An Outsider Synthesizes a Structural Portrait of
Decay ... and Wonders: What is Going On?

March 23, 1999

Comment: #247

Discussion Thread:  #s 245 & 246

The email below is a quick reaction to Comments #s 245 & 246. It comes from a very conservative, pro-military member of the Senate Republican staff. He raises some fascinating questions. Bear in mind, this individual does not work on defense issues but follows them as a concerned citizen. Nevertheless, his insight into the structural character of the crisis is far more cogent that provided by many of the so-called analysts and Cartesian "defense intellaaaaaactuals" working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who are now hopelessly lost in the forest while they try to look busy by counting the trees.

-----[begin email]-------

Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999
 09:10:34 -0500
 Subject: Inside Dope

Got the inside scoop e-mails on the Army and AF. Reading them you get the sense of a whole system coming unglued while intelligent people try to make sense of the disarray of the sub-systems they are directly (perhaps only) familiar with. Perhaps it was just the nature of the communications I read, but there was no sense expressed of the desirable quality OF THE WHOLE to which the part could be related. One can ask, why will these efforts directed at solving particular problems coalesce into an overall effective force?

For the Army the news is "good" for the very people who will not fix the problem. "Can no longer afford to let [marginal] soldiers leave the Army." This will be a BIG help. More "good" news "98% of LTs will be promoted to CAPT at 42 months in service." So much for meritocracy—to the degree it existed. We will now have to change the slogan "Up or out!" to "Up, not out." Most troubling was the comment by GEN Schwartz. He states, "The propensity to serve is very low since the economy is very robust." This assumes material reward is the reason people join the Army. This is horrific! It may be the reason SOME people join—but should it be? I am not up to date, but has anyone in the Army defined the characteristics desired in a soldier worthy of the calling and what the Army would have to offer to attract such people? The statement that the issue is money/material is dangerous.

The Air Force message was very important. A very eye-opening piece, for me any way, that there are a host of skill areas that are hemorrhaging talent—that the issue is not just pilots. Which raises a question—why are people bailing out ACROSS THE BOARD. This suggests a systemic problem as the motivating factor. As with the Army, has the USAF delved into what is afflicting the entire system?

Thanks for sending the messages.



Chuck Spinney

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