General (retired) Gordon Sullivan is stepping down after almost 20 years as President of the Association of the United States Army. Before being President of AUSA he was the Chief of Staff of the Army who had to draw down the cold war Army. He has served the nation well and faithfully. In his exit interview in the Army Magazine he laments that the Army has changed but not for the better.
While I agree the Army has changed and it may not be the same Army I entered in 1976, the changes are both good and bad.
- We have a combat seasoned Non-commissioned officers corps. A group of NCOs who know what it is to take soldiers into combat and bring them home alive.
- Our junior officers are perfectly capable of independent operations having done so at the platoon and company level; hopefully they will not micromanaged to death as we return to a garrison Army.
- We are a more diverse Army that the one I entered; it looks like America; except there ain’t no rich kids in the ranks, the Army is primarily drawn from the lower middle class and the poor. In that respect it does not look like America.
The way the Army has not changed for the better:
- Our Senior leaders and NCOs are trapped by group think.
- The Army has only successfully fielded one major weapons system since the big five—the Stryker. The Comanche was in development for fifteen years and never fielded in part because every leader wanted to hang something else on it. Future Combat System a money pit. We will see if it gets any better.
- Every Chief of Staff has to rewrite FM 3.0 or as it is known now ADP 3.0. No one knows what is it for if they can’t get the Cliff Note version from a powerpoint slide they don’t bother.
- The Army turns out reams of paper and orders at all level that no bothers to read. No one can write a simple five paragraph mission command order (despite our belief we use Mission Command). Even at the battalion level they are too long and contain information that is never read and is not important.
- The Army has not ended the scourge of sexual assault. We have programs in place that make people feel good but do not change attitudes.
- You can’t turn around without bumping into a General Officer; we have too many and they muddle rather than clarify what we are trying to do.
- We have become obsessed with powerpoint.
- The Army can’t write. Despite what the Army says it does not want critical thinkers for they may tell the emperor he is buck naked.
- The Army is no longer capable of fighting tonight despite it claims; before a unit can go it must have an CMTC rotation and a Warfighter then it will arrive five or six months after the combatant commander wants it.
- Every SMA thinks they must make a uniform change. I have a suggestion no uniform changes for ten years. Wearing the Garrison Cap with a short-sleeve shirt looks stupid—the beret or if you want to get rid of it—and overseas cap look better.
- The Army cannot simply communicate why we need an Army—and its message changes every week.
General Sullivan is right to be critical of the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administration; he is right to be critical of Congress, but he forgets the biggest enemy is the Army itself. Like Walt Kelly’s Pogo, the Army has seen the enemy and it is us.