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General Failure

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While the author focuses on the Army, the conditions he describes which have institutionalized mediocrity among senior leaders in that branch similarly exist in the AF. Such leadership ineptness is an unsurprising result of the officer production process (assignments, promotions, PME, culture) currently in place. Will change occur? What will be the impetus for it?

http://www.theatlant...ingle_page=true

To a shocking degree, the Army’s leadership ranks have become populated by mediocre officers, placed in positions where they are likely to fail. Success goes unrewarded, and everything but the most extreme failure goes unpunished, creating a perverse incentive system that drives leaders toward a risk-averse middle where they are more likely to find stalemate than victory...

...As a large, bureaucratized national-security establishment developed to wage the Cold War, the nation’s generals also began acting less like stewards of a profession, responsible to the public at large, and more like members of a guild, looking out primarily for their own interests...

...Bizarrely, the tactical excellence of enlisted soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan may have enabled and amplified the strategic incompetence of the generals in those wars, allowing long-running problems in the military’s leadership culture to reach their full expression...

...The erosion of the Army’s performance culture—at least in its highest ranks—has not left the service devoid of talented leaders. But the Army continues to do too little to sort the average performers from the outstanding ones. That has long-term consequences for the caliber of military leaders...

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I just read this article (a bit late, yes I know), but it was very eye opening regarding leadership failures in Iraq/Afghanistan.

I think the biggest take away is how much the skill and talent at the junior officer and NCO level makes up for such horrible leadership. Tactically, guys at the ground level make the mission happen, but it ends up hurting us strategically because terrible leaders aren't exposed for what they are. Sort of a Catch-22 there.

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http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/630194/department-of-defense-press-briefing

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook: [...] the secretary this afternoon is attending a meeting with current and former military leaders of the department and with independent experts to discuss possible Defense Department reforms. This is one in a series of meetings being held to discuss areas of potential reform to the defense enterprise in the spirit of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. The series of meetings will examine potential overlaps or redundancies and areas in which performance could be streamlined or improved within the department. These meetings will help set the department's reform agenda and determine the path forward to ensure our continued strength.

http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/630419/building-the-first-link-to-the-force-of-the-future-remarks-by-secretary-of-defe

"Building the First Link to the Force of the Future" Remarks by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs, Washington, D.C.

With more young Americans pursuing internships today – including 9-out-of-10 GW graduates – this is imperative for attracting civilian talent. That’s why we’re making our internship programs better managed, and also more effective at transitioning promising and successful interns into permanent employees – so that if you’re an intern with us and do great work, we can do better at connecting you with job openings. [...]

Also, to make sure we benefit from innovative entrepreneurs who aren’t technologists but have advanced skills of other kinds, we’re going to bring in resident entrepreneurs, who will work with senior leaders on some of our most challenging projects just for a year or two at a time. And we’re also going to hire a chief recruiting officer, who’ll serve as a headhunter to help bring in some of America’s best qualified executives for stints in top civilian leadership roles in the department.

[...] we want to make it easier for more of our people to gain new skills, experiences, and perspectives – whether in the private sector, in academia, or elsewhere – experiences that they can bring back into the military to help keep us strong, creative, and forward-thinking in that force of the future. And there’s added value in that offering those kinds of opportunities will make us more attractive to future generations, too. It might surprise you that we’re actually pretty good at offering a variety of experiences already. [...] But to make ourselves even better at this, we’re going to expand our fellowships and sabbatical programs so more of our service members can spend time in America’s top industrial, governmental, and academic institutions, and bring back what they learned to keep us on the cutting edge. [...] I want more people to have these kinds of broadening opportunities [...] without hurting their career, but instead helping it, which after all makes sense. So we’re going to expand this program by doubling the size of it, by opening it up to qualified senior enlisted leaders, and by offering not just tours in industry, but also elsewhere in government, including state and local government, because they work on important problems too.

Another program is our Career Intermission Program, which lets people take a sabbatical from their military service for a few years while they’re getting a degree, or learning a new skill, or starting a family.

[...] we’re also updating and modernizing our retirement benefits. [...] Right now our troops have to serve 20 years before getting any retirement benefits, but 80 percent don’t serve that long, which means they leave with no retirement benefits at all. But we’re changing that, and starting in the next few years, we’ll be able to offer a portable, it’s a 401k-like plan, which all who serve can take with them whenever they move on to whatever’s next in life for them. [...]

