IF SOLDIERS ARE BADLY LED, OR DON’T DO INTERESTING THINGS, THEY BECOME BORED AND UNHAPPY
THAT SHOULDN’T BE A SURPRISE—NEITHER SHOULD THE ARMY’S HABIT OF FIDDLING ITS FIGURES TO ACHIEVE A MORE POSITIVE OUTCOME
The U.S. has a serious management problem based upon the notion that authoritarianism is what works best—and that if you have the authority, you don’t have to treat those under you very well. After all, you have the authority.
One way or another, you can force them to do stuff. Power is just that.
In the civilian world, it is accentuated by low pay, job insecurity, anti-social scheduling, inadequate hours, wage theft, excessive CEO pay—and much else besides. And so you get a Wal-Mart—magnificent in some ways—an insult to human decency in others.
It appeals to its customers (Who doesn’t like low prices?) but it treats its people abominably—and has for years.
It breaks my heart to say so—because I have a great weakness for that institution—but the Army is little different. And its people lie because they think defending the Army regardless is the way to get promoted.
It almost certainly is. That is the current culture. Therein lies the tragedy.
More than half of some 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and nearly as many are unhappy in their jobs, despite a six-year, $287 million campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient, findings obtained by USA TODAY show.
Twelve months of data through early 2015 show that 403,564 soldiers, or 52%, scored badly in the area of optimism, agreeing with statements such as "I rarely count on good things happening to me." Forty-eight percent have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs.
The results stem from resiliency assessments that soldiers are required to take every year. In 2014, for the first time, the Army pulled data from those assessments to help commanders gauge the psychological and physical health of their troops.
The effort produced startlingly negative results. In addition to low optimism and job satisfaction, more than half reported poor nutrition and sleep, and only 14% said they are eating right and getting enough rest.
The Army began a program of positive psychology in 2009 in the midst of two wars and as suicide and mental illness were on the rise. To measure resiliency the Army created a confidential, online questionnaire that all soldiers, including the National Guard and Reserve, must fill out once a year.
Last year, Army scientists applied formulas to gauge service-wide morale based on the assessments. The results demonstrate that positive psychology "has not had much impact in terms of overall health," says David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis who served on a scientific panel critical of the resiliency program.
The Army offered contradictory responses to the findings obtained by USA TODAY. Sharyn Saunders, chief of the Army Resiliency Directorate that produced the data, initially disavowed the results. "I've sat and looked at your numbers for quite some time and our team can't figure out how your numbers came about," she said in an interview in March.
However, when USA TODAY provided her the supporting Army documents this week, her office acknowledged the data but said the formulas used to produce them were obsolete. "We stand by our previous responses," it said in a statement.
Subsequent to USA TODAY's inquiry, the Army calculated new findings but lowered the threshold for a score to be a positive result. As a consequence, for example, only 9% of 704,000 score poorly in optimism.
Such blatant institutional intellectual dishonesty (as reflected in the last four paragraphs) defies reasonableness—and is enough to make those who fundamentally support the organization weep.
Who do these idiots think they are kidding—and why is such corrupt behavior tolerated?
But it is—because it is cultural—and so we stagger from one ineffective, tragic, bloody war to another.
Some—a privileged few—get ever richer. Most others suffer, bleed, and die.
American democracy sits idly by.