Do we need so many and such well-paid generals and admirals?

Summary: In today’s post guest author Richard A Pawloski (Captain, USMC, retired) asks some hard questions about the senior ranks of the US officer corps.  The military is the most trusted institution in America, and so has successfully resisted most efforts to reform it — or even slow its growth. Will this change in the future? Tomorrow’s post looks at this in more detail.

Photo from Government Executive


  1. Guest post by Richard A Pawloski
  2. About the author
  3. How many flag officers work for defense contractors?
  4. How many officers do we have vs the past?
  5. For More Information

(1)  Guest post by Richard A Pawloski

(a)  A rant about our senior military officers

“Form should follow function”
— American sculptor Horatio Greenough, 1852

I never saw a sign to that effect or affect on any Pentagon wall.  That is as say to “influence” a design or dream (‘affect) or even serve as the “result” of a design or dream (‘effect’).  We are doomed to our own illusions and those illusions can be lined up on the ramp of the Pentagon in order of price tag and not one will mean anything to the threats facing us now.  The total mobilization of America for WWII was over 8 million in uniform at one time with over 16 million serving during the war (413K deaths).  Some 2500 generals and admirals served with under 1500 at any one time (11 KIA) and under 400 actually in combat roles.  That is a lot of troops for one star.

Numbers from 2005 to 2010 numbers show that the total US armed forces + DoD + reserves has capped under 2.4 million, but during that time the total numbers of flag officers has gone over 1600 with under 500 properly accounted for in force structure.  The ratios of serving soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen to flag ranks has gone from ludicrous to ridiculous and it continues to skyrocket the costs of doing military business. Israel does with 2 cents what we do with a Buck 25.

However deep you want to go and look at it we are at least some three times overpopulated with generals and admirals. Now they have gravitated into their own political entity pointed towards post retirement jobs.  Do they really hold up any part of the system that actually defends the United States anymore or are they as totally biased by potential gains or perverted by deliberate incompetence as the rest of the military-industrial complex is?


What drives them is beyond my understanding, but its not the welfare of the armed forces or the security of the United States.  Their greed and self-serving is only exceeded by that of corporate America.  There are good ones out there, but they are muted as a force for positive change today.

To cut that flag force by 25% would be a good first start for the Pentagon after the cliff is reached. The total savings will amaze us all, probably billions of pampered waste. It should be made retroactive as it brings the benefits in line with what happens to the rest of society and especially the rest of the veterans who have been denied like benefits.

In short – with two wars miserably managed in a corporate style, what have they done for their country? Those that did make a difference, what would they say? “Cut deeper” I suspect.

I was profoundly affected during the dual thrust up the coast to Beirut and then through the Bekaa when Israeli retired general officers showed up in large numbers at aid stations taking care of the wounded and making sure mom got a note home.  In the squadrons they taxied aircraft and helped with the maintenance turns.  All in their pants and shorts not uniforms doing menial tasks but all the time being the force of the older generation there, on scene.

It just makes you want to cry when you walk around the Pentagon today, who wants any of these guys around you today, and for sure most avoid the chance anyway heading for their interviews.  What a world we have become.

(b)  A look at our officer corps

Graphics from General and Flag Officer Authorizations for the Active and Reserve Components: a Comparative and Historical Analysis, Library of Congress, December 2007

(c)  Some Questions

Top generals, admirals can make more in retirement than on active duty, report shows“, Amanda Palleschi, Government Execute, 3 February 2012:

The military’s top generals and admirals can now make more in retirement than they did on active duty, thanks to pension rules that were changed as part of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, USA Today reports. According to the paper’s examination of congressional and federal records, a four-star officer retired in 2011 with 38 years in the military can receive a pension of about $219,600, or 63% beyond what was previously allowed. Three-star officers with 35 years’ experience can receive about $169,000, or 30% higher than they would before the 2007 law was enacted.

Before the change, the maximum pension was based on an officer’s pay at 26 years’ of service, USA Today reports. “Pentagon officials sought to change top officers’ pensions in 2003, records show, over concerns that the military would lose too many experienced generals and admirals during wartime,” USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook wrote.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez {explained} “At the time of this legislation, with the exception of cost-of-living increases, most [of the admirals and generals] were serving for over a decade without increases in salary or retired pay. … The legislative changes provided greater incentive and more appropriate compensation of service for individuals who the department retains beyond 30 years of service, increasing readiness through increased retention”  …

Perhaps we then need to review some simple facts — and questions. We need 2012 data, not estimates based on 2006 era studies and papers because the world has drastically changed in the last 7 years.  There are many questions to be asked.