For our military personnel, we’re going to launch LinkedIn-style pilot programs that help match-up service members looking for their next assignment with units who are looking for qualified people to fill an opening. Think of a soldier logging on, setting up a profile, seeing what they’re qualified for, and selecting what they want to do, while the unit looking to bring someone on sees the profiles that fit their criteria, and chooses who they’re interested in. And when there’s a match, they’d get connected. You may have heard of some apps that perform a similar function. The Army’s already tested this with some of its engineering officers, and it was very well received. So we’re going to pilot this across the services, and eventually scale it up for everyone. It makes a lot of sense. Should have happened a long time ago. But we’re also going to improve our data-crunching and how we leverage big data to inform our personnel policies. We don’t do that very well right now. So we’re going to bring in some top data scientists to help fix that. [...] And that’s going to fill some gaping holes in our data, starting with exit surveys that ask people who decide to leave why they did so; that way, we can make changes to keep our best. For some reason we’ve never comprehensively done that before. While there have been studies, articles, and entire books written about how the military is ‘bleeding talent,’ most of these are anecdotal. And because DoD hasn’t been gathering the data, we couldn’t quantitatively prove or disprove that, let alone fix it. So while it’s much overdue, this change will make a big difference in how we manage talent going forward. [...]

We also want to make sure we strive to recruit from the broadest possible pool of talent. If we don’t, we risk becoming isolated and insular, and that’s not the path to success in today’s security environment. [...] Right now, DoD has a higher percentage of senior women leaders, for example, than America’s most profitable companies do. And a few years ago, we repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly and proudly. But as I’ve said before, we’ve got to do better. That’s why I recently announced we’re supporting the [...] Lean-In Circles – if you’re familiar with the book Lean In, by my good friend, very admired friend Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook, the COO – those Lean-In Circles have cropped up across the department, and it’s why also we’re reevaluating our transgender policy, and why we’ve been opening up ground combat positions to women. And we intend to do more in the months to come. [...]

While all these changes I’ve described today are exciting and important, they’re just the beginning. So stay tuned in the coming months. For example, we’re taking a serious look at making some common sense reforms in our officer promotion system. We’re also looking at ways to improve how we manage our civilian personnel, working with the government-wide Office of Personnel Management as well as federal employee unions. And we’re figuring out how we can do an even better job of meeting our commitments to the health and well-being of our people and their families in the 21st century.

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are all of them authenticated?

What do you mean? Did SECDEF Carter really say it? Are we really going to do it? Am I a real boy? Does it come with a satisfaction guaranteed warranty?

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http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/632040/discussion-with-secretary-carter-at-the-john-f-kennedy-jr-forum-harvard-institu

Discussion with Secretary Carter at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Harvard Institute of Politics, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Q: [...] an article The Atlantic wrote last month about the brain-drain in the military. The first part of my question, do you indeed think, like, there is a brain-drain?  And how would you address the issues that the article brought up, such as the rigid pipeline that is really turning a lot of people away from the military?

SEC. CARTER:  Well, it is worry -- it is a concern to me. [...] And it's important to me that the best stick with us.  [...] We have a personnel management system that isn't as modern as our forces deserve.  And if we're going to retain, we've got to modernize it.

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The answer here is not nearly as important as the question.  Mr. Cook gives a great redirect and non-answer, but the point is the SECDEF is actively trying to see what he can legally change independent of Congress for a major restructure of the DOD, and will then make recommendations to the HASC/SASC in early 2016 for what the legislative branch could do further.
 
Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook in the Pentagon Briefing Room
December 8, 2015
Q: Can you give us just some more information on Secretary Carter's Goldwater-Nichols review?  What's the scope of it?  Who specifically both here in the Pentagon and outside people, is he meeting with on this?  What's the timeline and what's the final product going to look like?
 
MR. COOK:  The review has just begun.  But this is something that the secretary feels is important to take a look at the department and the structure right now within the DOD and to make sure that we're doing things as efficiently as possible. There are a host of things on the table for review.  He's getting input from the services, from the service secretaries, from outside the building as well, people who have experience in these matters.  And he wants recommendations. I don't have the exact timeline for you but I know he's looking early into next year to have some recommendations to move forward.  I know Congress is looking at some of these issues as well and the secretary welcomes the interest of Congress. But this is something that he's initiated here within the department itself, to take a hard look at how things are structured right now.  Whether or not things could be done differently in the spirit of Goldwater-Nichols and the changes that resulted from that many years ago.
 
