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The best officers are leaving the military

Oh no, what will we do? There is much fuss and high-minded concern about a piece in the Atlantic about how our best officers are all leaving the service. The funny thing is, this same alarm goes off pretty regularly and probably always will. The best officers are not leaving the military, the officers who get sick of dealing with the inherent inertia of a giant bureaucracy and its risk averse nature leave the service, and they always will. Here is the tease for the article.

Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform.

I was unaware that cultivating entrepreneurs in uniform was an ability we would even want to vaunt (That was a fun sentence). But seriously you have to decide what qualities we want in our leaders and then what kind of a system can support enough of those types to be sustainable. And when you toss around a phrase like "best officers" you have really said nothing. The military is a top-down hierarchy that will stifle creativity and free thinking by design. There are places for it, but over all the military cultivates officers who can train and lead according to the tactics and strategies developed for their functional area. While some of our best officers have been mavericks, the majority have distinguished themselves by operating highly effectively within their prosepctive lanes.

You cannot have a cohesive military command structure if everyone is following their own idea of what a standard operating procedure should be. Will this chafe the cones of some highly talented people who if left to their own devices would do some awesome things? Of course it does, tough shite. At some point the highly talented maverick becomes a drag on the over all effectiveness. So can the military accomodate these folks? Well yeah, some of 'em and some of them will get weeded or weed themselves out. It has always been thus and this same lament gets written every couple of years noting the fact. Next slide.