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Lt. col. urges firing of unaccountable generals

Aug. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Soldiers patrol this summer in Afghanistan. The Army is planning the wrong future for them and other soldiers, says an officer on the Army staff. (Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann / Army)
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Davis (Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann / Army)

An Army officer who called on the military a year ago to come clean about the 'absence of success on virtually every level' in Afghanistan, is now calling for a sweeping overhaul of top Army leadership.

An Army officer who called on the military a year ago to come clean about the 'absence of success on virtually every level' in Afghanistan, is now calling for a sweeping overhaul of top Army leadership.

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An Army officer who called on the military a year ago to come clean about the “absence of success on virtually every level” in Afghanistan, is now calling for a sweeping overhaul of top Army leadership.

In a new essay titled “Purge the generals: What it will take to fix the Army,” Lt. Col. Daniel Davis writes, “The U.S. Army’s generals, as a group, have lost the ability to effectively function at the high level required of those upon whom we place the responsibility for safeguarding our nation. Over the past 20 years, our senior leaders have amassed a record of failure in major organizational, acquisition and strategic efforts.”

Davis, an armor officer who works on the Army staff, also writes, “These failures have been accompanied by the hallmarks of an organization unable and unwilling to fix itself: aggressive resistance to the reporting of problems, suppression of failed test results, public declarations of success where none was justified, and the absence of accountability.

“Today, and consistent with these patterns, senior Army leaders are poised to reorganize the service into one that is smaller and less capable than the one that existed at the end of the Iraq War in 2011, and just as the threat environment is becoming more unpredictable and potential adversaries more capable.”

The essay, published Aug. 8 in Armed Forces Journal, a sister publication of Army Times, comes at a time when the Army faces a critical transition after 12 years of war. It also is struggling with tightening budgets, an active-duty force that will shrink by 80,000 soldiers, and one of the largest organizational changes the service has seen since World War II.

Davis said he couldn’t stay silent.

“Based on my analysis, they’re preparing us for the wrong future, and the consequences could be much worse in the future than we’ve had so far,” he said. “As an Army officer who’s obligated with loyalty to the Army, not to any individual wearing the uniform, I have an obligation to put this information out there in an attempt to help the Army become better in the future.”

Army officials declined to comment on the specifics in Davis’ column.

“The Army encourages officers to write professionally on topics with which they’re familiar,” Army spokesman George Wright said.

Track record of failure

In his essay, Davis recommends replacing a “substantial chunk” of today’s generals, starting with the three- and four-star ranks, and fixing the promotion system.

“It is unlikely today’s top leaders — who are products and benefactors of the existing system — have the appropriate motivation or buy-in for substantive change,” he writes. “New leadership is required. In particular, the Army needs a visionary leader at the top with the experience, moral standing and iron will to lead change against those who will resist and obstruct such reform.”

He lists a “track record” that shows “a crying need for change,” including the $6.9 billion effort to build the RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter, the $7 billion XM2001 Crusader mobile cannon program, and the $20 billion Future Combat Systems program.

All three programs were canceled, and the Ground Combat Vehicle program, launched after the failed FCS program, has been delayed twice, Davis wrote.

“You see this constant pattern,” he said, adding that Army leaders reject alternative courses of action that might have produced superior results.

“They’re always wrong, and the Army is never wrong,” Davis said. “Their track record is failing and never being wrong, and they never change. I just don’t see anybody being held accountable for anything, whether it’s FCS or the Ground Combat Vehicle or year after year in Afghanistan. When is anybody ever held to account for what they said or did? I don’t see it.”

The missing battalions

Davis also criticizes the Army’s decision in 2004 to modularize the brigade combat teams by “stripping away one of its three maneuver battalions.”

“Defying internal Army analysis that predicted a less-capable force, the leadership attempted to offset the loss of infantrymen, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and artillery with larger headquarters elements, technology and more intelligence capability,” he wrote in the essay.

Now, after nine years and “reportedly $75 billion,” the Army is “trying to reverse course by returning the third battalion to the BCT,” Davis wrote.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno announced in June that the Army will cut 10 BCTs and reorganize most of its remaining BCTs by adding a third maneuver battalion and beefing up fires and engineer capabilities in each formation.

“All of this transformation we did from 2004 up until we just finished it, it didn’t increase combat power and now we’re going back to what we did before,” Davis said. “Everyone recognizes there are going to be changes. You have to change. The question is what are you going to change into? Are you just going to get smaller, or are you going to take a chance on something that might improve combat power?”

Plug-and-play Army

Davis advocates that the Army study the MacGregor Transformation Model, named for retired Col. Douglas MacGregor.

MacGregor proposed reorganizing the Army into “truly plug-and-play deployable modules” that can be synchronized with the plans and capabilities of the Air Force and Navy.

These “modules” are known as combat groups, Davis said. They’re smaller than divisions but larger than the current BCTs.

The MacGregor model also calls for the elimination of higher-level echelons and headquarters, resulting in more combat power, he said.

“Because of the way these things are built and manned, you get rid of so many headquarters, you can have more combat forces,” he said. “You can have more tanks and Bradleys. A 420,000-[soldier] Army would have more combat power than we have now. Don’t take my word for it, but you’ve got to at least look at it.”

Davis said he fears the Army will end up with a smaller and less capable Army.

“National security could be put in jeopardy in five-plus years if we go on the current model of making [the Army] smaller and less capable,” he said. “There are plenty of folks out there who are not getting smaller or less capable.”

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