Blogs > Cliopatria > Profound Absurdities

Jan 26, 2006 9:23 am

Profound Absurdities

"The force is not broken," Rumsfeld declared. Moreover, he said,"It's battle-hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."

"Titanic has not sunk," Rumsfeld declared. Moreover, he said,"It's ice-berg hardened. It's not a sissy little frigate just out of the builder's yard"

Ok. That's just for a cheap laugh [mainly my own] but here is what got me interested:

As for Krepinevich's warning that retention problems could emerge if the pace of rotations fails to ease, Rumsfeld said he didn't know if that was the case.

"I suspect the people writing these things don't know, either, because I suspect that they don't have any more insight than the other people around here do," he said.

Krepinevich received $137,000 over 12 months for the report, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Paul Swiergosz said.

Asked why the Pentagon pays consultants such as Krepinevich for such reports if they lack insight, Rumsfeld said:"Well, because the way you get the best knowledge and the best perspective is to listen to people with different views."

That is the most open statement I have seen from this administration and a healthy sign of things on the mend. We will surely have an actual policy towards Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

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Chris Bray - 2/1/2006

Please mentally delete one "historical" from the sentence that has two of them. I'm tired.

Chris Bray - 2/1/2006

I know about Woodrow Wilson, yes. If our notion of what it means to provide for the common defense has changed, we haven't discussed it as a nation; it's an unexamined abnegation of our founding principles. (The fact that it has been discussed and examined in the military doesn't mean that the polity as a whole has discussed it, or is even seriously aware of it.) Because it's late here, and because I'm past due for bed, I'm tempted to just quote from Federalist 8 and promise to say more later, while sincerely hoping that the comments function can handle blockquotes:

Standing armies, it is said, are not provided against in the new Constitution; and it is therefore inferred that they may exist under it. Their existence, however, from the very terms of the proposition, is, at most, problematical and uncertain...Frequent war and constant apprehension, which require a state of as constant preparation, will infallibly produce them...It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority...Thus, we should, in a little time, see established in every part of this country the same engines of despotism which have been the scourge of the Old World...The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult; but it is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions, to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by the military power.

If we plan to move beyond the ideas articulated here, then we'll have to decide, consciously, as a people, that we are no longer the historical republic at the historical roots of the current nation. Those seem to me to be the stakes. More later. I might post on this, so we can move the comment thread up a bit.

John H. Lederer - 1/31/2006

Here is a much different take on the rate of promotion to Lt. Colonel (which does say there is ashortage of junior officers):

"But new pressures showed up after the invasion of Iraq, with the constant rotations making it hard on young officers with families. It became harder to keep these young officers in. Actually, a lot of the more senior officers began getting out after twenty years, rather than staying in for 30 (to get more rank, and a much larger pension.) The result has been it is now easier for the junior officers to get promoted. The number of officers the army can have, at each rank, is set up law. But when there are fewer candidates, more of them get promoted. Historically, about 75 percent of eligible captains get promoted to major. Last year, 97 percent made it. Some 70 percent of eligible majors usually make it to Lieutenant Colonel, last year it was 86 percent. Another factor is that so many of the eligible officers have combat experience. This means they have been given the ultimate test in the military, and passed. Many officers who had a hard time dealing with combat, got out. This means that the next generation of battalion commander will be some of the best in generations."

Col Steve J - 1/31/2006

You raise several different issues so for brevity I'll only make quick comments about them.

You may not agree with premptive war (or do you mean preventative war, or both?). But the concept is not some new idea adopted by this Administration. Look at the history of 19th Century America..or the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine - most famously used by Woodrow Wilson no less. Even John Kerry's platform reserved the option for both preventative and preemptive measures: "First, the world should be on notice that we will take every possible measure to defend ourselves against the possibility of attack by unconventional arms. If such an attack appears imminent, we will do everything necessary to stop it."

I'm a little puzzled at your link and apparent disdain (perhaps some of it is personal?) for those young folks who feel threatened or support this Administration yet opt not to join the military. The tone of your post reminds me of Jack Nicholson's character on the witness stand in
"A Few good men." - "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post." Your intent in having one view a link of young republicans?