  1. Where are the congressional/CBO/GAO/etc. 2012 reports and studies regarding the cost of flag officers ? And associated retirement cost?
  2. Does anyone know the current number in 2012 of retired Generals and Admirals (active and reserve) drawing military retired pay?
  3. Does anyone know the projected number ten years from now (e.g. In 2022) of the number of retired Admirals and Generals (active and reserve) who will be drawing military retired pay?
  4. How many total Generals (active and reserve) retire and begin drawing retired pay each year?
  5. What is the projected annual cost and total cost of funding military retirement for flag officers during the next 20 years for just for the Generals and Admirals who are now retired (active and reserve) and also including those (active and reserve) who will be promoted to flag rank and also retiring during the next 20 years? This includes all associated perks and people.
  6. How many years, on average, does a one star active duty general serve before retiring? 3 years? 4 years?
  7. How many years does a 2 star general actually serve at that rank — on average — before retiring at that rank? 3 years ?
  8. How many flag officers actually have combat experience, that is rounds fired their way. Rifleman’s Badge stuff.
  9. And what is his/her retired pay currently? Versus the retired pay of a Colonel/O-6?
  10. What is the annual current retired pay of a 3 star retiring at age 61 with 40 years of service?

In these calculations, important to also include ALL of the Reserve flag officers who also will be receiving retired pay! Try guessing to the nearest hundred million dollars.  Here are some bonus questions:

  1. How many (or % of) retired flag officers also claim “disability” pay ? And is this additional pay in addition to normal retired pay?
  2. How many are awarded disability status by “grateful” SECDEF’s?
  3. How much does a 80% seriously disabled wounded warrior marine (e.g. E-4 rank, 6 years of service, Afghanistan line of service injury) receive in disability pay from the military/VA when discharged back into the civilian world from the military?

Can it be true that no one knows the answer to these questions ?

(2) About the author

Key points about the background of Richard A Pawloski:

  • Captain, USMC: 13 years.  Radar Intercept Officer in F4 Phantoms, Forward Air Controller with 3rd Battalion 26th Marines, Air Liaison Officer with the 21st ARVN, Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course with the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactic Squadron
  • Former Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFO) squadron VX-4/5:  2 years as test coordinator (advanced evaluation notices on SAM/AAA counter tactics)
  • General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F16 Program 25 years, Fighter Weapons Training for 23 countries
  • Regional VP 4 years with Satellite Imagery Co in Middle East
  • Professional staff member, House Armed Services Committee: 2 years
  • Now: Defense Consultant on Force Protection Issues, Forest Air Dragoons Ltd., 9 Seagrave Rd., London

(3)  How many flag officers work for defense contractors?

Post-Government Employment of Former DOD Officials Needs Greater Transparency, 21 May 2008 — Summary:

Department of Defense (DOD) officials who serve in senior and acquisition positions and then leave for jobs with defense contractors are subject to the restrictions of post-government employment laws, in order to protect against conflicts of interest.

… In 2006, 52 contractors employed 2,435 former DOD senior and acquisition officials who had previously served as generals, admirals, senior executives, program managers, contracting officers, or in other acquisition positions which made them subject to restrictions on their post-DOD employment. Most of the 2,435 former DOD officials were employed by seven contractors. On the basis of a stratified random sample of contractor-supplied information, GAO estimates that at least 422 former DOD officials could have worked on defense contracts related to their former agencies and that at least nine could have worked on the same contracts for which they had oversight responsibilities or decision-making authorities while at DOD. The information GAO obtained from contractors was not designed to identify violations of the restrictions.

… However, GAO’s analysis found a significant under-reporting of the contractors’ employment of former DOD officials. … New post-government employment requirements enacted in January 2008 are likely to make written ethics opinions for former DOD officials more readily available to contractors. … This information was not designed to provide a mechanism for DOD to effectively monitor former DOD officials’ post-government employment compliance after they begin working for contractors on specific contracts.

(4)  How many officers do we have now vs. in the past?

Lots more. A mind-bendingly larger fraction of officers, especially senior officers, than effective military services of the past.