Q: And would the end result be legislative proposals or things that he thinks he can do under his authority or for something else?
 
MR. COOK: I'd imagine at this point, and again, we're waiting for the recommendations to come back.  But, the secretary thinks there are things that he can do on his own again.  If these are changes that make sense and again, withstand his own review of whatever recommendations come forward, but obviously this is something that is substantial would require, potentially, action from Congress and Congress is also looking at these issues, both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. And so, I think you can expect, probably at the end of the day, probably a mix of both.  Initiatives that he can carry out here on his own and things that might require some Congressional action.

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Tangentially related but I'm posting here anyways.

http://www.defense.gov/News/Speeches/Speech-View/Article/713736/remarks-on-goldwater-nichols-at-30-an-agenda-for-updating-center-for-strategic

Remarks on "Goldwater-Nichols at 30: An Agenda for Updating" (Center for Strategic and International Studies) / As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, CSIS Building, Washington, D.C., April 5, 2016

[...]

In an increasingly complex security environment like this, and with a decision chain that cuts across the combatant commands only at the level of the Secretary of Defense, we’re not postured to be as agile as we could be.  Accordingly, we need to clarify the role and authority of the Chairman, and in some cases the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff, in three ways: one, to help synchronize resources globally for daily operations around the world, enhancing our flexibility, and my ability, to move forces rapidly across the seams between our combatant commands; two, to provide objective military advice for ongoing operations, not just future planning; and three, to advise the Secretary of Defense on military strategy and operational plans, for example, helping ensure that our plans take into account in a deliberate fashion the possibility of overlapping contingencies.

[...]

The second area where we need to make updates is in our combatant commands – adapting them to new functions, and continuing to aggressively streamline headquarters. Adapting to new functions will include changes in how we manage ourselves in cyberspace, in accordance with the emphasis I placed on cyber in my posture statement, and that the President made in his fiscal year 2017 budget.  There, I made clear that in each of the five challenges facing DoD, we must deal with them across all domains – not just the traditional air, land, sea, and space, but also cyberspace, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths and great opportunities, but also some vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit.  That’s why our budget increases cyber investments to a total of $35 billion over the next five years, and why we should consider changes to cyber’s role in DoD’s Unified Command Plan.

As some of you may know, DoD is currently in the process of reducing our management headquarters by 25 percent – a needed step – and we’re on the road to accomplish that goal thanks to the partnership of the congressional defense committees, which once again we deeply appreciate.  We can meet these targets without combining Northern Command and Southern Command, or combining European Command and Africa Command – actions that would run contrary to why we made them separate, because of their distinct areas of emphasis and increasing demands on our forces in them.  And indeed those demands have only further increased in recent years, with each command growing busier.  So instead of combining these commands to the detriment of our friends, our allies, and in fact our own command and control capabilities, we intend to be more efficient by integrating functions like logistics, intelligence, and plans across the Joint Staff, the combatant commands, and subordinate commands, eliminating redundancies while not losing capability, and much can be done here.

Additionally, in the coming weeks the Defense Department will look to simplify and improve command and control where the number of four-star positions have made headquarters either top-heavy, or less efficient than they could be.  The military is based on rank hierarchy, where juniors are subordinate in rank to their seniors; this is true from the platoon to the corps level, but it gets complicated at some of our combatant and component command headquarters, where we have a deep bench of extremely talented senior leaders.  So where we see potential to be more efficient and effective, billets currently filled by four-star generals and admirals will be filled by three-stars in the future.

[...]

The last major area where we need to update Goldwater-Nichols is in making changes to joint personnel management as part of what I call the Force of the Future – an endeavor I began last year to ensure that our future all-volunteer force will be just as fine as the one I have the privilege of leading today, even as generations change and job markets change.  We’ve taken several steps already – building on-ramps and off-ramps so technical talent can more easily flow between DoD and America’s great innovative communities; opening all combat positions to women who meet service standards to expand our access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force; and doing more to support military families to improve retention, like extending maternity and paternity leave, and giving families the possibility of some geographic flexibility in return for additional commitments.

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