Can someone not support the grand strategy of the administration without joining up? Would you argue a woman who supports abortion rights for the larger community but personally would not exercise that right herself is hypocritical?

Have you read FM-1 (The Army)? "I serve the people of the United States"..."Soldiers are committed to selfless service to the Nation"..."The Army, a long-trusted institution, exists to serve the Nation." The Army is a service institution.

Warfare (conflict) has been a part of human behavior that spans recorded history. The nature of warfare and conflict between nations and states is fundamentally unchanging -- organized force for advancing and defending national interests (as determined usually through political means).

However, because war is both a
political action and a social institution, the character of warfare changes as the people, culture, political entities and technologies (to name a few) of a society evolves. So must our notion of what provide for the common defense means.

Since the adoption of the all volunteer force and the "Abrams doctrine" legacy from Vietnam (about the role of the National Guard), the military has moved from an institutional military to an occupational one. The institutional military perhaps is what you mean when people should join based on some higher calling to defend the nation in times of crisis - and that calling transcends individual factors such as pay, family, and personal desires (important, but not overriding). The occupational military on the other hand must defer more to the supply and demand forces in the marketplace for labor. While the military may (and should) retain its cultural heritage, traditions, and profession-specific policies to a degree, the services must adapt to those changes in society the military serves. After all, we are not Sparta. Civilian (societal) values are the heart of the value "system" in the USA-----not military values. Quite frankly, that change in the profession underlies the recruitment issue.

We are not the same nation, nor in the same geo-strategic political position and security environment, in 2001 as we were in 1801. As one historian wrote, "the historical mind is a well-traveled mind that know something of the variability of people and places, conditions, and problems." It seems pointless to me to argue the premise under which the Republic organized to defend national interests then applies today without a more thorough review of the context for applicability.

Now, I do fault this Administration and Congress for arguing on one hand we are in a "long war" against "terrorists organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us" and on the other hand wanting to segment or minimize the burden of defending the nation. (Oh, you may have to wait a little longer in line, but go about your daily lives and trust us about defending the country). There is, in my opinion, some disconnects between the ends-way-means and the the subsequent execution of those National strategies
by this Administration. There has been lack of imagination (or will to execute) by those Constitutionally responsible (President and Congress; State governors and legislatures as well with respect to the National Guard) on creating new models for citizens (and not yet citizens!) to serve the nation. But, that perhaps, is another discussion and I have already rambled enough.

Chris Bray - 1/31/2006

I offer this as a further illustration.

Chris Bray - 1/31/2006

Reading this post, and especially your discussion about recruiting -- "what do most firms do in response to hiring challenges?" -- I realized that we're talking about different things, and I haven't articulated my point clearly. My intent here is not to argue that the Army is poorly run (although that's maybe a discussion for another day).

What's extremely interesting is the idea of the military as an institution like any other, and one that competes for new hires -- the "18-24 yr old market," "already a tight market" -- with colleges and the private sector. This gets right at the heart of the problem, which is: What is the military? What is its purpose? What is its relationship to the nation, and the culture, that it serves?

At the risk of backing into the argument: Gen. Abizaid gave a speech at the Naval War College, a couple of months ago, in which he presented a view of Islamist extremists who want to establish a global caliphate. I think it was Gen. Casey who more recently gave another version of that speech. And I don't buy that argument at all; while I agree that al Qaeda represents a remarkably serious threat to human life, and should be attacked, I also think that it's silly and overblown to represent a movement with no higher operational art than car bombings and hijackings as a threat to the very existence of Western Civilization. (Nor do I really accept the premise of preemptive war, which amounts to attacking nations that haven't attacked us, but that's also a discussion for another time.)

But there are clearly many people in the U.S. who buy that argument, or much of that argument. See Michelle Malkin's website, or Charles Johnson's, or Roger Simon's, and etc., or look at Karl Rove's speech to the New York Conservative Union last year. There are clearly millions of Americans -- many of them able-bodied and between the ages of 18 and 35 -- who believe that their lives, and beyond that their way of life, are threatened.

And their response is to stand by and watch the military go deal with it. It's not that they resist the idea of serving in that military; it's just that it simply never appears to occur to many of them. The military is a professional organization that deals with a certain type of problem; you call Roto-Rooter for a drain clog, the Department of Defense for a threat to national security. We've become a part of the service industry.