  1. PowerPoint presentation by Donald E. Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired) on Officer Manning: Armies of the past.
  2. Officer Inflation: Its Cost to the Taxpayer and to Military Effectiveness, Officer Inflation: Its Cost to the Taxpayer and to Military Effectiveness, Project on Military Procurement, October 1987
  3. More Brass, More Bucks: Officer Inflation in Today’s Military, Project On Government Oversight, 1 March 1998
  4. Important:  “General and Flag Officer Requirements”, testimony of Ben Freeman (Project on Government Oversight) before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel, 14 September 2011

(5)  For more information

Two articles discussing this problem:

  1. Generals Wary of Move to Cut Their Ranks“, New York Times, 26 August 2010
  2. The Pentagon’s Biggest Overrun: Way Too Many Generals“, Dina Rasor, Truth-Out, 5 January 2012

Government Reports discussing the problem:

  1. General and Flag Officer Requirements Are Unclear Based on DOD’s 2003 Report to Congress, Government Accounting Office, April 2004
  2. DOD Could Make Greater Use of Existing Legislative Authority to Manage General and Flag Officer Careers, Government Accounting Office, 23 September 2004

See these FM Reference Pages for all posts about our military:

Other posts about the skill and integrity of our senior military leaders:

  1. The Core Competence of America’s Military Leaders, 27 May 2007
  2. The moral courage of our senior generals, or their lack of it, 3 July 2008
  3. Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military leadership, GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired), 2 May 2011
  4. Rolling Stone releases Colonel Davis’ blockbuster report about Afghanistan – and our senior generals!, 12 February 2012



26 thoughts on “Do we need so many and such well-paid generals and admirals?”

  1. Excellent point. Broadly speaking, the degeneration in the tooth-to-tail ratio of the U.S. military is a serious problem. During WW II the tooth-to-rail ratio was 1:1, meaning one support personnel for 1 soldier in the field. That ratio has today slid down to 2:1, meaning two support guys for every 1 soldier in the field. And the problem is particularly acute the higher you go.

    Moreover, America faces the same problem with higher education where administrative personnel have increased by 60% in just the last 20 years and in K-12 education (up from 50% of staff to 70% of staff in schools today). The pay for fire chiefs and police chiefs is also mind-boggling out of line. Even small towns now typically pay their police chiefs north of one hundred thousand dollars.

    Consider campus police officer Lt. Pike, he of the infamous pepper spraying of the Occupy demonstrators at UC Berkeley. The guy was getting a hundred thousand dollars a years. One. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. That’s more than a full tenured professor at most colleges!

    1. Does that 2:1 support to soldier ratio take into account the large amount of support services that are now performed by civilian contractors?

  2. Many have written on this topic since SECDEF Gates included the GO/FO problem in his 2010 efficiency efforts. However, to make any significant changes, the infrastructure that supports three decades of growth must be reduced.

    G-N added a separate layer of bureaucracy, largely staffed by senior military officers, onto the existing staff of the military services. I address this problem in the latest issue of the Naval War College Review: “Building the Purple Ford“, Robert P. Kozlowski, Naval War College Review, Autumn 2012.
    FM Note: from the article:

    Mr. Kozloski is an efficiency analyst for the Department of the Navy. Prior to this current position, he served as a program manager at the Defense Intelligence Agency and Department of Homeland Security. He is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs.

    1. Thanks for posting this comment, and the link to your article!

      FYI — the website for the Review and the College appear to be down (I get “runtime error” messages when going to that website).

  3. I think it would be interesting and worthwhile for someone to do a historical study on the pay received by top-level officers in the military over the past four decades (if it hasn’t been done already). My theory is that you’d find the pay for generals and admirals began climbing sometime in the mid 70’s.

    Why do I think this? Because that’s around the time when the military eliminated the draft and private-sector subcontractors began performing many of the jobs that used to be performed by soldiers, which is probably also around the time that the defense budget began to grow out of all proportion since private industry is not governed by the rules that apply to the military when it comes to pay. As Thomas More has already pointed out, the ratio of combat personnel to support personnel used to be 1:1 during WWII when many if not most support personnel were military — these days, however, the ratio of combat personnel to support personnel is more like 1:2 and many if not most support personnel are civilian contractors. (Speaking as someone who briefly worked for a governmental subcontractor, part of the problem lies in the fact that we’re no longer just talking about subcontractors to the military, but subcontractors to the subcontractors and so on — because the longer you make the supply chain, whether it’s for materiel or personnel, the more “middle men” there are and the more money needs to be added to the budget because everyone in that chain expects their slice of profit from that relationship.)

