Leadership: April 15, 2004

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Micromanagement of combat troops isnt limited to the president calling the battlefield from the White House and discussing the tactical situation with a platoon leader. Congress also exercises its control over the military leadership. Currently, Senate approval is required before any officer can be promoted to the two highest ranks (three star lieutenant general/vice admiral and four star general/admiral). Not only that, but you need the Senate to sign off on any job changes for the three and four star officers. There are only about 160 of these senior officers, and the president and secretary of defense have a hard time managing them if the Senate is not in complete agreement with what the president is trying to do. The Department of Defense is asking Congress to change the law to allow the secretary of defense to move around the senior officers more freely, and let some of them stay in the service until age 72 (the current limit is 68, and that requires the secretary of defense to approve it as the mandatory retirement age is 62.) The changes would also give the secretary of defense more freedom in assigning one and two star officers as well. The generals and admirals are not all behind these changes, as these "restrictions" give the flag officers (as generals and admirals are collectively called) some defense against a secretary of defense (their legal superior) who is trying to do things the flag officers don't agree with. But while these restrictions may make Pentagon politics more of a sporting proposition, they do little for efficiency and effectiveness. 

 


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