To blend in another favorite topic, look at the "about me" page for UCLA Profs founder Andrew Jones, who led the campus Republican club at UCLA and is now trying to purge the university of leftists. Andrew led "pro-war" and counter-anti-war rallies at UCLA; he furiously denounces professors who have signed anti-war petitions; he is militantly, angrily pro-war; and he is a fit, healthy 24-year-old man who has never (and probably will never) serve in the military that he "supports" so passionately.

The service industry military is not the premise of the American republic, which was organized around a notion that the common defense was a universally shared liability. The nuance underlying the Army's recruiting efforts is not the point, to me. Given the events of the day, and the views of millions of service-eligible Americans, the Army should be turning people away at the doors. That we're struggling to get bodies -- against other "markets" -- is a much more serious question than the institutional management issue we've turned it into, here.

Col Steve J - 1/31/2006

John - the designs are meant to be zero-sum in terms of absolute growth - although there are obviously skill/branch changes.

For example, in the new modular "divison" like organization, some of the combat support unit hqs (like MI or ADA BNs) go away. The subordinate units become assigned directly to the maneuver BCT and those BN HQ slots now become the billpayers for the new staff positions at the BCT HQ.

Col Steve J - 1/31/2006

Again, those changes are a result of poor HR management over the last decade. Several YGs in the

* Oops, problem with multitasking is one can often need an "alibi" *

Several YGs in the early 90s went through a RIF and also were offered "leave the service" incentives. Now, a decade later, the Army bemoans a field grade officer shortage. Interesting the article doesn't mention we have congressionally mandated caps on the number of officers. Also, the *immediate* linkage to quality of officers leading combat units is incorrect. Under the changes to Army officer management, the competition for command and senior staff (XO/S3) positions has become even more intense (some argue to an unhealthy point) - but there are more officers going to headquarters and staff billets that arguably represent a bloated mid-level bureaucracy.

So the Army response - high promotion rates and access high rates of young officers. The problem will be in another decade if those officers stay in and those promotion rates fall to historical rates (a sine wave type effect). Then, you'll hear wails about the *low* promotion rates.

I agree officers are being promoted who, if in different year groups, may not have been. That fact does not imply they are not qualified, just the realities of the Army personnel system. I'll agree though the Army has not done a good job in managing its human capital for the long term.

Of course, we could adopt a different strategy and access fewer officers (why do truck plts need a LT?) and put the vast majority in only combat arms positions. Then, as captains, move some of them to the other branches and specialities.

There are a number of other recommendations (eliminate the all or nothing 20+ year retirement system, the up or out management system to name a couple) to address the military officer personnel system.

Again, one has to be careful at taking snapshots and generalizing. When you are only looking at the forest, you might bump into into trees.

John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

Is the army's new organization creating demand for field grade officers?

"To serve as the essential link between joint commanders and troops on the ground, each brigade headquarters will grow from less than 100 personnel to about 250, Army officials say."

or are those officers essentially moved down from division?

Chris Bray - 1/30/2006

One o'clock in the morning here, and I need to be at work in a few hours -- so I'm off to bed. But this is obviously well worth discussing, and I'll reply in detail tomorrow. Very interesting, yes.

Col Steve J - 1/30/2006

Yes, but Chris, as you know, the issues are *far* more nuanced than your general points.

Of course, it helps to have some facts...and then as Mark Twain said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. "

Interesting the decline for the Army starting after 91 (except for CAT IVB) - leading up to missing mission and lower HQ recruits in 99 (by 15%) than last few years. Do you recall talk of a hollow army then? (yes, slightly different operating environment then, but you can argue that point both ways).

