Leadership: April 7, 2004


The Department of Defense is taking a hard look at how military leaders learn and run their operations. One problem noted (and not for the first time) is that the military's decades old policy of having officers, and troops, spend their entire careers doing short (2-3 years) stints at assignments results in most of them never really getting very good at anything. Noting that senior corporate executives (who, in many cases, have very similar jobs to non-combat generals) generally need 5-6 years to learn the ropes and make a difference, the Department of Defense is planning to extend the tenure for senior officers. Keeping these people in one position longer means violating the decades old Pentagon custom of getting officers "as much different experience as possible." But the feeling is that this policy produces experience that is broad, but shallow and not all that useful. To carry the corporate practice further, the longer terms in a job will carry with it more rigorous performance reviews. All this is part of a larger move to keep everyone in jobs longer, something that many troops, of all ranks, have been suggesting for decades. The rapid movement of personnel remained a practice for so long because, like all large organizations, once a policy goes into effect, it becomes entrenched and difficult to change. But change does eventually come, and this one is considered long overdue.


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