THE THEME EXPRESSED IN THE FOLLOWING---BASED UPON OTHER STATEMENTS—WOULD SEEM TO APPLY TO ALL THE SERVICES.
IS IT ACCURATE?
I SUSPECT IT IS.
The officer quoted below is Anna Granville.
I love the Navy, it has been an honor to serve, but I want this incredible organization to be better.
Officer promotions are not, at least for the foreseeable part of a junior officer’s career, based on performance, but rather on “hitting the wickets,” meaning that you are judged by how closely you followed a highly-scripted career path, not necessarily how you performed at those jobs.
As long as you don’t get fired, don’t fail a physical fitness test, don’t get a DUI, nor get caught fraternizing, you can probably get promoted to at least lieutenant commander. Furthermore, how you are ranked against your peers at a particular command — of the paramount importance to promotion — is based more on seniority than performance.
This model is widely accepted as the norm in the Navy. This means that if you are a brand new lieutenant and outperform all the lieutenants at your command, you will really be ranked against the lieutenants with the same level of seniority as you; a lieutenant who is eligible to board for lieutenant commander will always be ranked ahead, even if that officer is incompetent.
There is a wide reluctance to give lackluster officers poor performance reviews, and instead it’s much easier to wait for mediocre officers to transfer out of the command and become someone else’s problem. There is a reason people joke that anyone who “fogs a mirror” can make lieutenant commander.
This encourages mediocrity and almost guarantees that the best, most energetic junior officers to leave active duty. I’ve worked for some absolutely incredible leaders and mentors, but I’ve worked for or with three times as many bad or mediocre leaders. It’s certainly a leadership lesson, but it’s incredibly demotivating to know that your peers who are putting in half the effort at a less challenging assignment will likely get promoted at the same rate as you. This begs many to ask, What’s the point?
While it may be true that those who outperform their peers are promoted first for commander or captain, does it really make sense to tell junior officers, “Don’t worry, your efforts will be rewarded in about 15 to 20 years?” when their efforts can result in more responsibility at a much younger age, whether or in the public or private sector?
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, was elected to Congress at age 31. Yet, despite being a nationally elected leader, she remains only a captain (the Army equivalent of a Navy lieutenant) in the Hawaii National Guard. Here on Task & Purpose, there are daily stories of entrepreneurial and visionary veterans who have started successful businesses or nonprofits.
And for the junior officers who find themselves filling big shoes early on, where is there to go? Many of my peers, myself included, have found ourselves filling the shoes of a field-grade officer for months on end, with measured success and no extra pay. Others have been assigned to units with exciting, unconventional missions. It’s very difficult to go to a watch floor or staff job after that.
The U.S. is the most powerful nation militarily in the world—by far—yet we have a pretty miserable track record when it comes to actually winning our wars. In fact, our mediocre performance in this area goes as far back as the Korean War which started 65 years ago—and, technically, still isn’t over.
Why do we achieve such poor results? The military like to blame politicians for getting us into the wrong wars in the first place—and they certainly have a point—but the military, themselves, are far from blameless. They also have a habit of not learning from history—the military culture is, by and large, anti-intellectual—so tend to make the same mistakes again and again.
A core problem is that our officer corps is not nearly as good as it needs to be—and the above piece helps explain why. Since the officer corps is the source of all our generals, it is not hard to see why so many of our generals are mediocre too.
This is a known problem (see Tom Rick’s book The Generals—not to mention their track record) )which we are doing nothing to resolve. It helps to explain why we get into the military messes we do—and have an extraordinarily hard time getting out of them. We certainly do have some good generals—but they are the exception rather than the rule.
A few good generals are not good enough. The rank is so critical, we need exceptional generals—and fewer of them—with a great deal more moral courage than is generally evident today.
There is a worrying extra dimension to all this. The MICC (Military, Industrial, Congressional Complex) benefits greatly from our seeming inability to resolve conflicts—so likes things just the way they are.
Mediocrity in the military pays. Following the money explains most things in the U.S.
Money is a fine and useful thing but it works best when balanced out with values. By and large, we seem to have chosen to ignore that fact.
The consequences are apparent.
VOR words 243.