For example,

The army is making its numbers by taking lower-quality recruits: Yes; however, if the Army stuck to the 2% standard, than essentially the 500+ surplus gets eliminated and the Army is right at the quarter's target. Also, we don't know the MOS for those CAT IVBs. We'll see if the Army sticks to the *overall* FY goal of 4%. Also, the Army has been recruiting based on a 30K *overage* in force structure. DoD is adamant in the upcoming FY 08 POM to come back to the 482K level for Active Duty Army (not arguing the merit of that, just the lower End strength means less pressure on recruitment and retention).

by making large additions to its recruiting staff; Yes, and what do most firms do in response to hiring challenges? Increase advertising, HR recruiters, etc. USAREC study (2003) showed #1 factor influencing recruiting was contact with a soldier. In the rush to get "operational" units to 100% manning a few years ago (last CSA goal), guess who paid the bills - the green suiters doing "institutional" work. And why the shortfall in those units - go back to 98/99 problems. Reap what you sow, especially if you're always focused on the near-term and the far-term is *somebody else's* problem.

by throwing money at recruits and at soldiers nearing their ETS dates; - of course. It's a *volunteer* force that gets to vote (for the most part) with their feet. Factors such as college funding, pay, bonuses (especially tax-free - that's why you get a spike in units just arriving or almost leaving combat zones) matter. The same arguments one hears about teachers and other public sector workers apply to the military as well.

by stop-lossing; by calling up several thousand Ready Reservists; true, but the numbers are less than 1% of the force. That program also was a result of *poor* force mix choices going back a decade. For example, in 1996, the Army (and DoD, Congress, and the Administration) moved 2 battalions of TACHUMINT soldiers (the CI and Interrogators) out of the active force and into the national guard - to locations where there was little hope of actually filling the units. How useful would an extra 500+ active duty TACHUMINTers been to current operations? Despite our experiences in the 90s (Somalia, Bosnia), the leadership in 96 didn't see the wisdom in future operations of more TACHUMINT soldiers as opposed to keeping one more brigade flag. You don't grow that expertise overnight.

by promoting officers who would not typically be promoted; Wrong, or at least misleading. According to HRC, there has not been a centrally managed board where the selectees were not *fully qualified.* Now, as you know, in the past, not all *fully qualified* officers make the final selection list. Promotion rates are higher. Again, those changes are a result of poor HR management over the last decade. Several YGs in the

and by lowering other standards, as in the case of the recent changes in body fat standards. Okay, but please. You know soldiers who miss the *body* fat standard yet can pass/max the PT test (also not even by the Army's own admission a complete metric) and do their job.

But look at the market the Army competes in for labor. According to Army funded studies,

73% of 18-24 yr old market is ineligible for military due to medical, moral, education, aptitude, or dependent reasons.

Of the 27% remaining (8.6M out of the 32M), less than 50% are the HQ candidates.

already a tight market - and add on to that the overwhelming majority at least plan (90% in 10th grade) to go to college or have a reasonable expectation (70% by senior year) and the majority guidance from parents and counselors is to go to college (or some kind of higher education - poll shows app. <20% who are likely to recommend the military compare to > 65% unlikely).

Oh, and the odds of getting deployed (high) and hurt/killed (low, but still higher than the 90s) impact as well.

Now, having said all that, would I prefer to have smarter, more *fit*, soldiers that are cheaper to recruit, train, pay, and retain. Of course.

so, the fact the Army is having to trend the opposite is cause for concern. But is the sky falling as many want to claim based on superficial reading of the numbers? Hardly. The real question is whether the Army, or really, the Joint Force, can fulfill the military ends outlined in the National Defense, Military, and subordinate strategies in support of the larger National Security Strategy (documents which I would be the overwhelming number of pundits and opiners have not bothered to read)- but hey, a whole new series are due out next week with the release of the QDR. That answer I would argue is debateable and worthy of informed, enlightened discussion.

Unfortunately, it seems a conversation few on either side want to have.

Chris Bray - 1/30/2006

You continue to crow that the army is making its numbers, while steadfastly refusing to give serious consideration to how it is doing so. The army is making its numbers by taking lower-quality recruits; by making large additions to its recruiting staff; by throwing money at recruits and at soldiers nearing their ETS dates; by stop-lossing; by calling up several thousand Ready Reservists; by promoting officers who would not typically be promoted; and by lowering other standards, as in the case of the recent changes in body fat standards. I don't think any of these particulars are particularly in dispute.

An army that keeps its numbers up while allowing its quality to decline is at risk of becoming a hollow army. We've been here before. Numbers alone are not the issue, no matter how many times you repeat the same point.

