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.