Best Defense

Jargon watch: USMC personnel edition

One rule of thumb I have is that the more a military specialty is removed from combat, the more obscure its language becomes.

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One rule of thumb I have is that the more a military specialty is removed from combat, the more obscure its language becomes. And so personnel officers contend with acquisition officers for the most impenetrable prose — “procurement bow wave,” “familiar sinusoidal defense budget pattern.”

I mention this because the May issue of Marine Corps Gazette carries an article that uses phrases I haven’t encountered in 26 years of dealing with the U.S. military. My favorite of this new formulations is “unfavorable rank gradient.” What it means is that there are too many older officers and not enough junior ones in Marine aviation. Indeed, write the authors, “our total actual inventory for aviation officers is 47 percent field grade.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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