Chris Bray - 1/30/2006

Army's High Rate Of Promotion Raises Concerns About Officer Corps

"Struggling to retain enough officers to lead its forces, the Army has begun to dramatically increase the number of soldiers it promotes, raising fears within the service that wartime strains are diluting the quality of the officer corps. Last year, the Army promoted 97 percent of all eligible captains to the rank of major, according to Pentagon data. That was up from a historical average of 70 percent to 80 percent.

"Traditionally, the Army has used the step to major as a winnowing point to push lower-performing soldiers out of the military. The service also promoted 86 percent of eligible majors to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2005, up from the historical average of 65 percent to 75 percent.

"The higher rates of promotion are part of efforts to fill new slots created by an Army reorganization and to compensate for officers resigning from the service, many after multiple rotations to Iraq.

"The promotion rates 'are much higher than they have been in the past because we need more officers than we did before,' said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman.

"The Army has long taken pride in the competitiveness of its promotions, and it insists that only officers who meet rigorous standards are elevated through its ranks. But recent trends in promotions have stirred concerns that the Army is being forced to lower its standards to provide leaders for combat units.

"'The problem here is that you're not knocking off the bottom 20 percent,' said a high-ranking Army officer at the Pentagon. 'Basically, if you haven't been court-martialed, you're going to be promoted to major.'"

John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

"January 30, 2006: After falling short by eight percent last year, the U.S. Army is five percent above its recruiting goals so far this year. Equally important, reenlistments were the highest in five years in 2005, with 69,500 soldiers deciding to stay in. The highest re-enlistment rates were in units that had been to Iraq and Afghanistan. The troops overseas believe they are making a difference, and that is demonstrated in their attitudes, as well as their re-enlistment rates. But the media does not consider this news, and concentrates on any real or imagined negative aspects of the war. This makes it more difficult to recruit new troops."

John H. Lederer - 1/28/2006

1. Comparison of Rumsfeld saying army is not "broken" to denying Titanic damaged by iceberg.

2. "Okay, okay, I give up -- the army has no manpower crisis."

3. "..the army is having trouble meeting its manpower needs.."

I don't see the three statements as equivalents. I agree with the last though I don't regard the problem as overall serious at this point. I disagree with the first and second.

Which do you agree or disagree with?
Incidentally, and not in direct response to the above, may I highly recommend to you Robert Kaplan's "Imperial Grunts". I think it would be extremely valuable to anyone trying to grapple with what we ought be doing. It is also a very interesting read from an anthropological viewpoint -- I would never have thought of comparing hsitorical subcultures within the various segments of the military with the foreign cultures they are trying to influence (e.g. why are North Florida Special Forces National Guardsmen like Afghanis? Why is the Marine approach to Iraq so different than the "Big Army" approach?))

For those wedded to the idea of the U.S. as an "empire" it also addresses "what sort of an empire" from the pointy end of the stick.

Chris Bray - 1/28/2006

Okay, okay, I give up -- the army has no manpower crisis.

In other news today, a court has thrown out a lawsuit against the army by a couple of our 12,000 stop-lossed soldiers, and the navy announced that it was expanding its program encouraging sailors to leave that service and enlist in the army instead.

I'm not sure if I understand what's at stake for you, here. What would be lost if we admitted that the army is having trouble coming up with all the bodies it needs? Do you regard the argument that the army is having trouble meeting its manpower needs as somehow anti-military?

Chris Bray - 1/28/2006

I didn't read the RAND study, and I will. One thing: Technological skill is not the only reason for soldiers to be smart. It seems to me that soldiers who are category IV, but can handle technical tasks inside a tank, may still be seriously unsuited for interacting with ordinary Iraqis in tense situations; they are probably unsuited to become the "strategic corporal" that the other guys love to talk about. Whatever the compensators, an army with more cat-iv soldiers would seem to me to be a weaker army, a less flexible army. I do see that you don't dispute that point, but I may not share your larger view about the total impact.

Anyway, I'm off to read the RAND report.

John H. Lederer - 1/28/2006

1. According to Secretary of Army 12% of the command sergeant majors in the army now were category IV recruits. That probably reflects the fact that 30% of recruits in the 70's were Cat IV.

