Is the Army Brightsizing?

Businesses that are in trouble don’t need to downsize, since their best and brightest self select to leave the company and find employment elsewhere. The term is “brightsizing.” Is the Army suffering from the same problem?

When I asked veterans for the reasons they left the military, the top response was “frustration with military bureaucracy”—cited by 82 percent of respondents (with 50 percent agreeing strongly). In contrast, the conventional explanation for talent bleed—the high frequency of deployments—was cited by only 63 percent of respondents, and was the fifth-most-common reason. According to 9 out of 10 respondents, many of the best officers would stay if the military was more of a meritocracy.

I’d certainly take exception with the premise that West Point is the source of the Army’s best and brightest, but is certainly is the most expensive commissioning route for the Army. And there has been a terrible drain on company grade officers fleeing after their obligated service.

I’m a “corporate guy.” I’m comfortable in, and used to large bureaucratic organizations. One of the nice things about moving from one unit to another was that you knew pretty much what the next unit would be like. Not a whole lot of surprises. But on the enlisted side of the house, I also knew that virtually any job I had in a tactical unit would be a “green tab” job- directly involved with the leadership of troops.

Not so with officers. Most officers will spend about 18-24 months as platoon leader, then maybe 18 months as a company commander. Their next opportunity to command troops won’t come until around 20 years of service, when they may screen for battalion command and another 18-24 months in command. The rest of that time is spent either in schools, staff jobs, or non-tactical units. And after leading America’s finest youth in combat, who wants to do find themselves as some staff puke? These are, often, important jobs. But so much of the personnel system has been geared to providing “fairness” that there is little ability to recognize excellence, either.

6 thoughts on “Is the Army Brightsizing?”

  1. I told my kids when they were little to get the word “fair” out of their vocabulary. There are very few things in thife that are “fair.”

    Organizations that try to be fair, rarely are. The Army is one of them.

  2. I read the article. The author missed the mark, in my opinion, on a lot of it, but he made one key point. Other than “below the zone” promotions for the officers (about 5% of a year group) there is no ability to recognize and promote excellence early. I will be promoted based on my last date of rank, which was based on the previous, etc, with West Pointers given the earliest dates of rank when commissioned as 2LTs. The board process took about five months; in this time, they could certainly have rank-ordered from studs to slugs, and promoted the studs first. That said, regardless of date of rank, there is a clear pecking order in who gets what jobs. Based on your jobs at all ranks, you and your peers know exactly what the army thinks of you. If you are worried about who outranks you by 3 months, get a new job!

    1. I hear you about the whole DOR thing. When I was promoted to CPT, I think it was something like a 95% pass for the year group. Not many were kicked to the curb. With the confusion over downsizing and force structure, the plan was for about 8% of the year group to be “top on the list” as for all purposes a “below the zone” promotion. Sounded OK. Then someone ran the numbers. Not enough of this or that or the other. So the whole promotion list got held up as Congress reviewed the list. In the end, everyone got promoted… starting six months later… and in alphabetical order. So officers blessed with names like “Aaronson” or “Adams” pinned on first. Would have been fine with all involved, except for the use of DOR as the primary factor when choosing command slots or other prime positions.

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