Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

OK, here is how to cut off zipper problems once and for all — end their jobs, too

By Capt. John Byron, USN (ret.) Best Defense department of harassing sexual harassers The other day, the Washington Post tallied over two dozen cases of general and flag officers who’ve recently gotten across the breakers for conduct not worthy of an officer. The article notes that two defense secretaries in a row have called for thorough investigations ...

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By Capt. John Byron, USN (ret.)
Best Defense department of harassing sexual harassers

The other day, the Washington Post tallied over two dozen cases of general and flag officers who've recently gotten across the breakers for conduct not worthy of an officer. The article notes that two defense secretaries in a row have called for thorough investigations of the situation and doubtless there will emerge a call for more ethics training and sterner punishment of the miscreants. No argument these measures are worthwhile, but they've been applied before and the situation gets worse. 

I've a more practical solution to add to these commonplaces. And in addition to attacking the primary problem, my proposal will also help solve a second and perhaps related issue, that of too many flags overall. Let's do this: Whenever a general/flag officer is removed from his position (damned few women, if any, in this corps of cads), the position also be eliminated. That's right: body and billet both be gone. 

By Capt. John Byron, USN (ret.)
Best Defense department of harassing sexual harassers

The other day, the Washington Post tallied over two dozen cases of general and flag officers who’ve recently gotten across the breakers for conduct not worthy of an officer. The article notes that two defense secretaries in a row have called for thorough investigations of the situation and doubtless there will emerge a call for more ethics training and sterner punishment of the miscreants. No argument these measures are worthwhile, but they’ve been applied before and the situation gets worse. 

I’ve a more practical solution to add to these commonplaces. And in addition to attacking the primary problem, my proposal will also help solve a second and perhaps related issue, that of too many flags overall. Let’s do this: Whenever a general/flag officer is removed from his position (damned few women, if any, in this corps of cads), the position also be eliminated. That’s right: body and billet both be gone. 

Sure, this might leave a hole in a unit that must be refilled. OK. The service involved can fill behind, but only if the body that goes in brings with him a billet from somewhere else in the service; every flag/general officer that gets fired reduces the total flag/general officer billet count in his service by one.

Thus we weed out both useless officers and pretty much useless billets, either where the guy was serving or from elsewhere in the big outfit. Not only will this draw down the list of bad flags, it will also reduce the number of excess flag officer jobs in our bloated and top-heavy services. 

It also will create in the chain of command above the potential lowlife internal pressures to better police the flag ranks and prevent the loss of a flag billet from the organization. If the bad guy’s boss knows he’s going to lose both the bad guy and his job slot, maybe he’ll pay more attention and be less likely to turn a blind eye to what is, in almost every case, common knowledge within the bad guy’s organization.

Capt. John Byron (USN, ret.) commanded submarines.

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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