"Harvey, the Army secretary, told reporters recently that about 12 percent of the service's command sergeant majors -- the senior enlisted soldiers in Army units -- scored in Category IV."

December 16, 2005

2, Not to minimize the sacrifice, but the present military death rate is about the same as it was in the early 80's -- in other words the combat deaths in Iraq have about equalled the gains made in the military's long term crack down on vehicle accidents and the better medical care available now.

3. Until quite recently, most officers would say that the morale in the army is higher than they have ever seen it. There are some indications of recent lowering morale, quite possibly from the feeling of "having the rug pulled out from under you" by political statements in the US.

4. The army has a significant increase in recruiting goals for Oct 1 2005-Sept 30, 2006 because Congress mandated an increase in the Army's total size. Without that increase, and without taking in any Cat. IV's , the army would exceed the needed number of recruits--i.e. the increased rate of Cat IV uptake is an indicator of the increased numbers required.

These are just little data points. So are the data points pointing the other way. A reasonable approach, and one to which a historian should be accustomed, is to try to add perspective and balance to arrive at a reasonable view of the overall.In my view, "stretched" is a reasonable view, "broken" is ridiculous.

The military is stretched, not only in total numbers but in having the wrong composition for the mission it currently has. Nowhere is the stretch more obvious than in Special Forces which, for instance, are what is needed for your suggestion of taking a town and building up the local forces to defend it (a classic SF mission). We are trying to do things like that with artillery units..

It is pretty easy to throw brickbats from the armchair -- why didn't the army realize that unlike Iraq I there would be less need for heavy armor and more need for special forces in Iraq II? Can't the Navy see that its traditional heavy manpower on ships to control damage is no longer needed? Why are there so many arctic forces when we are fighting in the desert, etc. etc. etc.

The fact of the matter is that anyone who tries to design a military in peacetime to be responsive to a lot of different threats is going to find the military not best suited for the particular threat that materializes.

That said, is there also wrong headed intsitutional resistance to change? Of course there is. Huge resistance. Militaries, historically, are conservative for a lot of reasons-- some good, some bad.

The place where things get real ugly is if we have another war on our hands -- Korea? Iran? But things would always get ugly in that event, and, I suspect, that if that additional war occurs, we probably are better off with troops that have done a couple of tours in Iraq than we would be with a army after 15 years of relative peace.

Col Steve J - 1/27/2006

Of course, he doesn't get the 132K directly. All those study contracts include various "pass throughs" and "cost reimbursements" to the parent organization. Nonetheless, it's still a good gig.

Chris - did you actually read the study Kaplan cherrypicks (I mean cites)? Kaplan asserts "military analyst Jennifer Kavanagh* reviewed a spate of recent statistical studies on the various factors that determine military performance—experience, training, aptitude, and so forth—and concluded that aptitude is key."

Hardly! Did he even read her conclusion? Quote - "Next, the studies reviewed here largely examined the military of the 1980s. Since then, the scale and scope of operations have grown; many functions, including combat arms and logistics, have experienced technological advances; and the career content of personnel has risen. For each of these reasons,
our knowledge of the relative effectiveness of members by tenure and
grade is dated."

Take Kaplan's "tank gunner" example. From reading Kaplan, you would assume he means today's tank gunners. The study he cited (and I know two of the authors) was conducted in 1986 - 20 years ago with soldiers on the relatively new M1 Abrams tank. Would you really argue that a study conducted 20 years ago with a different generation of soldiers on a relatively new system applies to today's soldiers (with arguably more video/high tech experience growing) on the same system (that has been modernized to make it even more precise)?

I'll spare everyone bothering to read these comments the problems with the two other examples he uses as well - suffice it to say, "details" doesn't necessarily equate to "well-argued."

I won't argue the superficial claim that in general, smarter is more desirable. But for Kaplan to claim smarter (as measured by AFQT scores) is "the key" compared to training and experience is dubious at best, and rather sloppy intellectually when one actually looks at his evidence.

But then again, he probably assumes the average Slate reader isn't going to check out his sources.

Chris Bray - 1/27/2006

Got me there, yes. Note to self: Don't argue from single examples.

In other news, did you see the reports that Gen. Casey just said the army is "stretched"?

