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In a world beset by the specter of geopolitical instability and rapidly advancing technology, the U.S. military should be a bulwark of strength and focus. It must reflect the highest virtues of our society: courage, integrity, and above all, readiness for the terrible business of war.
But our military has found itself increasingly entangled in a web of bureaucracy, political interference, and a pervasive lack of mission clarity.
Remember when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made headlines by declaring a military-wide effort to root out right-wing extremists identified as white supremacists? The order was based on the false claim that veterans were significantly overrepresented among those arrested after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The impact of this vilification on those who serve our nation in uniform was both predictable and disturbing. That means lower recruitment and morale.
Veteran Republicans slam military academy for ‘tolerating’ Day speaker’s controversial comments
Unbearable weight of brass
One of the most obvious problems currently plaguing the U.S. military is the unsustainable growth of generals and admirals, especially when compared to the overall size of the military.
Provisions of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) proposed a 25% reduction in the number of generals and flag officers. The problem was framed as inevitable because the size of the officer corps was “increasingly out of balance with the size of the forces it led.”
During World War II, the ratio of officers to non-commissioned officers was much less lopsided than it is now. At that time, the number of generals per unit was about 1 in 7,000. In stark contrast, the current ratio is nearly 1:1,600. This disproportionate growth in senior leadership has real implications. It confuses the chain of command, adds layers of bureaucracy to decision-making, and wastes taxpayer dollars that could be better allocated elsewhere.
Declining quality of executive leadership
We are not only facing a quantity problem. There are also quality issues. The intelligence quotient of Marine Corps officers has declined alarmingly, according to a Brookings report. This is not just an indictment of the individuals in these positions, but a clear warning against the systems and standards we use to put them in those positions.
Urgent reforms for modern militaries
The era of gradualism is over. Here’s what you need to do:
Department of Defense rescinds gender-neutral pronoun requirement for joint award of military awards
Rethink ROTC and officer programs. The inertial reliance on university degrees as a qualification for executive candidates needs to be scrutinized. Many of history’s greatest military men never set foot in a college classroom. A similar review is rapidly occurring in the private sector as the number of university enrollments declines due to the shrinking value of a university degree.
Prioritize military education: Efforts to enroll senior officers in advanced civilian education programs have not only failed to make the military more palatable to leftist elites, but have also diluted the combat expertise of senior officers. Increasing military studies and reducing liberal arts master’s degrees would be a start.
Meritocracy over bureaucracy: Those who remain in leadership roles should be there because they are the best, not because they have been there the longest. And yes, people who deserve their positions should be compensated accordingly.
From enlistment to commissioning: When considering candidates for officer positions, the knowledge and experience gained from years of experience as a non-commissioned officer is often overlooked.
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Guarantee of professionalism: In this era of specialized warfare, including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and advanced reconnaissance, warrant officers should have an expanded role and be paid a salary that reflects their unique skills.
Top responsibilities: Every position of general or flag officer should be strictly justified. The Pentagon should be required to identify not only which officers and flag officers it wants to relinquish, but also which officers are critical to mission success.
Revive your warrior spirit: Above all, our military must foster and sustain a culture of excellence. This culture should be characterized by the values that make the military an elite organization: discipline, courage, and above all, focus on the mission.
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Our military must be capable of rapid response, tactical ingenuity, and above all, unwavering effectiveness. But this will only be possible if we free it from the chains of a bloated bureaucracy, misguided political initiatives, and an increasingly isolated leadership cadre.
Let’s refocus on what matters most: ensuring America’s military remains the most effective and respected fighting force in the world.
Click here to read more from Chuck DeVore