Lying to Ourselves: The Demise of Military Integrity

March 10, 2015

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Leaders lie “in the routine performance of their duties,” and “ethical and moral transgressions [occur] across all levels” of the organization. Leaders have also become “ethically numb,” using “justifications and rationalizations” to overcome any ethical doubts. This “tacit acceptance of dishonesty… [facilitates] hypocrisy” among leaders.

These quotations sound like they are ripped from the headlines about some major corporate scandal. But they’re not describing Enron before its collapse in 2001, or firms like Lehman Brothers and Countrywide before the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, they describe one of the country’s most respected institutions: the U.S. Army.

Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, who are both professors at the U.S. Army War College, just published a devastating study called Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession. They state up front that indications of ethical and moral problems can be found throughout the entire U.S. military, not just in the Army. These include (but certainly are not limited to) U.S. Air Force personnel cheating on tests about nuclear launch systems, and U.S. Navy admirals and others sharing classified information in exchange for gifts and bribes. Last year, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appointed a two-star admiral as the first Senior Advisor for Military Professionalism to address mounting concerns about ethical issues throughout the force.

Nevertheless, this study of the Army deserves special attention, because its findings are so broad and deeply disturbing. Wong and Gerras find that it is “literally impossible” for Army officers to meet all the requirements imposed on them, but that it is also unacceptable for them to fail to meet the requirements. They routinely square this impossible circle by lying – about what they’ve done, who they’ve trained, and to what standard. Yet they maintain a self-image of integrity by rationalizing their lies in various ways. They no longer see this pervasive dishonesty as dishonorable, or even wrong. As Wong and Gerras argue:

‘White’ lies and ‘innocent’ mistruths have become so commonplace in the U.S. Army that there is often no ethical angst, no deep soul-searching, and no righteous outrage when examples of routine dishonesty are encountered. Mutually agreed deception exists in the Army because many decisions to lie, cheat, or steal are simply no longer viewed as ethical choices.

This is a particularly damning judgment for an institution that worked so hard to rebuild its honesty and integrity after Vietnam, when the U.S. military was in tatters. By the war’s end in 1973, the services were deeply torn by drug use, racial violence, indiscipline, and ethical lapses.

As Army leaders sought to address these immense challenges, one of their highest priorities was to candidly examine and restore the ethical standards of their officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). During the 1970s, the Army’s senior-most leaders commissioned numerous studies that examined all aspects of this deep breach of military professionalism. These self-critical assessments were notable for their candor and uniformly dismal view of the state of Army leader and institutional ethical underpinnings.

Army leaders responded by creating a uniform set of values that both formalized and subsequently promoted the highest professional standards across the force. These Army Values were spelled out in the (inevitable) acronym LDRSHP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. More than just a collection of virtues, these new Army Values – which remain in place today – became a lodestone for professional conduct and were quickly embraced by the force. All soldiers wore them on their dog tags around their necks. Units held professional development sessions to discuss their meaning and importance. Over time, the Army Values became a core part of the Army culture. Leaders and soldiers of all ranks could and were held accountable by one another to meet these new professional standards.

One of this column’s authors felt that impact directly, as a junior officer coming into the Army right after the Vietnam War. Army unit leaders often told junior officers of that era that they could professionally survive many different types of failure – flunking a motor pool inspection, for example, or failing a field training evaluation – but that they could not survive a failure of integrity. By the 1991 Gulf War, the Army had largely rediscovered its ethical compass. Those who served at that time could feel a dramatic shift into a new era of standards and accountability, honesty and trust from the dark days following Vietnam.

So with this impressive history of ethical reform, why is the Army facing a crisis of institutional integrity once again? How could an institution that remains so publicly committed to its values and professionalism routinely accept such dishonest and deceitful behaviors? We believe that there are at least three key reasons.

First, the explosion of information technology has changed not only how the Army fights wars, but how it demands and collects information. When the Army communicated through couriered papers, radios, or even telephones, there were physical and practical limits as to how much information could be requested, collected, and analyzed. The labor-intensive nature of responding to these requirements also limited their profusion, as did the inevitable time delays of an analog world – a single piece of paper could only travel so quickly throughout the bureaucratic system.

Those days are now long gone. Practical limits on reporting requirements for military leaders have disappeared in an era of email, shared digital communications, and unlimited bandwidth (in both combat and peacetime) to accommodate any amount of information instantaneously. Even a young lieutenant at a remote outpost in Afghanistan often has Internet access – and thus can be required to provide multiple daily reports, detailed explanations of past and upcoming operations (often with digital photos), and to complete mandatory briefings and training tasks. Those posted outside the combat zones are doubly inundated with these ever-growing requirements, with no relief in sight.

