Yet again the public has discovered that our Army has difficulty retaining good people. A big story, but only in the sense that Columbus discovering America was a big story. In both cases, the thing discovered was already there for a long time, had been repeatedly “discovered” — and the discovery was only one incident in an important and larger process.
- “High-Profile Officer Nagl to Leave Army, Join Think Tank“, Washington Post, 16 Jan
- “Why is the Army losing so many talented midlevel officers?“, Fred Kaplan, Slate, 16 Jan
- “John Nagl has left the building“, Philip Carter, Intel Dump, 16 Jan
- LTC John Nagl to retire, Abu Muqawama, 16 Jan
Esp note this: Army Effort to Retain Captains Falls Short of Goal, Wall Street Journal, 26 January — subscription-only:
“The program persuaded 11,933 captains to commit to additional Army service, short of the 14,184 goal. The military will pay out more than $349 million in bonuses to the officers who took the incentives. All told, 67.6% of those eligible for the program — which offered officers cash bonuses of as much as $35,000, the ability to choose their next assignment or military-funded graduate school — agreed to serve another one to three years in the Army.”
LTC Nagl leaving is a loss to the army. The departure of so many of the Army’s top COIN experts is bad. But these represent only the surface of a serious problem. Zenpundit digs to find a more serious issue in his post Canaries in the mineshaft:
Nagl is merely the well-known face of an ominous trend. When an institution – be it military, educational, corporate, civic, religious – reaches a point where it is merely a farm team that regularly sends it’s best and it’s brightest elsewhere then it is an institution on it’s way out.
Even this does not go to the core: the Army’s senior leadership has known of this critical weakness for over a decade and still not seriously addressed it. Only a very sick institution does not respond to serious problems after their discovery. In The Army’s greatest crisis I give links to seven major reports over three years (2000 – 2001) about this. Nor were these the first, as the issue was well-known in the late 1990’s, and probably before that.
Unfortunately these recurring waves of articles, like today’s about LTC Nagl, seldom place the problem in context as a long-standing one resulting from deep structural causes. Hence no easy fixes.
For more information
Other posts in this series:
- The Army’s greatest crisis, 7 January 2008
- The Army is losing good people. That is only a symptom of a more serious problem, 18 January 2008
- A look at the gradual decay of our armed forces, 28 December 2009
For a wealth of information about this topic see the FM Reference Page An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports.
For descriptions of causes and possible solutions I suggest reading Donald Vandergriff’s many articles and books: