Best Defense
Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

What happened to TRADOC? (II): Weighed in the Scales

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who received a Silver Star for his actions around Hamburger Hill and a PhD in history from Duke before becoming commandant of the Army War College, has this interesting comment on my Friday post about the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command: You have made some very useful observations about ...

575559_091214_ricks2.jpg
575559_091214_ricks2.jpg

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who received a Silver Star for his actions around Hamburger Hill and a PhD in history from Duke before becoming commandant of the Army War College, has this interesting comment on my Friday post about the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command:

You have made some very useful observations about TRADOC. But really the issue is not TRADOC so much as the state of intellectual capital in the Army. When we overused our equipment in units we “circle x’d” minor faults (then called deferred maintenance). If the odometer or the fuel gauge went on the fritz units deferred maintenance so vehicles could still be driven. Inevitably the fleet melted down under the cumulative effect of neglect over time.  

We are at a similar place now with our intellectual capital. I spoke to a “senior military person” last week about the Army’s deferred learning program at Leavenworth and the War College. So many deferments among CGSC have resulted in the top half of majors being deferred and about a third of the best performers deferred at the War College. The average age at the College has risen from 41 to 45 meaning that the College is becoming a pre retirement experience.

You know that real learning comes from teaching and researching rather than sitting in a seminar. Yet most of these functions are being contracted out to retired officers particularly at CGSC. We have yet to promote our best serving instructors to positions of authority in command and elsewhere.

(Read on)

We are now beginning to see the results. Real influential input to the defense debate is coming from outside the TRADOC community in think tanks and in the occasional periodical piece from officers outside TRADOC and other of the Department’s intellectual institutions. This would be OK except that much of it is infused with passion derived from first hand observation but not very well supported with evidence or constructed with intellectual rigor.

What bothers me most is that outside … a very narrow part of Congress the sense is that no one really cares. The Army is too busy feeding the ARFORGEN beast, and the gurus in OSD are delighted not to be deflected by meaningful input from the services.

So it’s not just TRADOC.

Bob Scales  

I think he is generally right, especially about the intellectual capital problem. (My one quibble is his closing crack about “the gurus in OSD.” In my experience they are beleaguered and overworked, and happy for contributions — as long as they simply aren’t service-centric budget bids.)

So:

  • Does General Scales describe the problem accurately, in your view?
  • If so, what is the solution? 

JoeM500/Flickr

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. Twitter: @tomricks1

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