Leadership: December 15, 2000


A new internal study by the US Army Chief of Staff has come to some interesting conclusions.

1. The single biggest gripe is that communication has broken down at every level. Troops and mid-level leaders are never told the basis of decisions or missions. Troops complain about things they would have accepted if they had been told why. Seniors regard Email as a substitute for face-to-face meetings; lower-level troops do not.

2. Commanders are not willing to risk their careers, and the troops know it. There is a knee-jerk reaction to bad publicity (punish everyone, order extra training). The Army has become a zero-defects organization. One mistake targets you for the next round of downsizing. 

3. When time is short (and it always is) the first thing a leader stops doing is mentoring junior leaders and ensuring their professional development.

4. Personnel turbulence is wrecking units and making it hard to recruit and keep people. This makes it hard for people to develop skill in a job, and prevents units from building cohesion. Most soldiers feel they should be allowed to stay at a given post for at least four years as this gives them time to build enough equity in the houses they buy not to get hurt when they have to sell. Four-year station tours would give spouses a chance to build a career that would be easier to transfer.

5. Deployments are the biggest problem. Troops are often sent overseas for extended periods without any notice for missions that appear useless or inappropriate to the Army's purpose. Troops are often yanked out of supposedly stable jobs to fill gaps in deploying units.

6. Officers perceive that their chance of promotion is defined not by their performance but by the job they are assigned to. They ask if the job they are in is not career-enhancing, why does the Army need it? Officers assigned to jobs perceived as career-ending don't wait for the inevitable and leave the service as quickly as possible.

7. Military benefits are constantly eroding. Costs (e.g., uniforms) are constantly increasing. TRICARE makes mistakes on virtually every form it processes, requiring families to refile the same form up to a dozen times. Housing is substandard; homes in Georgia lack air conditioning. 

8. Training is missing key points. Units do not train with their go-to-war support elements (e.g., engineers) and when they go on missions do not know what to do with attached support units. 

9. There is enough ammunition to fire for qualification, but not enough for extra "familiarization" training. Units scheduled to go to the wargame centers (e.g., National Training Center) get all of the training time and money, and then are virtually disbanded the day they get back.

10. The Army does not post jobs on the Internet. (The Marines do.)

11. The Army has always treated people badly, but these people have finally realized they do not have to put up with this treatment. 

12. Civilians who work for the Army are out of control, regard their jobs as the only mission and the uniformed soldiers as cranky hired help.

13. Officers interviewed by internal studies uniformly report a shortfall in readiness, and insist that Army leaders are understating the problem. This wrecks credibility.

14. Operational tempo is running at 80% intensity all of the time, instead of standing down during non-deployment times to recuperate. Every commander insists on "surging" his unit to boost his own chances for promotion and higher command.

15. The single greatest reason for Captains to leave the Army is that their wives are not happy with Army life. When the captain can get a job with better pay, shorter hours, and less "travel" in the civilian world, his motivation to convince his wife they should stay in the Army is eroded. Many cited micromanagement by senior leaders as the reason they felt their contemporaries were leaving.

16. Over half of officers laughed when asked if they had any influence over their assignments; the others said "only a little" without laughing. Many officers complained that there is no effective career management.

17. Officers reported that integrity, job satisfaction, and professionalism are the most important factors in career decisions. Pay, benefits, and the opportunity for advancement ranked next.

18. Officers complain that their seniors demand more and more use of "PowerPoint" presentation software, which most regard as a waste of time.

19. Leaders continue to issue press releases that the troops already know are not true. Field grade officers regard senior Army leadership as corrupt since they are the ones who allowed the budgets for health care, housing, and benefits to be cut.

20. The Army creates expectations in its soldiers and does not fulfill them. --Stephen V Cole




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