Leadership: June 18, 2000

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The US army is trying to fix it's officer promotion system. The current one tends to produce a lot of "yes men" who fear doing anything their superiors might disapprove of. The current system was installed in 1947, to fix a problem noted at the beginning of World War II. Before 1947, senior officers could stick around in peace time for a long time as long as they did not do anything illegal. At the start of World War II, when good leadership was needed to fight a war, these well meaning, but ineffectual, officers were found out. This was an expensive process, especially when it happened in combat. The 1947 reforms introduced Officer Efficiency Reports (OERs) and "up or out" (if you are not promoted within a certain amount of years, you have to leave the service.) Promotion decisions are made by panels of officers in the Pentagon, who do not know the officers they are reviewing. Over the years, the system has developed to the point that if any officer gets a single OER that is less than perfect, they will probably not get promoted. And all you have to do is displease one superior officer, and you will get a less than perfect OER. The promotion boards never really get to know the officers they are reviewing, they just look at the numbers, A computer could do the job. One change proposed is that officers and troops take written and oral exams for promotion, to test their technical and leadership skills. Something has to be done, because the OER system has become a bad joke among officers.

 


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