Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Personnel review, long overdue

Spaeking at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for a sweeping overhaul of the military structure.

A long overdue review.


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has launched a sweeping review of the military's personnel structure, including the ratio of officers to enlisted, the balance between active and reserve components and the mix of troops to civilian support staffs.


“Today the operational forces of the military — measured in battalions, ships, and aircraft wings — have shrunk dramatically since the Cold War era. Yet the three- and four-star command and support structures sitting atop these smaller fighting forces have stayed intact, with minor exceptions, and in some cases they are actually increasing in size and rank,” Hagel said.

100% concur. We need admirals...but a better mix (and likely less of them) than what we have now. What an admiral could do in WW2 verses what they can now is sad. Although we do have a more global view, and we have assets that need leadership but aren't always as definable as ships, aircraft and tanks (i.e. cyber forces), we can certainly slim down the officer corps.

The question in my mind is how to do this fairly. My suggestions:

1. Stop the automatic promotion to O-3. If we have officers that aren't progressing as fast, hold them back a year. This would be a good way to punish behavior that can be corrected (such as college-level antics) without killing someone's career.

2. Cut down on "staff" officers. How many special assistants do you really need? It should be rare that as an officer, you don't have enlisted personnel working for you. This would reduce the number of officer billets and keep them in areas where their expertise will shine.

(I heard of a poor SWO that was the ships Voting Assistance Officer as his only job. Seriously?)

3. Redistribute officers to meaningful positions. I've seen too many N7 and N4 jobs filled by a Master Chief when a LT or LCDR was a way better fit...and likewise, too many OIC jobs filled by a LT that could easily be done by a chief. Hopefully this analysis of DoD will result in a better distribution.

4. Stop viewing joint training and education as a shot in the arm, and reward academic performance. If you go to school you get a non-observed FITREP, so naturally it is used by folks as a chance to relax. Why put in academic rigor, when you can get by...and get the same FITREP as everyone else. If we started always measuring performance, we're going to more material to determine who the best officers are...and weed out the ones that can't perform. Our officers eventually become our strategic leaders (and some, like General Mattis, have a library of 7,000 books!), so we need people that are both tactically successful as well as academically able. How can we get that when we don't evaluate academic ability?

5. Make it easier to fire people...and to bounce back. We all see the officers that are terrible at their jobs, but do the bare minimum and don't step out of line, so they look good on paper, but have terrible performance. It needs to be easier to fire these folks, and just as easy for them to get a chance to bounce back for improved performance.

6. Stop viewing End of Tour awards as mandatory. Most EOTs are automatically given, and given at a certain level depending on rank. People are afraid to detach personnel without an award.

I had an EM2 at my command that was a terrible performer. He did the bare minimum amount of work to get by. On one of my duty days, one of my EM3s came to me with some maintenance. Since it was slightly more complicated than what he had done before, I asked him where EM2 was at. "Working out." was his response. I was floored...and EM2 ended his workout early to get some work done (BTW, it was 1600, certainly well within the duty day).

When it came time for an EOT, I sent none to the ENG. He was floored, but after explaining EM2s complete disregard during his 3 years onboard for the division, he walked out of the command (and the Navy) with a CO LOC...and no personal awards.

Instead of 100% EOT for everyone, I would go with this formula:

30% of your personnel at a given rank likely deserve no award. They come in and do their job, but that's it. They deserve decent EVALs, but no award.
60% likely deserve an award at what is commonly expected for that rank.
10% are going above/beyond and deserve an award one level one higher.

This breakdown would reward your best performers, and encourage your Sailors to work hard to no-kidding earn their awards...and make it easier for promotion boards to filter out poor performers.

I'll be interested to see what the review recommends.