Second, the careerism that inevitably creeps into militaries after wars – and particularly during inevitable postwar drawdowns – remains alive and well. Zero defects and perfect scores on mandatory training subjects are required to remain competitive with peers in an ever-shrinking force. Being the outlier who reports failing to meet 100 percent of compulsory requirements may be the ethically correct choice, but it may also destroy a career. Furthermore, Wong and Gerras find that senior Army officers are clearly complicit in maintaining the expectations of perfect reporting while knowing full well that such outcomes are simply impossible. This erodes individual integrity and promotes deference to a group culture of duplicity as “the Army way.” In effect, the Army’s senior leaders are condoning systemic lying throughout the service by failing to recognize and rein in the aggregate effects of their utterly unconstrained requirements.

Finally, the corrosive effects of 13 years of combat operations have helped justify a culture of doing what’s needed to take care of the troops, finish one’s combat tour, and move on. The moral compunction to take care of troops in harm’s way by focusing on wartime tasks (planning the next patrol) can readily justify making ethical compromises for bureaucratic compliance requirements (completing sexual harassment training) that never cease, even in combat. The junior leaders forced to respond to these unconstrained demands all too often simply engage in what Wong and Gerras call “checking the box,” “pencil-whipping,” and “giving them what they want.” The military equivalent of the business world’s incessant focus on metrics and measurable markers of performance has further contributed to this often near-mindless collection of statistics from every level, even in the combat zones – even though Wong and Gerras note that few collectors of the information at higher headquarters actually believe in the data they are collecting.

Yet ironically, unlike after Vietnam, the military’s standing in the public square is now unequalled. Year after year, the U.S. military is ranked number one in public confidence among all the nation’s institutions. And by all measures, the all-volunteer force has fought the prolonged and painful wars of the last decade and a half with courage, resilience, and a relatively high degree of professionalism. War crimes and misconduct, desertions and drug use, indiscipline and blatant lying to public officials have been mercifully rare.

Today’s ethical problems may be less obvious or visible than those that plagued the Army after Vietnam, but they are no less serious. This quiet cancer in military integrity can have pernicious effects. The pervasive subtle falsehoods that now seem to affect all Army reporting can have – and may have already had – profoundly harmful consequences.

At the tactical level, Wong and Gerras show that some Army officers fail to accurately report engagements or to request permission for indirect fire, because they see the reporting process as too demanding. Over time, such seemingly innocuous deceptions cause the higher headquarters receiving these reports to consistently undercount violence and overestimate success – thus distorting the entire picture of how the war is unfolding. Moreover, subsequently arriving replacement units will be less prepared to deal with the more deadly realties of the battlefield they will actually inherit when their combat rotation begins. The painted picture will always be far rosier than underreported local reality.

At the operational level, ethical erosion compounded by massive reporting requirements undermines the Army’s concept of Mission Command. Mission Command is the way the Army fights: it espouses decentralized command and control and places great authority and trust in the hands of junior leaders. The profusion of reporting requirements demanded of these same leaders, and the tacit acceptance by senior leaders that reports will be false or inaccurate, undermines the very foundation of trust upon which Mission Command is built. Within the Army, this may be the most dangerous consequence of this silent ethical breakdown – that trust is dissolved between leaders and led, between seniors and subordinates. Such evident hypocrisy among seniors can all too easily drive cynicism to replace critical trust, especially among junior officers. A schism between senior and junior officers rooted in this hypocrisy – where, as one junior officer told us, “the audio and the video of senior leaders don’t match” – will drive leaders of integrity out of the force and may ultimately cause others outside and inside the Army to lose faith in the fundamental integrity of the institution.

But it is at the strategic level where the effects of this erosion of military ethics may be the most dangerous. To take one important example, Wong and Gerras were frequently told that the readiness assessments of partner forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were an example of ethical deception. These critically important assessments rated the ability of Iraqi and Afghan forces to fight on their own, without U.S. assistance. Yet these ratings usually depended more on the U.S. rotational unit deployment cycle than on the actual capabilities of those partner forces. In other words, partner units received low ratings when a new U.S. unit arrived, better ratings over time, and high ratings right before that unit left – only to plummet once again when a new unit arrived. This rollercoaster annual cycle would almost seem comical were it not for the fact that U.S. strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan rested heavily on turning over the battlefield to these very same local national forces. This means that senior U.S. military and civilian decision-makers relied on fundamentally flawed data when assessing the progress towards this critical strategic objective. Thus, their decisions about whether the war should continue or end and at what pace U.S. and allied forces should withdraw were deeply distorted.

