Best Defense

Fixing the Army (II): Let’s downgrade 4-stars and end the regimental system

While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on November 18, 2011. By “Petronius Arbiter” Best Defense department of Army affairs Institutional Downgrade all Army general-level commands to LTG commands. ...

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr.com
Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr.com

While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on November 18, 2011.

By “Petronius Arbiter”
Best Defense department of Army affairs

Institutional

  • Downgrade all Army general-level commands to LTG commands. CSA and VCSA would be only 4-star generals in the Army. Army Generals serving in COCOMs could be 4-star. Doing so would help empower the CSA as the commander of the Army. The Army is roughly 60 percent the size it was in the Cold War, but with near-same institutional structure and greater rank structure. If there is concern that 3-star corps commanders could not work for 3-star major commanders, it worked well in WWII. There just needs to be a pecking order of 3-star generals. They will know and they will understand and being the professionals they are they will work together. This would greatly assist in streamlining the Army structure. For every star there is a needed staff of military and civilians to provide staff work. This reduction would greatly streamline the Army and would make it more efficient, taking out layers of bureaucracy.
  • Downgrade existing Army special staff billets from LTG to MG, example Dir Army budget to MG, etc. Leave principle Assistant Chief of Staff, G1 to G8 alone. Other services may have to do same in order for Army to compete in the Pentagon.
  • Now that the National Guard Bureau has a 4 star seat on the JCS, insist that the NG replace “U.S. Army” on the uniform with “Guardsman.” They are now close to the 6th service. As such, reduce or eliminate Title 10 support to the NG. All NG budgetary and personnel issues should be Title 32.
  • Refer to Soldiers by rank and not pay grade, not all Sergeants are Sergeants; PV1/2 are Privates, SSGs are Staff Sergeant, MSGs are Master Sergeant, etc, and LTCs are Lt Colonel and Colonel (06) are Colonel. Refer to no one as a pay grade. It is disrespectful to do so. No professional wants to be called by or referred to as a pay grade.
  • Expedite soldier valorous awards so that heroism is recognized rapidly. Over three years to award a MoH is absolutely ridiculous, especially in this information age with fast moving communications. Sgt. Basilone, WWII USMC, along with three others, received his MoH 7 months after his action while still serving in the area of operations and they had no internet. The latest USMC award of the MoH took two years to approve. Even that is too long. If it is the veracity of the action that they are concerned about, I think history will tell you that war stories get more questionable with age. Go with the witness statements at the time of the action, not months later. They will be more accurate.
  • Assess the necessity for the manning of the Acquisition Corps (AC) with senior officers as is currently staffed. May be wrong here but the AC seems terribly top heavy. This must be a product of industry only wanting to deal with GOs or senior officers, otherwise lower level officers could easily accomplish the task. Do all those contracting GOs count in the AC and what do contracting commands command?
  • Acquisition Corps (AC) officers should not be the requirements generators for developing systems. A tanker should develop a new tank rather than an AC officer who wears Infantry brass from a long ago experience. An AC officer wearing MI brass should not be the principle developer for Infantry weapons systems. There are many, many examples of how this should not be done. Knowledge and hands-on experience are the key ingredient in developing new materiel, not knowledge of programmatics. Build in the programmatic experts into the system but not at the requirements generation level.
  • What does the regimental system do for our Army? Either give it a function or eliminate it. It means little to most Soldiers. Only value I see is to give some old General, Colonel or Sergeant Major some honorary position in his waning time.
  • Since 75th Ranger Regiment is not an Infantry Regiment do not allow Infantry personnel in that organization to declare 75th Infantry as a regimental affiliation. But, if we eliminate the Regimental system from a personnel perspective, don’t have to worry about this. This may only be applicable to officers as most enlisted men in 75th Ranger Regiment stay in that organization until they are very senior.
  • Re-instill drill and ceremonies so that units can at least have confidence in unit abilities to conduct a pass in review at ceremonies. Oh, and when supervised properly, it is a tremendous discipline builder and junior NCO developer, but most officers don’t know that. It is a great way to instill confidence in NCOs and discipline in Soldiers. A lost trade I think . . . unfortunately, and still needed.
  • Settle on a uniform set and let it alone. There are great frustrations in the Army the last several years over this. In particular, the combat uniform has seen 4 versions in 10 years and they still can’t get it right. The dress uniform is a real joke, especially the Class B uniform. Even the GOs gripe about it. 2 CSAs agocould have stopped it but he did not. His predecessor made so many horrific decisions about everything, especially uniforms, that the Army has been unstable ever since. I guess the bottom line on uniforms is there are no standards. Think CSA Dempsey was on his way to fix all those items but he was there only a very short time. He would have fixed it.
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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