding the remote? and to what distance must he be, to trigger the bombs?
    if yes we can shoot him?
    and regarding the pressure switchs, what can we do to neutralize those?

    ReplyReply
  8. hey MARINES, I SEE ON FOX NEWS ABOUT I WO JIMA BATTLE
    TAKING 7000 MARINES LIVES,
    THOSE SURVIVOR ERECT THE FLAG TOGETHER,
    SO BRAVES THOSE AMERICANS DID SO MUCH AS TO GIVE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FOR THIS COUNTRY, SHE BETTER DESERVE THEM, AND AIM AT GREATNESS AS THOSE MILITARY ARE,RIGHT NOW,
    BUT IT’S NOT SO.THIS GOVERNMENT BETTER SHAPE UP,
    AND SHUT UP AND WORK ON THEIR JOB TO GET OF THE BACK OF THE PEOPLE, AND DO THEIR JOBS TO PROTECT THE MILITARY, AND FOCUS ON AMERICA, NOT ANYWHERE ELSE IN HATER COUNTRIES, BUT ALONG THE ALIE IN THE FREE WORLD
    MAY GOD BLESS THE MILITARY OF AMERICA WHO GAVE SO MUCH FOR FREEDOM,
    AND HELP SO MUCH TO FREE OTHER COUNTRIES RULED BY DICTATOR VICIOUS AND SELF CENTER,
    WHO EMBRACE SOCIALIST COMMUNIST AND MARXIST LAWS WHICH ARE DOOM FOR AMERICA,
    WHICH WON’T WORK, BUT WILL TAKE LIVES INSTEAD AND MISERY TO SURVIVORS

    ReplyReply
  9. Smorgasbord says: 9

    @ilovebeeswarzone: #8
    The only problem I have when I see the statue, or see the video, is that that flag isn’t the original flag raised on Iwo Jima, and the ones who raised the original flag never got the credit they deserved. I have been to the statue at Arlington National Cemetery, and thought about the ones who put the first flag up while I was looking at it. I didn’t see anything about the first flag raising at the statue. That info could, and should, be put there.

    The military heard about the flag raising, and sent officials and newsmen to film the raising of the flag we see now. There was no mention of the Marines who raised the first flag. Imagine how they felt when they saw or heard the SECOND flag raising, and they were never mentioned. The military could have memorialized BOTH flag raisings, and still should.

    http://www.iwojima.com/raising/raisingb.htm

    ReplyReply
  10. Smorgasbord
    thank you for the link,
    yes you’re right, there was other raise the flag instance in hell warzone where the 7 thousand died,
    it’s apocalyptic to read numbers like that,
    and they won’t be able to raise the flag in AFGHANISTAN
    BEFORE THE LAST ONE LEAVE
    THE NATO CHIEF SAID HE WANT TO KEEP AMERICAN MILITARY IN THERE, WHAT THE F..K, WHY THE F..K
    IS IT A FOREVER WAR? LET THEM FINISH IT IF THEY WANT IT SO MUCH,

    ReplyReply
  11. Smorgasbord says: 11

    @ilovebeeswarzone: #10
    Everything obama has done and is doing, just convinces me even more that obama isn’t on OUR side.

    ReplyReply
  12. MOS 8541
    I think HAGEL IS NOT LIKING ISRAEL,
    HE IS LEANING ON THE PALESTINIANS HESBOLA AND IRAN.
    HE IS ON THE WRONG SIDE BUT ON THE SIDE OF OBAMA,
    THE PROBLEM WE FIND IS THE NORTH KOREA ALLIED WITH IRAN AND SURELY EXCHANGING
    FAVORS, LIKE BREAD FOR URANIUM,
    WHICH DISQUALIFY THE HAGEL CONTENDER BECAUSE OF THE FEEL GOOD HE HAS WITH THOSE WHO HATE AMERICA

    ReplyReply
  13. A NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN,
    KARZEI ORDER THE AMERICANS TROOPS TO LEAVE WARDACK,
    BECAUSE THE AFGHANISTAN MILITARY WHO ARE WITH THEM ARE FOUND TO
    TORTURE SOME PEOPLE IN THERE,
    WTF DOES HE HAVE WHAT AUTHORITY TO DICTATE THE MILITARY,
    THEY SHOULD GET OUT ALL OUT OF AFGHANISTAN TOGETHER,
    WHERE IS THE COMMANDER TO TELL HIM TO STIFU,
    WHAT IS GOING ON OVER THERE,
    IS KERRY WILL TAKE THE SIDES OF KARZEI, OR ACUSE THE MILITARY OF ATROCITY
    LIKE HE DID FOR THE VIETNAM SOLDIERS, ACCUSING THEM
    IN THE WHITE HOUSE OF ATROCITY, IN VIETNAM,

    ReplyReply

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