Small Wars Journal

How to Lose Great Leaders? Ask the Army

How to Lose Great Leaders? Ask the Army - Washington Post Op-Ed by Tim Kane.

The U.S. military is one of America’s premier leadership factories. But the product it manufactures is in decline.

Seven years ago, the number of young officers willing to recommit after their initial tours of duty dropped precipitously. Before the Iraq war, three-quarters of Army officers stayed for a career, a number that dropped to just two-thirds starting in 2006. The broken pipeline was initially blamed on the sputtering war effort in Iraq, but in fact the problem is a deep-rooted one. The Army has bled talent for decades, a consequence of a deeply dysfunctional organization that poorly matches jobs with talent and doesn’t trust its officers to make choices about their own careers...



Sun, 02/10/2013 - 6:19pm

In reply to by RossR

PLEASE (All caps intentional). Post some substance to introduce a link. It makes it so much easier for our readers. Thanks in advance.

Vitesse et Puissance

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 12:49pm

I think there are some good ideas here, but they ignore the reality of a force that is about to contract. Rather than rely on downsizing by a combination of self-attrition and the inevitable cuts at key promotion points, this sounds a bit like musical chairs, where self-promoting officers get to the top of the pile. I'm not sure it will help the true mavericks, the square pegs who just won't fit into the prefabricated round holes drilled out by Big Army, always and everywhere. Really, the best possible case would be to get serious and get back to the regimental system, where people actually know each other and understand each other's capabilities and limitations. As Big Army becomes just a little less big, it is important to treat officers - and enlisted men - as more than just a piece of paper, whether that be a good file or a snappy resume. That being the case, this article is clearly a step in the right direction.


Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:36am

So what argument is he making? First he says that since 2006 the number of officers departing the service rather than making it a career has increased. Then he says this the result of a problem that has existed since the 1950s. So was the increase in departing leadership the result of the stress of the war or not? According to the author, no. It is the result of the Army's Officer Management System.

I am not defending that system, although I don't think it is as detrimental as many claim it is. It is designed to serve a purpose that is incomparable with the Ayn Rand philosophy of the "Virtue of Selfishness." What I am upset about is that once again, the military is being blamed for the results of a ill conceived and failed political decision. The common explanation bantered around that the military "lost" Iraq rather than it was asked to complete a mission that was not possible since it required social engineering on a grand scale. Now we are being told we lost because our officer management system does not allow for group think, putting together selective "good ole boy" teams, and encouraging "disruptive thinking". We have our issues, but this argument I am not buying.