Friday, January 31, 2014

Cheating, Misconduct and Toxic Leadership: Chronic Problems Today?

The media has been abounding in negative stories about the climate in today’s military. The Air Force Officer Nuclear Cheating Scandals (see: and ), General Officer Misconduct (see:   ) and issues of toxic leadership (see:  and  ).

Today’s military has earned the respect of the general US population even though smaller and smaller segments of that population seem to have direct experience with the military. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been brought home as never before due to the relentless OpTempo of deployments and redeployments.

Pending budget cuts, RIFs and other action are putting pressure on the services and their components to compete for declining budgets. 

What does this mean for the MISO force?

Frankly it means that Officers and their NCOs need to work together as never before. The bond of trust that had been taken for granted in most military circles apparently needs to be renewed. Officers need to lead by example while CSMs and 1SGs need to mentor and coach as never before. 

Today’s force has been tempered by repeated exposures to combat. This means they have developed a no “BS” mentality and their views cannot be simply brushed aside because of rank. Today’s junior NCOs in particular have been put in positions of responsibility that their non-military peers cannot perceive. The Officer Corps for its part must buffer the troops from the machinations of Higher HQ.
This may mean expressing candid views within the chain of command (behind closed doors of course) and to be the voice of common sense and advocate for troop mental and physical welfare. 

Staff officers bear the responsibility of bringing bad news to the boss in a timely manner and of being the voice of reason in the face of ludicrous demands from Higher. This is not an easy role and one that Majors in particular will find challenging. Nevertheless this is a responsibility that must be shouldered.

Being the CDR is an honor and a privilege. CDRs have to lead by example and be their soldiers’ advocates in the halls of Higher HQ. The coming years will be challenging, hopefully the MISO community is up to the task and will be recognized as head and shoulders above the other branches for their leadership in the face of mental and fiscal adversity.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Garrison MISO: More Dangerous Than Afghanistan?

The January 19, 2014 edition of the NY Times featured an article entitled  “After Years at War, The Army Adapts To Garrison Life” (see: 

Unlike some of the topics I’ve posted about over the years, I have had significant experience with the conflict versus garrison mentality.

When I attended ROTC Summer Camp in 1968 the training focus was on getting us cadets ready to be 2 LTs in Viet Nam. Training was rather primitive compared to today’s world of simulations and on-line learning. There was also no such thing as gender equality or even sensitivity. I can still recall the picture up top (photo source: Wikipedia) being used as a training aid for mortar emplacement – don’t even ask.

Fast forward to my first Reserve Command, the 519th ASA Company in 1981 and the emphasis was on paperwork. Paperwork such as the monthly copier report, the Oil Analysis program and what seemed like an incredible sea of endless, meaningless reports.

Training time and resources were minimal and those actually where the days of two weeks a year active duty. Range time was actually something to look forward to since it was an infrequent occurrence.

Bringing this forward to MISO today. Iraq is over (for the moment anyway), the withdrawal from Afghanistan is under way and the budget clashes are ensuing. 

Rather than pontificate what the “Big Army” or SOCOM should do – let me offer some ‘old guy’ advice to Group, BN and Company Commanders.

Of course you have to appease your higher echelon masters with accurate and time responses to their requirements, but you also have a responsibility to your troops. As the CDR you are the readiness and morale champion. You need to blend the crap that comes with garrison life with mission critical and combat survival skills realistic training, and you will have to do this under budget constraints.
I found that junior officers and NCOs are far more creative than you might expect. Given that most have been deployed, the know what the job is like under stressful conditions and should be able to come up with some cost-effective, yet creative and challenging training that you can include in your activities.

Unfortunately we never get to pick the when or where of our next conflict. We always seem to train to the last one as they say. However, we know a few things:
1.       The next conflicts will likely be in the Middle East, Africa or perhaps Latin America.
2.       Target audiences are likely to range from highly sophisticated and technology savvy to illiterate.
3.       The political wisdom of when to use the military and more importantly when not and when to disengage continues to elude the executive and judicial branches.
4.       Conflicts are very likely to be active MISO first, available reserve MISO next and depending on the extent and need – more reserve MISO.

Hopefully our future conflicts will be minimal, however, we can’t take that chance and it is up to the Troop Leaders to insure that realistic and challenging training is as much a part of tomorrow’s garrison life as painting rocks white was a part of garrison life in the past.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Air Force Total Air Force Task Force – A MISO Model

In a way I have always admired the Air Force. They always seem to have the best bases and they never seem run out of money. The Air Force has also seemed to have the inside track when it came to IT and Cyber. The notion of a high level, impartial task force to sort things out makes so much obvious sense to the outsider, but not necessarily to those on the inside.

The rivalry between components (Active, Reserve and Guard) is  constant and perhaps like the rivalries between sports teams, only reaches a crescendo when something important is at stake like a championship. The troubled history of the MISO Army Reserve Force is a case in point.

The time would be ripe for such a move for MISO because just as a playoff will heighten the rivalries between sports teams, budget shrinkage and lack of active conflicts has the same effect as a playoff with the various teams vying for a better position over the others. The conflict centers on who can get more funding, not on how the job can be done better.

The Air Force approach, while still needing to prove itself, seems to be a more effective way to sculpt an effective force and optimize budgeting across that force than does the conflict over MISO that exists among SOCOM, Active and Army Reserve Components. If we throw in the fact that MISO resources are found in other services and that MISO needs to be coordinated across other Cabinet Departments such as the Department of State, it seems that a Task Force Approach might be the right answer.

This task force should actually start with a top down look at the “Influence” components across government and create the first Influence Strategy which could then be implemented across governmental resources.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Congress Renews Efforts to Kill COCOM Websites

Citing an April 2013 report (which has yet to be released to the general public), Congress “calls for the end of the $22 million Trans Regional Web Initiative” according to USA Today (see: Overview of the solicitation for the services can be found at:

Essentially Combatant Commanders (COCOM) such as the Central Command (CENTCOM) and Pacific Command (PACOM) developed websites which were intended to directly support the COCOM CDR’s initiatives in the region. The General Account Office (GAO) asserted in its report that these efforts were not effective partially because they were not well coordinated with other US (read that State Department) efforts.

This strikes me as a good decision.

From what I can tell, most successful influence population efforts have been bottom up. This is particularly true in situations where the countries in question are rural, tribal and/or heavily illiterate as is the case in Afghanistan. Top down campaigns orchestrated by 4* Commands through intermediaries is not likely to be very effective.

If the Trans Regional Web initiative was targeted against high level officials, the elite, diplomatic corps, academics, etc. then it was a battleship seeking to destroy a row boat – meaning that the website is not the optimal nor most cost efficient means to reach that audience.

I have often lamented the lack of a National Influence Strategy and this most recent debacle confirms the need for such a document as guidance to DOD and the Department of State for them to harmonize their influence efforts.

Another interesting angle is the ineffectiveness of US Public Diplomacy ultimately rests with the President and the Secretary of State, perhaps the Republicans will latch on to this as a plank in their platform to defeat the Democrat’s most likely Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State.

Photo: Africom by keyword from