Small Wars Journal

Military Personnel Bureaucracy Drives Out Talent

Military Personnel Bureaucracy Drives Out Talent by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

Pouring hundreds of billions into pay and benefits has not and cannot solve the military’s personnel problems. Despite spending 50 percent more per servicemember since 9/11, the services are short everything from cyber specialists to pilots, medics, nuclear engineers, and Arabic speakers. Spending more and more isn’t just unsustainable: It’s ineffective.

Instead, argues a new study from the Bipartisan Policy Center, the armed forces can enjoy both higher morale and greater skills, without spending more money — if they stop the profoundly counterproductive personnel bureaucracy from actively turning away talent, kicking it out, or making its life sufficiently miserable that it quits.

“You can’t buy your way out of this problem, and we’ve been trying to buy our way out of the problem with bonuses and all the other things,” said Leon Panetta, co-chair of the BPC study team, in an interview with Breaking Defense. “Frankly that’s why personnel costs have gone up 50 percent in the last 15 years.”

“We didn’t start from the proposition of, how do we save money,” added retired Sen. Jim Talent, one of Panetta’s co-chairs, “(but) all of us believe that (reform) is going to make personnel much more affordable in the longer run. Why? Because at the same time it spends heavily to attract and retain talent, the military invests a great deal of effort in squandering it…

Read on.