Monday, October 28, 2013

need fewer warriors, more managers

The Center for New American Security has a provocative new report on how to improve the senior leadership of the U.S. armed forces. Building Better Generals has some very persuasive analysis and worthwhile recommendations. The report recognizes that future conflicts are likely to be much different from what we have experienced since 2001, and that resources will be constrained for the foreseeable future.

"Problems previously solved with infusions of more resources will now demand innovative thinking and creative management by senior uniformed leaders."
The report recommends various improvements in existing Professional Military Education [PME] programs, plus new ones for officers given one or two star rank. It also calls for longer tours in senior jobs, rather than the less than two years for even four-star assignments. All this is reasonable.

Where the authors are likely to run into problems, however, is where they recommend splitting senior assignments into either "operational" or "enterprise-management." Operational jobs call for war-fighters who also understand political-military relations and linking operations to grand strategy. The so-called enterprise jobs are managerial, like those of senior corporate executive.

That distinction is reasonable; different skills are required for combatant commanders and those managing personnel systems, training, logistics, and even intelligence collection. But the report notes that, in the U.S. Army,
"approximately 65 percent of one-star billets, 80 percent of two-star billets, 82 percent of three-star billets and 92 percent of four-star billets are nonoperational enterprise-management
On the other hand, army colonels who become generals come overwhelmingly from the operational career fields: 
"In the Army alone, approximately 50 percent of one-star, 70 percent of two-star, 80 percent of three-star and 85 percent of four-star generals have been promoted from the operational
career fields."
It's not enough to say, give those operators the management training they need. This requires a cultural change in the services to reward more men and women who are not proven "warriors." And they need to persuade skilled operators that they won't be second class officers if they opt for the enterprise-management track.

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