Leadership (VII) - A Marine's View of Officer Bloat and its
Deleterious Effect on Unit Cohesion

November 6, 1998

Comment: #212

Discussion Thread:  #s 206, 207, 208, 209, 210 and 211


[1] Email from Lt Col David Evans (USMC Ret), November 6, 1998. Attached.

The email below is from a very veteran Marine with extensive experience in heavy combat at Con Tien, Vietnam. Col Evans also worked in the Office of Secretary of Defense in the early 1980s, where he was responsible to constructing the high level guidance documents that established our readiness policies. Note how his comments about COHORT parallel those of Lt Col ZZZ, an Army officer. Note also his comments regarding the problem of a bloated officer corps.

Chuck Spinney

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Reference #1

Email from LtCol Evans (USMC Ret), November 6, 1998

These discussions about the Army's failed COHORT program are extremely important, and extremely profound. From personal experience, I can attest to the Marine Corps' attempt to stabilize at the battalion level, and the lack of institutional commitment to do so, for largely the same reasons.

At the officer level, when I looked a the number of lieutenant colonels, their average time in grade, and the number of command slots in the operating forces, there was no way you could physically cycle them all through, unless the tours were really short. I left the service convinced that all four branches were grossly over-officered, and that cutting the officer corps in half (for starters) would increase the quality gate for officers and, with NCO's forced to fill the mid-level vacuum, we'd have better NCO's and chief petty officers, too.

When the Marines a couple years ago asked, if memory serves, for 12 more generals rather than money for more sergeants, I thought we had a very revealing illustration, and a sad one at that, of bureaucratic priorities. Can you imagine the impact if the Marines had gone to the Hill saying, "We want more infantry sergeants, not more generals"? Their standing would have gone up hugely, and to the just embarrassment of the other services.

The institutionalization of individual priorities over unit priorities starts with our recruiting slogans. "Be all you can be" is an appeal to personal self-actualization. With the possible exception of the Marine Corps, not one of the services is asking people to join the military equivalent of a Super Bowl team.

David Evans
LtCol USMC (Ret)