    Granted, the government tends to award contracts to those companies which offer the lowest bids for the services needed — but the fact remains that private industry will almost certainly charge more for their services than the public sector because profit is the whole point of private industry whereas this is not true of the public sector (Indeed, the national debt is proof of the fact that the public sector can and indeed often does operate at a loss.) Of course, when a subcontractor is awarded a no-bid contract (*cough* Halliburton *cough*), there is every reason to believe that said company will overcharge for their services simply because they’re able to get away with it

    The reason why I suspect that the pay for generals and admirals began climbing at around the time that the Military Industrial Complex began taking command of our military is very simple. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the generals and the admirals, once they began to see how much money was being paid to the private sector, began feeling envious — especially since there is reason to believe that some of the people in the private sector were being paid more than the generals even though they were (in the scheme of things and especially from the military point of view) playing a less important role. After all, joining the military is not something people usually do when they aspire to be rich…while going to work for a private military subcontractor, especially these days, may actually be a different story.

  4. The problem looks like a widespread malady that affects other countries in pretty much exactly the same way. Witness:

    All the issues with generous pay and benefits, leaving active service to become “consultants” to the government, or join the private sector (especially in the military-industrial complex), etc, seem to be present in all cases.

    1. Thanks for the broader perspective! However, there are large differences between them and US, making our situation more serious.

      (1) Our military is so large a part of our society, making its dysfuctions more expensive. Look at 2010 defense spending/GDP (source: World Bank):

      • France: 2.3%
      • Italy: 1.8%
      • UK: 2.6%
      • USA: 4.8% (understated, not counting spending in DoE and Homeland Security)

      (2) The US public has far more confidence in the US military than any other institution, and far far more than in any other institution of government. This is a pre-fascist condition. My guess is that this is not true in these other nations. Can anyone point to data on this issue?

    2. Indeed, the size of the military in the USA changes the nature of the problem.

      I am not aware of any study about public confidence in institutions that would give figures directly comparable to the ones for the USA. Europeans love to study public opinion, and you can find reports such as these:

      France: {Science Po in french}

      Italy: {Euri spes in Italian}

      I quickly scanned through them — and the military is not even worthy of being listed in the institutions that people are asked to rate (which confirms your point about the singular place of the military in the USA). The police does, and is rated highly (second to hospitals in France, first in Italy). Political institutions (parliament, president, etc) score very low in both countries.

    3. A small correction: the president actually scores highly in Italy. It is the government and the parliament which score very low.

  5. Question for Fabius and the thread:

    To what extent is this bloat in the ranks of flag officers the result of ignorance, on the part of the press or on the part of the public at large, as to how the military operates?

    The relationship of the US citizenry to its military is rather enigmatic. On the one hand, there’s this inordinate trust in the military in spite of its dubious conduct in current wars (e.g., “support our troops” rhetoric). On the other hand, military service is becoming a sort of caste system, with the enlisted recruited heavily from the underclasses and commissioned officers recruited heavily from the children of commissioned officers. I don’t have statistics, but my understanding is that a much smaller percentage of US military personnel had such backgrounds in previous generations.

    Many civilians seem to be in an awkward position vis-a-vis the military, particularly the enlisted. They’re sheltered from military life but realize on some level that the military is composed of their social inferiors and feel guilty about this truth. They have concerns about the behavior of some American troops (e.g., Sgt. Bales in Afghanistan), but their guilt prevents them from being candid about the moral character of military personnel, even when the personnel in question are frankly stupid, antisocial and untrustworthy.

    Fred Reed has lambasted Pentagon beat reporters for being clueless about the military. His critiques ring true to me because they describe a degree of ignorance that is very close to what I’ve seen among my privileged friends.

    1. To what extent is this bloat in the ranks of flag officers the result of ignorance, on the part of the press or on the part of the public at large, as to how the military operates?

      “Systems expand to occupy the known universe” – John Gall

      I think it ought to be impossible, by now, for anyone to not understand the effect of bureaucracy and management expansion leading to top-heaviness. To the extent that these are aspects of general systems, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about military bureaucracy or civilian – there are general observations that should/can be made about efficiency and incompetence, as well as the incompetence-attracting power of opportunity and bureaucratic expansion.

      (John Gall’s book “systemantics” is highly recommended. It’s so good that it’s possible to forget it’s satire/comedy. He explains humorously why it is that as soon a bureaucracy is established its mission changes from whatever it was supposed to be doing, to protecting itself, etc.)

