Summary: The great expansion of the US military, begun by Reagan and boosted by GW Bush after 9/11, has shifted into retreat due to the lack of threatening great powers and the end of our mad occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now begins the equally fierce papers war to determine what gets cut in our vast armed forces. Experience suggests that our dysfunctional military will cut muscle, not fat.
This is the second in a series about the leadership of the US military, the people who will determine the effectiveness of our military in the ago of 4th generation war. (1st of 2 posts today.)
“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
— Opening sentence of “Parkinson’s Law“, The Economist, 19 November 1955. He describes Britain’s creation of “a magnificent Navy on land” to replace its fleet.
Parkinson wrote using data from long ago. Let’s shift forward to today, with a recommended reading about our billion-dollar-per-year national defense system: “Pentagon bureaucracy grows as troops are cut” by Tara Copp (Washington Examiner, 25 January 2015). To understand this strange but sad phenomenon we have an analysis by a guest author with experience in these matters..
“Why does the force continue to grow?
Because the tail wags the dog.”
By Danny Hundley (Colonel, USMC, retired).
During the 8 years I worked in Manpower (Officer Assignment Branch) at Headquarters Marine Corps I helped develop the Joint Duty Assignment Management Information System. I know that if the military did not have some of the best Manpower processes in the world, the bureaucracy would be much worse than it is now.
So how is the tail is wagging the dog? Manpower is being cut by the bureaucrats without regard to mission. The services attempt to take into account the mission requirements when making cuts but the Congress does not. It just says cut. Also, the Congress continually legislates new requirements that necessitates growing staff to answer the mail. For example, when Goldwater-Nichols became law, the Congress had many requirements for annual reports.
These reports were never required before. To make matters worse, many of the reports required the services to keep data that it had never been required to keep before. Goldwater-Nichols was many years ago but the politics and off-the-cuff requirements still come faster than any physical capability to react. Anyone who understands what is required to maintain proper personnel requirements to meet mission, knows the ability to do a mission is easily destroyed when manpower cuts are required without sufficient time to determine impact to mission.
We can tear down proper manpower structure for military organizations much more quickly than we can build it, especially when we do not properly consider standing down mission requirements as we cut.