“We are not a zero defect Army.”
These words, spoken by nearly every military leader, begin the speech which compels subordinates to take risks where necessary, to make decisions when in the absence of orders, and that mistakes will be underwritten by the command. In other words – do your job; we will support you. Failures are a byproduct of development; mistakes are an expected result of growth, and that when neither are accepted, leaders stop innovating.
Innovation is what helps to keep our organization moving towards the future. It is what provides us with the refined equipment, weapons and uniforms that tomorrow’s military will require.
There is just one problem.
The Army is continuing its drawdown and may see numbers dip to as low as 419,000 soldiers. Voluntary separation of service members was not approved, which means that separations will all be either involuntary or at the member’s ETS date. Involuntary separations utilize reduction/retention boards, knows as Quality Selection Boards (QSBs). The role of the QSB is to assess those junior and senior level noncommissioned officers specifically for retention. Officers have their own selection boards, aptly named Officer Selection Boards (OSBs)
On top of these boards, reenlistment timelines have been adjusted. With the reenlistment window currently at 18 months prior to ETS, a service member must make a decision whether to stay in the military or transition out at a very early point. If the window closes, the service member does not have the ability to reenlist afterwards and will be separated on their ETS date. This is a limited timeframe, and any adverse actions on the soldier’s records will prevent them from being able to reenlist.
The final cut is perhaps the most painful one. In order to reduce reenlistments for the drawdown, a MOS that is over strength is limited on the number of personnel who can reenlist during their window. So if there are 100 soldiers in their reenlistment window, but only spots for 38, it is either the person who reenlists first who wins, or the command has to decide whether or not they select one person over the others.
For soldiers, being “the one selected” means making bold decisions. But taking risks and being innovative can be a double edged sword. In some situations it can set a soldier apart in a positive way. On the other hand, if the decision does not pay off, it may negatively impact your position against your peers. Since the ability to reenlist is highly competitive, it is nearly always in the soldier’s best interest to not take these risks.
This creates an environment where leaders will wait to make a decision until they have complete buy-in from their superiors and 100% of the required information. This causes subordinates to not be able to plan effectively as decisions are not being made. The leader changes from the manager who is able to make decisions, to a speedbump in the path of efficiency as they are incapable of making decisions.
The military has to conduct their drawdowns with respect to both talent and capability. It is important to both encourage the application of leaders making decision when faced with incomplete information, and that mistakes and failures that occur as a result should be utilized as learning experiences for subordinates, peers, and leaders as a whole.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.