Wong and Gerras’ report is courageous, hard-hitting, and damning. It strongly indicts the Army’s top leaders – and, by extension, the nation’s military leaders – for a lack of leadership. They describe an environment where these leaders are turning a blind eye to a tremendous problem that is in plain sight – and one that is obvious to every junior officer in their ranks. Senior Army leaders are insisting on the highest standards of professionalism and ethical standards – the adherence to Army Values – while at the very same time demanding results that drive their junior leaders to lie as the only means of meeting an unachievable miasma of mandatory requirements. Junior leaders must continually violate their integrity to meet the Army’s demands.

Wong and Gerras recommend that the Army needs to acknowledge the problem of preserving integrity in a culture that promotes dishonesty, exercise restraint in generating requirements, and lead truthfully by expecting no more from its leaders than can be actually accomplished. These are certainly worthy reforms, and we strongly endorse their call for a central authority to vet all reporting requirements – something that we’ve described elsewhere as the need for creative destruction.

But these recommendations do not go far enough. Their damning findings cry out for a top-to-bottom institutional soul-searching on the state of military ethics in an era of information and requirements overload. This ethical crisis will not be resolved by another catchy program or new Pentagon office. It can only be addressed by strong senior level leadership, marked by candor and transparency. Junior officers deserve public acknowledgement of the irreconcilable ethical conflicts they confront daily and must participate in building the changes needed to reconcile these impossible tensions. Their leaders must now demonstrate the moral courage to acknowledge the depth of this corrosive problem, to listen and seek advice from their subordinates, and to lead their force to a solution. But most importantly, the nation expects – and deserves – complete honesty and integrity from its military upon which so much of the nation’s security depends. Anything less will ultimately put the nation at risk by deeply eroding the foundations of its future strategic choices.

 

Lt. General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Their column appears in War on the Rocks every other Tuesday.

 

Photo credit: The U.S. Army

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27 thoughts on “Lying to Ourselves: The Demise of Military Integrity

  1. Excellent discussion! The original, fairly narrow study (scores of Army officers, and their lying, or not providing the whole story on an administrative requirements) has yielded a much broader discussion, that of integrity across the entire military (not just Army, not just officers, and not just lying). As the study suggests, most of the lies or omissions were actually conscious ethical decisions to do the best (or least bad) thing based on an otherwise strong moral compass. Not all lies are a failure of integrity. I admire our military and our willingness to critically self-evaluate our integrity. It is a solid affirmation that there is no actual demise in military integrity.

    1. Joepilot, take a step back and listen to yourself. “Not all lies are a failure of integrity.” “…no actual demise in military integrity.”

      Did you read the article? Officers are lying often to try to keep things marginally running. This is leading to leaders getting FALSIFIED OFFICIAL REPORTS, which is undermining our ability to execute military operations effectively. How is that not a failure of integrity? It pretty much defines a failure of integrity–lying in one’s official duties to make things more convenient for one’s self. There absolutely ARE failures in integrity, and it is a huge problem. We may not fail today, but if we let the lies and pencil-whipping continue, people will die and missions will fail.

  2. How about every “gumball” chart done in either Iraq or Afghanistan showing the capabilities of host nation forces? They all graduated to green when a US unit was rotating out, then the new unit would re-asses them back to red. 2nd Kandak in RC East has probably been made green at least 20 times at “Conduct Offensive Operations”…

  3. Very well written article. I retired 15 years ago, and things were bad then. I remember an Air Command and Staff College finding that the greatest challenge to mid-level officers was the constant assault on their integrity.

    Unequivocally the truth. Every officer can cite personal examples. Here are a few of mine.

    One colonel asked me to fudge data for an upcoming IG inspection. I said “no, sir.”

    A 3-star demanded that I pay a “tax” of 5% on funds allocated to my program, so he could pursue his personal projects. This was illegal, and I said “no, sir”.

    A panel including the deputy assistant secdef for special ops and low intensity conflict, and the vice chair of the Joint Staff, asked me to send contract engineers into a highly volatile area without the security forces recommended by the NSA. I declined to do this.

    I also observed many senior officers who were about to retire into lucrative contractor jobs. They would “recuse” themselves from meetings involving a conflict of interest. Funny thing, though – they were still the reporting officials for the underlings who made the contracting decisions….

