General Sullivan is Right and Wrong!

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.

Pogo_-_Earth_Day_1971_poster

About keydet1976

Retired as a Colonel in the United States Army after 33 years of service. Graduate of the VMI, MA in History at JMU, completed course work for Ph.D in History University of Tennessee.
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6 Responses to General Sullivan is Right and Wrong!

  1. Erik Harris says:

    In Canada we use the five para order format, but it still inevitably ends up being long and full of details which no one cares about, or doesn’t bother reading when they do, because it is just easier to ask someone in the know. Is there a good reference or guide to the American five paragraph order format, I would like to compare the two versions and see what differences there are between them. I don’t even remember the last time I heard someone talk about mission orders other than in a bitch session about how they are non-existent in practice.

    Like

    • vmijpp says:

      Many thanks for chiming in from north of the border, we love our Canadian brethren!

      Do an internet search– I just did one and dozens of links will pop up. I expect also that Tango 76 will chime in. 🙂

      Like

  2. keydet1976 says:

    The Senate version of the NDAA will help with General Officer Bloat, they are talking about service specific four stars, not sure if the limit on three and two stars is service specific. Here is the link go to page 118 and read the language.

    ‘‘§ 525a. Distribution of commissioned officers on ac16
    tive duty in general officer grades and
    flag officer grades after December 31,
    2017
    ‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of the applicable
    limitation in section 526a(a) of this title on general and
    flag officers on active duty, no appointment of an officer
    on the active duty list may be made after December 31,
    2017, as follows:
    “(1) In the Army, if that appointment would
    result in more than—
    ‘‘(A) 4 officers in the grade of general; (Does not include the Chief; he is counted against the Members of the JCS total, so that would be four in addition to the CSA.)
    ‘‘(B) 23 officers in a grade above the grade
    of major general; or
    ‘‘(C) 62 officers in the grade of major general.
    ‘‘(2) In the Air Force, if that appointment
    would result in more than—
    ‘‘(A) 4 officers in the grade of general;
    ‘‘(B) 20 officers in a grade above the grade of major general; or
    ‘‘(C) 52 officers in the grade of major general.
    ‘‘(3) In the Navy, if that appointment would result in more than—
    ‘‘(A) 4 officers in the grade of admiral;
    ‘‘(B) 17 officers in a grade above the grade of rear admiral; or
    ‘‘(C) 42 officers in the grade of rear admiral.
    ‘‘(4) In the Marine Corps, if that appointment
    would result in more than—
    ‘‘(A) 2 officers in the grade of general;
    ‘‘(B) 9 officers in a grade above the grade 24 of major general; or
    ‘‘(C) 16 officers in the grade of major general.

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  3. And the Stryker wasn’t a new vehicle even when it was fielded–it was an old off the shelf design that got resurrected when the Army was desperate for a system–in that regard, it’s sort of like the Marines’ Osprey–killed under one SecDef and brought back to life under another. I would say we’ve done almost nothing right in terms of major systems since the Big 5.

    Like

  4. DaveO says:

    The inability of officers to communicate through writing was the reason I switched from History to English. I’ve gotten more mileage out of the written word than any other area of study. Except History, which is a guilty pleasure.

    Like

    • burkemblog says:

      I switched to English from History my rat year because I could sleep in the English dept library between classes–as a history major, I couldn’t use their dept library until I was a first classman. I have never looked back–some days, however, I wish I had been an art history major, which was luckily not a choice at VMI–though I took every art course offered. I would have been unemployed in a whole new way. At least English majoring got me to grad school and to the job I have now.

      Like

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