John H. Lederer - 1/27/2006

Quite some time ago -- when there were mines in the Straits of Hormux targeting tankers (80's?) I was in the airport at Norfolk. Seated with me in the waiting room was a grizzled gentleman whom I would guess to be in his late 50's. He had been recalled from his civilian job as an operations director for a towboat company because his military specialty had been minesweeping and apparently our minesweeping skills had lapsed.

Manan Ahmed - 1/27/2006

My initial reaction to the quote was also: how can I get some of that easy money? I thought it could be just as easy to have a "different" perspective and get paid over 100K for it. In which case I will get, ahem, recruited in a second.

Thanks for breaking my bubble.

Col Steve J - 1/26/2006

I've seen a copy, but don't want to play the "I have information you don't" game. If you have read his earlier work, there's not a whole lot more. Take your dissertation and spin out a bunch of smaller journal articles - well, this report takes a bunch of small articles and put them together to make a larger report. Greatest hits with one new song.

I'd rather focus on a different take on your original post.

Krepinevich = former member of Andy Marshall's Net Assessment office = steady flow of good old boy study dollars. The RAND, CSBA, CSIS, IDA, and a host of other "think tanks" have created the "military-intellectual" complex. Cut the military and civilians at the headquarters and then outsource the thinking and analysis in the name of efficiency and casting a wide net.

The irony is DoD personnel generally have done the same analysis already or now become forced to spend time refuting or validating these external studies (most of them not worth the
cost to produce). It's an effective staff strategy - keep your folks bouncing back and forth on the same issues - if you are not really that interested actually using the findings and recommendations.

In reality, the leadership relies on a small network of trusted individuals to provide "external" assessments -- and that puts a high premium on who's in the inner sanctum.

Chris Bray - 1/26/2006

Also, look at this recent news story about a 46 year-old Ready Reserve soldier being called back to active duty after 13 years out of active duty. (And notice the photo.)

There is a manpower crisis, yes.

Chris Bray - 1/26/2006

Right here.

Chris Bray - 1/26/2006

Fred Kaplan wrote a detailed and well-argued piece in Slate, recently, on the way the army is making its recruiting goals: It significantly lowered the entry standards, accepting poor-quality entry-level soldiers in order to hit its numerical goals. Retention is being driven, at least in part, by enormous tax-free bonuses. An army of lower-quality soldiers, convinced to join and stay by money, is not the path to an excellent institution.

Manan Ahmed - 1/26/2006

As far as I know, the study remains unpublished. However, you can see his earlier study -from last year - The Thin Green Line [pdf] which is included in this bigger study.

And about bad/good news: this is an all-spin blog. we spin good into bad, bad into absurd, and absurd into cozy. Back to dissertating....

John H. Lederer - 1/26/2006

Readers of this blog may be a little out of date on retention and recruitment issues. Cliopatria threw up for harrowed discussion army recruitment when it fell behind the goals, but then dropped the discussion when it swung back to exceeding goals. Bad news is bad. Good news is merely a quiet interlude while waiting for more bad news to discuss.

I don't know Krepinivich very well, but he has a history of often considered criticism of military policies and strategis. I thought his book on the Army in Vietnam was overall good, but I also thoiught it had a tendency to neglect the degree of change that occurred during the Vietnam War.

Personally, I don't trust media presentations of reports anymore -- a little too burnt by too many "pick and choose" summaries over the last few years. Does anyone know where the full text of the report can be found?

Chris Bray - 1/26/2006

Operator: 911 emergency.

Caller: My house is on fire!

Operator: One moment, please. I'll transfer your call.

(Digital beeping; phone rings)

Caller: What? Um...Hello? Hello?

(The ringing stops.)

Fire Chief: This is Chief Rumsfeld.

Caller: Hello? Uh, yes, my house is on fire!

Fire Chief: Well, goodness gracious, it certainly is not.


Caller: But -- it is on fire, I can see the flames, and there's smoke everywhere, and...

Fire Chief: The house is not on fire. The facts show that very clearly.

Caller: The roof just went up! The flames are coming out all the windows!

Fire Chief: Oh, I don't pay attention to the naysayers. Bye-bye now.

(Click. Pause. Dial tone.)

Caller: Hello? Hello?

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