    Officers who “go along” with this stuff tend to get promoted. It’s almost impossible to describe the wear and tear on officers who don’t.

  4. If anything comes of this report, it will not be a decrease of unreasonable demands by senior leaders on subordinates – it will be a requirement that all junior leaders attend mandatory ethics and values training. The Army does not remedy a problem by easing the pressure. The Army increases the pressure until the valve breaks or the glass cracks. The nail will be put back into alignment and beaten back into place.

  5. The Army as an institution has standards and regulations which are published and easily accessible to anyone. However a lot of them are open ended and the guiding factor is “you can add to but not take away” and the people who keep adding to a regulation have the simple quantifying personnality flaw of being human and wanting themselves to look better to whichever board reviews their yearly evaluation. If you didn’t know all NCOs and officers must have a yearly review which for both sides determines at some point and time how and when they will advance to the next rank, and that goes for all levels. I know the lying exist and yes the Army probably is worse but its also the largest branch of the force so it stands to reason. I’m not saying its right by any means, hiwever, it’s always easier to see the black and white of the matter when you’ve spent no time having to live in the grey.

    1. I take from your argument that you believe it’s quite correct to be a liar and [un]ethical because an annual review is part of the job! How convoluted can ones reasoning be. However, the military is drawn from population with an educational level well below most other so called advanced countries. Additionally: Most military personal are focused upon themselves they are not interested in a statement from JFK “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” The military is simply a cross section from a corrupt and decayed society. God help America.

      1. Can you cite your sources for those stats… go on, I’ll wait. I’m certain the claim that soldiers are mostly undereducated egoists is based on something more than your individual experience.

      2. Reccomend you you review your early 1960’s history. Tens of thousands of young Americans answered JFK’s call by serving voluntarily in the armed forces. It is the JFK Special Warfare Center for a reason.

      3. Exactly! God Help America

        All that recruiting the low hanging fruit in Walmart parking lots in really poor areas instead of going after the best and the brightest is catching up with us now.

        If all you get is dysfunctional people from dysfunctional families then you’ll surely end up with some dysfunctional soldiers in some dysfunctional units.

  6. Perhaps the Army’s senior leadership might reorient the service moral compass (and their own), by remembering first and foremost their utmost duty is to the Constitution of these United States and the American people. This seems a much more appropriate Magnetic North, vice loyalty to the politicians who fund their precious service and branch budgets, and of course order them to war.

    This, perhaps the greatest disservice to their subordinates – at all levels – of which senior Army leaders are guilty…… And of course to the American people.

  7. One report by two War College professors is not enough to indict the whole Army, or the US military profession at large of corruption. I’m sure LTG Barno observed corrupt behavior within the Army during his military career. Such instances have occurred throughout the history of the Republic. Since there are a percentage of dishonest people in the general public, including relatively high ranking/influential ones, why would one assume the military to be different. Just because the public has high confidence in the US military as an institution that performs well, does not mean the military services are free of duplicitous personnel.

    1. Lazarus,

      Agreed…the armed forces and the Army are a cross section of the society from which they fill their ranks. And your logic regarding the fallacy of generalization is unassailable. One or even several examples, do not necessarily a phenomenon make. Yet I can not help but think what is at stake here is more than just the presence in the ranks of shammers, goldbricks, careerists, and any other species of military f&*k up. It seems more about the cultural future of the service. To me, this piece, and the report, althought I have not read it, speak to a culture of acquiescence. Acqiuescing to the very ethics and standards so elemental to the mlitary & Army mission, and of course to military service. When mission accomplishment is required at all costs, the requirements for mission accomplishment perhaps become costly in ways the Army, as an institution, is loathe to acknowledge in itself.

  8. I would say there is a 4th reason for the demise of integrity. The military is a cross-section of our society. When we as a society allow our elected officials to lie regularly and nothing happens to these officials, it is easy to justify doing it yourself. As a retired USMC Sergeant Major I’ve seen Lance Corporals held to higher standard than the highest office in the country! I’m not condoning lying in the military, just providing an observation. Leadership starts at the very top!

  9. The reality is that if all the military senior leaders were forced to endure the scheduled mandatory training that their troops receive, the requirements would likely be reduced. How about have the IG follow around a senior leader to verify that they complete the laundry list of training that we are forced to attend. Another class is not going to fix the problem. Old Army said a behavior was acceptable or not acceptable and there were known and severe consequences for violations which solved the problem. These days I see personnel with a 2 page list of past drug offenses and the command can’t figure out why the individual tested hot after attending the required ASAP training faithfully. Hmmmm…

  10. One of the authors comments talked about the corrosive effect of combat operations creating a mentality of taking care of the troops and mission sometimes in spite of higher headquarters.