    2. “Military service is becoming a sort of caste system, with the enlisted recruited heavily from the underclasses and commissioned officers recruited heavily from the children of commissioned officers. I don’t have statistics, but my understanding is that a much smaller percentage of US military personnel had such backgrounds in previous generations.” — Aliens In The Family

      What’s a little ironic about this is while this might not have any analogs in American military history, it does have some analogs in European military history (particularly British military history). Sons of the aristocracy who were not fortunate enough to be the firstborn (and who would therefore frequently be ineligible to inherit the family estates and/or titles unless the firstborn son died without heirs) would pursue a career in the military beginning with the literal purchase of a commission as an officer. The higher the rank, the higher the cost of the commission — but potentially, a sufficiently wealthy and/or influential individual could enter the military as a colonel without ever having seen combat.

      According to Wikipedia, there were several reasons for the sale of commissions —

      • it prevented men from the working class from becoming officers (hence maintaining the class system within the military),
      • it actually discouraged incompetence and abuse of power since disgraced officers could be “cashiered” (stripped of their commission without being reimbursed), and
      • it reduced the possibility of a military coup by reserving the higher ranks for those who had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

      Extrapolating from this, it isn’t too hard to arrive at the conclusion that the current trend in our military — as well as being an artifact of the decision to eliminate the draft and rely on an all-volunteer force (with the result that most people who choose to serve do not have many other educational and/or professional alternatives open to them) — is a reflection of the increasing economic inequality in this country over the past few decades and the de facto aristocracy of wealth to the point that our culture is idolizing the wealthy and allowing them far more license than the ordinary working man.

  6. It’s the Iron law of Oligarchy per Michaels (1911) applied to the military. Michaels’ argument is that organization (which a military needs – indeed, it’s what a military is) cannot avoid becoming stratified as duties heirarchicalize; then the inevitable result is that a “top” to the heirarchy is established and then broadens over time. Inevitably we produce oligarchs at the top of every heirarchy.

    Social theories are interesting toys but I do not think they have strong predictive power like you’d expect from a real scientific theory. However, if we roll with Michaels, we should then hypothesize what would break apart oligarchies? I’d offer that in the military, the only thing that breaks apart an oligarchic bureaucracy would be defeat. As long as you’re succeeding, you’re justifying the enlargement of the bureaucracy and the careerists will fill the enlarged positions. When you lose badly – really badly – and a few of the careerists get slaughtered, suddenly the rest of the careerists will realize that they’d rather work on Madison Ave as marketing executives or on Wall St as leveraged buy-out specialists.

    There are so many inevitable comparisons we can make to Rome and the British Empire, that it’s hardly worth doing so. I just finished reading The Battle of Kut – Death of An Army (good book but grindingly awful and you can predict exactly what happens within 4 pages, so the rest is an exercise in temple-clutching horror at British military bureaucracy) and all I can think is that it’s necessary, periodically, to allow the careerists a good chance to weed themselves out.

    Casualty rates among officers in the Napoleonic Wars were high, particularly among the French who led from the front; one has to wonder if there was a correlation between the military successes of Napoleons’ marshalls and the deliberately darwinian structure of the French Army. It’s instructive to note that the army the French fought was the last major army in which officers were able to purchase rank and farm their officerships.

    The British tradition of staffing their mid-rank officer pool from the societal upper-class twits lost them their empire (Winston Churchill was an upper-class twit, in my analysis) Chelmsford, Churchill, Sale, Townsend, etc — purchased commissions and treated “their” soldiers with as much respect and sense as I treated my Airfix HO-scale infantry in countless table-top engagements. At least I knew which men were plastic and which really bled and screamed — the British upper-class twits did not. Roman consuls, toward the end of The Republic, basically bought their armies, as well. And the results spoke for themselves; cases of military competence in ancient Rome, at the highest levels, were conspicuously few and far between.

    In short, I suppose I conclude that careerism is nothing new, which makes it extra super inexcusable that our DoD is not recognizing it as a serious problem and that our Congress did not take steps to do something about it before it was too late. It’s already far, far, too late.

    1. Addendum: I apologize for leaving Lucan and Cardigan off my quick thumbnail-list of upper-class military twits. They’re such perfect exemplars of the species that it’s really unfair to the others to let that stand uncorrected.

