Yesterday, I wrote about the MICC—the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. Today, I’m going to flesh out my comments on the MICC by turning to the subject of Army generals, and a phenomenon known as “Star Creep.”
Star Creep essentially means an ever increasing tendency for the number of generals to increase—regardless of either the need or the number of troops under their command. In short, there is no need for it.
Simply put, it is an example of cronyism and a way for the boys (and girls) to generate more jobs for themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. It is also a great deal more costly than you might think, because not only are generals well paid, but they rarely travel alone. Instead they come packaged with a plethora of aides and assistants and other staff members—all of whom want to be generals too; and who need to be appropriately housed and watered.
It doesn’t stop there. Generals need suitable posts for generals to go to (after all, they have their dignity to protect) so they have a tendency to set up headquarters—WHICH CAN BE HUGE! We are in thousands here in some cases.
But what do all these people do? In essence, they slow up the process. But why are they there then? Because generals like to command large headquarters. You see the more troops you command, the higher your perceived status—and the more stars you are likely to be given.
Star Creep is unhealthy in a host of ways—not the least of which is that it slows down decision making—a rather fundamental problem in a line of work where (in war anyway) the ability to think quickly and act decisively is crucial.
You might think that Star Creep would be mainly confined to peacetime, when the military have little else to do but focus on but their careers, but you’d be wrong. The senior military’s alarming tendency to obsess about promotion ahead of their primary mission is all too evident even in time of war—and its consequences can be disastrous. As for the line soldiers, who do the actual fighting, they have entirely different priorities. Star Creep is a general officer sickness—and it is contagious and corrupting.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some good generals, and even some great generals, but more to say that the prevailing culture—which encourages such behavior as Star Creep is decidedly unhealthy; and wrong.
Star Creep isn’t confined to the Army. It affects all the services.
The above would be laughable if it wasn’t very real—and if you are laughing, reflect that you are paying for it. Also, it is yet another reason why our track record in war is not what we would like it to be.
A good Army is a lean Army.