    I remember a couple of such incidents: In one case, a battalion wanted to attack a village known to have a concentration of enemy fighters, but wanted to use military deception. Thus an entire conop (battle plan) was submitted to brigade and higher for an attack on a different village! A fairly major aerial bombardment ensued on preplanned targets around the second village– followed by a helicopter aerial assault on the first village! The gnashing of teeth at higher by staff echelons was very amusing in hindsight. But illustrative of the article’s point — had the battalion CC or FSO been honest in his operational plans, it would have been denied as too innovative.

    In another case, the operational vetting process took so long to complete that it essentially became useless. By the time an operation became approved, the intelligence triggering the operation was too old, and no longer valid. So the particular unit involved, ended up creating a parallel universe of false conops. The approved conops would have only partial relation to the actual planned operations that were conducted. The idea was that higher could not deny what higher did not know. This worked out for everyone’s benefit, as the unit got to operate in accordance to its desires, while higher echelons took credit for any successes the unit accomplished.

    All that to say that yes, reporting integrity can get corroded over time when you lose faith in higher through both lack of delegation and support. Once reporting requirements lose contact with reality, then those requirements appear to be something it’s ok to lie about.

  11. Junior officers lie because senior officers levy impossible workloads upon them. Senior officers levy impossible workloads onto junior officers because the military has impossible workloads levied onto it by civilian leadership. In the past decade, the military has transformed from a force that fights and wins the nations wars into a policy Swiss Army Knife, where it can go anywhere to do just about anything on virtually any premise, no matter how misguided. This used to be less of a problem, when we had a policy establishment that anticipated problems and conducted planning, but nowadays politicians are both intellectually lazy and required by news media to leap before they look – a truly dangerous cocktail.

  12. The rot isn’t just in the officer corps; it exists, or at least existed, in the senior NCO levels too. When you have military managers resorting to blackmail, extortion, and threats of false reporting to cover up their own juvenile indescretions, especially in forward operating locations where access to IG or other non-command lines of communication make reporting or investigation of those crimes impossible, then morale and integrity go out the window.

    1. Absolutely agree that the problem is also in the NCO Corps. As someone mentioned in an earlier post, this results from the decision making having been restricted to higher levels. When I was a young Soldier, any Senior NCO was looked at as holding a pinnacle position and immediate obedience and loyalty was essential. Since that time, likely due to reduced standards and faster selections, the trust and responsibility placed in Senior NCOs has declined. At this time, the pinnacle position is really limited to the SGM/CSM level. The personnel expected to handle Army business below that level are rarely enabled by their Commanders to complete that mission. I remember as a young Soldier seeing another Soldier “peel-out” of a parking area, another unit 1SG stopped the vehicle and addressed the issue and reported it to his chain of command. The following day, the redacted summarized Article 15 was posted on the unit bulletin board. These days, unless you have an 8 inch think counseling packet, nothing is done. I would advocate that we, across the military, need to do a better job of identifying these problems and fixing them with lasting changes to Army Regulations and Policies rather than continuing to perform Band-Aid fixes at the local level. There is definitely a reluctance to change, in USA Today there is an article on the Army’s substance abuse treatment program that mentions a well-known issue within the ranks. A certain leader is an outspoken critic of the program’s performance and is then assigned to help fix the problems leading to an “about-face” on the issues now that the individual is the one responsible for the fixes. Sounds just like the ratings downrange – red when you arrive but green when you go and your annual rating is due.

  13. Don Marcos,

    “I remember a couple of such incidents: In one case, a battalion wanted to attack a village known to have a concentration of enemy fighters, but wanted to use military deception. Thus an entire conop (battle plan) was submitted to brigade and higher for an attack on a different village! A fairly major aerial bombardment ensued on preplanned targets around the second village– followed by a helicopter aerial assault on the first village! The gnashing of teeth at higher by staff echelons was very amusing in hindsight. But illustrative of the article’s point — had the battalion CC or FSO been honest in his operational plans, it would have been denied as too innovative.”

    Are you serious???? This is not “reporting integrity”. What you have described is a war crime.
    Deliberately placing fire on known civilian targets, not immediately associated with enemy activity is a violation of the Laws of Land Warfare, and the ROE.