    2. Vincent Frattaruolo

      Churchill was a product of Sandhurst, The Royal Military College. From what I understand Sandhurst graduates were not much of an improvement over officiers who bought their commissions.

      1. Vincent,

        While not a skilled military commander, Churchill had some experience at the front lines in the Boer War and WWI (a Lieutenant-Colonel commanding a brigade from 5 January – May 1916). More significant are the military innovations he either invented (e.g., Mulberry Harbors) or pushed through (often against strong opposition) – such as the tank and the conversion of the Royal Navy from coal to oil.

        This is an extraordinary record for a politician. Sandhurst can point to him with pride.

  7. The blogging software doesn’t seem to want to let me post an alternative google docs link to Mr. Kozlowski’s report. “Building the Purple Ford“, Robert P. Kozlowski, Naval War College Review, Autumn 2012.

    Mr. Kozloski is an efficiency analyst for the Department of the Navy. Prior to this current position, he served as a program manager at the Defense Intelligence Agency and Department of Homeland Security. He is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs.

  8. To address the question from Aliens in the Family, it seems to me that Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy best explains the bloat at the top levels of the U.S. military. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any organization there will be two types of people: those who get things done, and those who excel at maneuvering within the organization, and over time the second group will wind up in control of the organization. In the U.S. military this means that those officers who excel at getting their tickets punched will wind up in control, rather than officers who actually excel at winning battles. Ticket-punchers naturally wish to perpetuate the organizational system that got their ticket punched because that benefits them most of all. So there you are.

    With the advent of 4GW and the transformation of war as described by Martin van Creveld, the ticket-puncher have gained a definitive and perhaps permanent upper hand because there is no longer any obvious way to win battles in a 4GW world. General Schwarzkopf is probably the last American military officer who will be able to win a major battle. The results of Desert Storm (as well as the Falklands War) showed all potential combatants that pitched battles using large traditional land armies and traditional surface fleet navies are disastrous recipes for defeat/Pyrrhic victory. From now on 4GW is the way to fight, and it is not possible to win a pitched set-piece battle ina 4GW world, so ticket-punching looks like the only viable career path for a the aspiring 21st century military officer.

  9. This has become a very valuable forum indeed.

    The excessive “numbers” of flag officers has become its own monster as this charmed community has also evolved into believing that they are entitled to enormous benefits and privileges and on top of that a guaranteed free ride to high wealth and prominence in the board rooms and senior positions throughout not only the military-industrial complex but also throughout the whole of the American corporate landscape. With the population of retired flag officers growing so fast there are now very special organizations in and out of official channels that cater to all the needs of an aspiring assemblage of retirees to ensure first that all of their clearances and special accesses are properly updated and maintained since the key to all job appointments hinges on such things.

    Essentially it is the “clearances” that rule-out any and all possible competition by purist or unassociated academics who have not held or applied for such things in their former jobs. This form of exclusion drives the “over-classification” nightmare the whole country is burden with, but it should be clear now that this is really the driver as to why repeated hundreds of times during the past decades –- at least since Cheney became the champion of Halliburton while in the White House -– hundreds of just retired Colonels working under the tutelage of mentoring generals with no real business experience and even less resources could miraculously get sole-source contracts for hundreds of millions of dollars to undertake emergency activities to support the immediate needs of the forces at war paid for out of the unlimited quarterly “supplemental funding bills” (all borrowed) with minimal if any oversight just because these individuals had the clearances that would allow them to be read into the programs under invention.

    If anyone would ask if the clearances were necessary you would be immediately excluded from the access for an answer. The over-population of generals made this and they used this to get themselves and their friends very rich while the wars dribbled on, troops died and were mangled, and of course what was really needed was never provided.

    The case of the JIEDDO – the joint effort to combat the IED’s is the one most perfect example of fraud, waste, and sheer classified over-kill to pad the pockets of thousands and employ a whole flock of retired incompetence at enormous salaries without yet providing anything that would in any way support the troops in these wars to combat the IED threat. All this serves as gifts to retired Colonels and Generals with no experience or resources but with all the proper clearances to start small companies that could bypass the procurement regulations in war time – all for the benefit of the troops – GMAFB.

