Thursday, July 14, 2011

Politically Correct but Deficient

Last month I was invited to a briefing in Washington by a panel of four senior Pentagon officials lead by Paul D. Patrick, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. The subject of the briefing was the much anticipated “Comprehensive Review of the Future of the Reserve Component.” The Review was commissioned by the authors’ superiors and provides a politically and bureaucratically correct answer to those superiors and avoids uncomfortable truths present in the real world outside the Pentagon. In addition it fails to note a number of uncomfortable truths within the Reserve Components. Finally, it fails to include input or interests of two key stakeholders, families and civilian employers.

The authors acknowledge that there was no intellectually honest framework that drove the review such as the Military Decision Making Process or the Ends = Ways + Means model. Thus allowing or ensuring that gaps in analysis would exist and facilitating the presence of confirmation bias and the absence of the inputs and interests of big constituencies
critical to the long term success of the Reserve Components. The review’s Executive Summary states that “Since September 11, 2001, the Reserve Component has convincingly confirmed that it can also provide substantial operational capability – capability that effectively enhances the quality of life of DOD’s Active forces by reducing stress…” This statement seems to ignore the stress on Reserve Component service members and their families and employers as evidenced by high suicide and divorce rates, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, and civilian career interruptions and civilian job loss. It also fails to address the impact repeated deployments has on the retention of high potential Reserve Component officers and senior NCOs. The review also fails to address a host of leadership issues within the Reserve Components such as high failure rates (or failure to take) on physical fitness tests, failure to meet height/weight standards, turnover and attrition, and turbulence due to reorganization and unit relocations.

I asked five questions at the end of the brief. The first four were answered poorly and the fifth, the briefers didn’t even try to answer. That fifth question was “If a rational decision maker/manager in a civilian organization had the choice to promote or hire among two candidates who were equally qualified but one of the two would be lost to him because of deployment as a Reserve Component service member one out of every five years, which of the two would the rational decision maker choose?” I think the answer is obvious and uncomfortable for the purpose of the review.

One closing point…the Pentagon admits that the review cost the American taxpayer more than two and one half million dollars.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who will pay?

One of the critical elements of the strategy for Afghanistan laid out by President Obama last week is that the United States will train and equip an Afghan army and national police force that can defend and secure Afghanistan after 2014, thus allowing U.S. forces to leave. To date, this effort has been marginally successful as it is faced with corruption, desertions, illiteracy, and Taliban infiltration. Assuming, optimistically, that this Afghan force can be established, its annual payroll will be around $11 billion per year. The total tax revenue of the Afghan government is approximately $1.5-2.0 billion per year…a $9.0 billion shortfall. While the U.S. is laying off policemen, firefighters, paramedics and teachers in its own cities and considering reductions to U.S. service members and retirees pay and benefits to reduce the defense budget, who do you think will be paying this $9.0 billion to Afghan soldiers and national police into perpetuity? The argument will be “We spent all that money to create the police and military force. We can’t just walk away from it now.” Perhaps NOW is the time to ask this $9.0 billion question.