  14. I’d humbly suggest that a central part of the problem is the fact that the military is NOT, in fact, a cross-section of the population. Yes, its big and has plenty of folks from all walks of life, but since Vietnam has become a self-selecting population weighted towards Southern and rural centers of the country.

    Before I’m attacked by my Southern and rural friends, let me be clear: the problem is not that Southerners or country folks are more dishonest than others. Of course not (probably to the contrary). But equally clear should be this: the military has adopted a near zero tolerance ethics code that has no civilian counterpart, while piling on all types of requirements that also don’t have equals in the civilian world.

    All armed forces in peacetime turn inward and it was equally true that, say, the Army of the 1920s and 1930s was NOT a cross-section of America the way the Army of the 1940s would be. But our Army of 80 years ago–while having much in common with the peacetime Army of the 1990s and (likely) the peacetime Army to come–did not have the moral and practical burdens of today’s force (as the article notes).

    No one, especially not me, is suggesting that the answer is to do away with demands for integrity and honesty. Rather, I’d argue the problem rests in the fact that our current crop of leaders and leaders-to-be lack common sense and “intellectual courage” to respectfully question all types of institutional practices (i.e., if an inspection regime is flawed the solution appears to be either to cheat or fail, rather than than change the regime itself). Our pool of future NCOs, FGOs, and GOs needs to be widened in order to find enough voices willing to exclaim that the Emperor has no clothes.

  15. I was commissioned in 1976, took early retirement in 1994.

    The root problem with the US Officer Corps is that trust and loyalty have to be 2-way streets.

    They haven’t been for a while.

    The most egregious break in trust came when JCS allowed piss testing officers. Nothing says ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ like “I have to see the urine leave your body. Sir.”

    Then it was restrictions on alcohol consumption. Well I remember Friday Officer’s Call at the Club, with MPs waiting in the parking lot.

    Parsing rank worn by female officers and rank worn by male officers encourages insubordination towards both (Tailhook).

    Allowing non-line officers (Chaplain’s Corps) to run amok.

    Dissing your President, allowing a radio program that denigrates any person not a White Christian male, sharing classified with your mistress…

    Controlled OER promotions and the secret ‘codes’ for promotion made ‘if you ain’t a fighter pilot, you ain’t sh!t’ the law of the land.

    Makes me just want to jump up and follow you into battle. Not. Frag, maybe.

    Put it together, you end up with a hot mess.

    Loyalty is a 2-way street. Start there.

  16. After 24 years I have seen many changes in the Army. However, at this point, there is so much overprocessing and convoluted processes throughout our military- often fueled by people’s ego and self preservation- that we need an overhaul of the whole way we operate.

    We need a clear understanding of the big picture- and that reality check requires honesty and integrity from the top down. The very people (who if they were honest- would eliminate their own positions and programs for the greater good of the Army and US).

    We ask people to do the impossible with nothing and then resource nonesense that doesnt add value to anyone or anything. The systems and processes we have are creating exactly what they are designed to produce… zero defect (or at least the appearance of zero defect), compromised, impossible, unrealistic, disconnected expectations that no honest, consciencious leader can stomach- so they leave because there is no mechanism to stop the “big machine” or fix these systems and processes.
    Some are still trying to fight the good fight (God bless them)- but many see the point of diminishing returns and decide to focus their energy on things they can actually impact. This has created a gap in leadership on many levels.

    Programs, departments, mandatory training and initiatives are no substitute for leadership. We need to support real leaders and get back to the basics.

  17. Integrity is only as good as it is at the very top of the system, where there is the oath to support and defend the law of the land, The US Constitution. Need said more?

  18. My son was picked from the ranks (Armor) for West Point. My son was recommended by his command. Had to be talked into considering being an Officer. Had every intent to become the best non-comm on the planet.

    In his first semester at the Point I can’t catalog the failings in a single comment.
    Senior Leadership hushed up or failed to investigate rapes, that was plural, that occurred during investigated, unpunished forbidden behavior.
    Senior Leadership was under investigation for their own personal failings.
    Cadet leadership non-comms were largely phoning it in and enjoying time with their families.

    Made a single semester before asking to return to his unit. Over the holidays and second semester he went on anti-depressants.
    Summer, instead of returning him to the environment he performed so well in, they elected to include him in the draw-down.
    By then he was ready too.

    Things are going to happen, humans, even the best sometimes slip. The question is how you deal with it.

    It has to be direct, fair, and immediate.