    Now you must realize we are only scratching the surface but you need an over-population of rank to make this happen properly and smoothly – it is a Ponzi scheme when you get to build the pyramid. It sustains itself because once you have flag rank at the top of organizations it continues to feed the whole budget of the defense establishment. Army divisions not have two general, officers, hell you then need modular large heavy components for them to account for and lead, the Navy needs big aircraft carriers because they contain an Admiral’s staff, small ships would never work. And why the Marines need several four star ranks is beyond me, the Commandant should be at the most a humble combat blooded two-star. And this can go on and it – it all feeds into itself – the massive waste and overkill costing billions of taxpayer dollars with no return on investment.

    I will stop with a note that I contended that the over-population of generals is the key reason we have lost the ability to win wars and on top of that, the combined blindness and incompetence of these almost politically merged flag people has created the real reason we cannot fight a COIN war properly – the failure in preparing and delivering a capable light COIN air component that would bring the 3rd dimension to all those units at the leading edge of the fighting – but this will be developed in a short time.

    Dick Pawloski

  10. Mr.Kozlowski’s report “Building the Purple Ford: An Affordable Approach to Jointness” is well worth reading. As an efficiency expert, he offers many valuable insights that would slash bloat and bureaucratic waste in the American military without damaging our military readiness.

    That said, Mr. Kozlowski’s report contains a remarkable passage: “For the foreseeable future, and until deficit spending and the national debt are brought under control, Defense spending will remain at the center of any serious federal budget discussion.” This passages proves remarkable because to date the political reality of American debates about deficit spending and the national debt remains that neither party has seriously discussed cutting U.S. military spending as a path to debt and deficit reduction. Indeed, during the current 2012 presidential election cycle, both parties compete to see who can increase U.S. military spending faster. Barack Obama’s budget delivered to the House increased military spending last year by 8% while freezing spending in all other government agencies. With a real inflation rate right now of effectively zero, that means an eye-popping rate of real increase in military spending of 8%, or a doubling time of 9 years (meaning that if continued, Obama’s current military spending increases will double the real spending on the U.S. military by 2021). Mitt Romney is even more profligate, with a campaign platform which promises to increase U.S. military spending by 15%. That’s a doubling time of only 5 years.

    I find it extraordinary that efficiency experts working inside the military clearly see the need to reduce military spending in order to address America’s current deficit and debt problems, while essentially all the politicans in Washington D.C. seem to be competing frantically to see how fast they can increase military spending. It seems as though there’s a serious and shockingly huge disconnect twixt reality and policy here, and I wonder if Mr. Kozlowski has any comments about that disconnect.

    It seems to me that this issue looms large because, as Chuck Spinney and William S. Lind have both pointed out, America’s endless pointless foreign wars will not end until the money for the Pentagon’s “self-licking ice cream cone” starts to get squeezed, and so far it hasn’t.

    1. Mr. More,

      Thank you very much for the kind comments regarding my recent article.

      In my opinion, the disconnect comes from the fear of being labeled soft on defense or not concerned about national security. Special interest groups across the MICC could paint any effort to reform the current system or to reduce spending as willingly putting the security of Americans at risk or worse, not concerned about the well-being of the warfighter. The business of defense is vast with many influential stakeholders, each with a great deal to lose if there are any changes to the system. As a nation, we need to have an honest conversation about the real national security concerns facing the US today and in the future.

      Another problem that I’ve noted is the inability to make any significant change in the DoD bureaucracy – the system is designed to defend the status quo by resisting any effort to change. Significant reform, which is sorely needed, cannot be accomplished from within the DoD. The genesis for Goldwater Nichols actually came from the nation’s senior military officer admitting the system was broken and he needed congressional support to fix it. I don’t see any senior military officer stepping forward and given the gridlock in congress, I doubt something similar to G-N could be accomplished today.

      War Fighters, Not Businessmen“, Robert Kozloski, Defense News, 4 March 2012 — “Where Does the Line of ‘Inherently Military’ Fall?”

      An article that you may enjoy is from Defense News on the need to clarify the role of military personnel. As of FY10, $56B/y is spent on military personnel performing commercial work. This is a simple policy change that could result in savings billions each year. Although I received very positive feedback on the article from both civilians and military, no senior official wants to challenge the current system. I think this article dovetails well with the legendary GI Wilson’s work on military careerism.

      Again, thanks for the comments.

  11. Many thanks to Mr. Kozloski for the pointer to his other article. Absolutely astounding. I’m flabbergasted that military personnel are getting paid by the military to in effect work as businessmen. The only justification I can imagine for this practice is that perhaps American business has become so Enronized that civilian businessmen can’t be trusted not to rob the Pentagon blind…

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