Hiring Military Officers Off the Street

Raven wrote to ask whether or not I could come up with a better way to subvert the military and introduce politically-preferred persons into it than Ash Carter's new plan. I can't, really, but there's more to be said about this than that.
The idea is controversial, to say the very least. For many in the rank-and-file military, it seems absurd, a bewildering cultural change that threatens to upend many assumptions about military life and traditional career paths....

This is a key piece of Carter’s “Force of the Future” personnel reform. Unveiled June 9, it aims to help the military bring in more top talent, especially for high-tech career fields focused on cyber warfare and space. Advocates say it will help the military fill important manpower shortfalls with highly skilled professionals and, more broadly, create greater “permeability” between the active-duty military and the civilian sector.

At the same time, it suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric, which many believe to be the heart of military effectiveness. Critics worry it will create a new subcaste of military service members who are fundamentally disconnected from the traditional career force.

“They will enter a culture they don’t know, understand or potentially appreciate,” said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer and military expert at the Heritage Foundation. “The Marines around them will likely be challenged to appreciate them as they would a fellow Marine.”
The thing is, we almost do this now. What we do now is that we hire civilian contractors and integrate them with existing military commands. The contractors are similarly disconnected from the culture in many cases, and they lack the authority to issue orders. But that doesn't really matter much, since they aren't hired to command military forces, but to bring special skill sets to bear on the kinds of problems that are handled by a commander's staff.

Now, the way this works is that the actual orders don't come from staff officers. They're issued by the Operations officer in the name of the commander. These are usually set out as what are called "Fragmentary Orders" (FRAGOs) that supplement a larger, overarching order governing a whole military operation. So the staff officer puts together a part of the FRAGO that deals with his area of expertise. That draft part of the FRAGO is passed around to all the other relevant staff sections for comment or approval. Once you have buy-in, it's sent to the 3 section (the operations section) to be written up as a part of the FRAGO. Then, the finalized FRAGO is sent out under the commander's authority to subordinate units.

A civilian contractor can write these draft FRAGO parts as well as anyone else, since at no point is he personally ordering the troops to do anything. He's just advising the commander on what to order the troops to do. While working for a couple of brigade commanders in Iraq I wrote many, many orders for military forces deployed at war in just this way. I wrote orders for PSYOP detachments, for infantry and cavalry units who were doing things relevant to my area of expertise, and so forth. None of these orders were violations of the military's culture or chain of command, because they were all staffed around for approval and then sent to the 3 for inclusion in his latest FRAGO. I wrote the orders, but didn't issue them. He issued them in the name of his colonel.

Would it have been simpler if I'd been "laterally entered" into the force as a Major or LTC? Would that have been more of an affront to the military culture than having a civilian in a John B. Stetson hat writing orders for the troops?

Frankly, I think the contractor solution works better than the proposed resolution for several reasons.

1) You can readily fire contractors who don't adapt to the culture. Make Mr. Offa de Street into Major Offa de Street and you're stuck with him.

2) The troops aren't asked to think of you as a soldier or Marine just like them. The difference between who you are and who they are is clear.

3) There's no danger that a civilian contractor will someday be promoted to a position of actual authority over the troops. Major de Street might someday get promoted to a green tab position, especially if he's there for the reasons Raven worries about. He shouldn't be. Command of our soldiers or Marines should be entrusted only to those whom they have reason to regard as brothers.

Ultimately while the military regards contractors as pernicious and expensive, they solve this very problem without introducing new and undesirable features. Nor am I convinced that contractors are actually as expensive as they seem, since you only pay for them while they're working for you. The Congress is also working through a painful reassessment of military compensation and retirement, and the VA, and all the rest of it. With contractors, you just don't have that problem: the day they finish the job you hired them to do, you're done paying for them.

So yes, this is a bad idea because of the danger of allowing the insertion of politicized officers into military commands. But it's also a bad idea for several other reasons, and it's completely unnecessary because we have a reasonable workaround for the problem that's already in place.

Ash Carter has not been the most impressive SECDEF ever.


raven said...

My main concern is not having "politicized" officers, brought in to serve the particular needs of various branches.

It is having purely "Political" officers- in the USSR way- they are not necessarily of high rank, serve with regular troops, but report up a political chain of command, and are there to examine and report on political violations by the troops and officers. Essentially "PC" police.

It seems like the military is under attack as the last bastion in the gov. of traditional conservatives. Obviously my knowledge is very limited, but there seem to be a lot of ripples in the water.

MikeD said...

Not that I disagree in any particular, but I'd also hasten to point out this isn't even exactly new. In 1962, my father graduated ROTC and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Armor. A couple of years later, he was a First Lieutenant, and my mother (his wife at the time) was graduating with her degree in Occupational Therapy, a skill highly sought by the Army at that time. She was offered a direct commission to the rank of Captain in the Medical Corps if she would commit to so many years of service (I don't recall the exact details, as you will understand I was not actually alive at the time this happened). This caused several jokes ("so, if she accepts, you'll need to salute your wife every morning!") which were far less frequent in those days. Ultimately, she declined partly for marital harmony, partly because she could make more in public practice, but mostly due to her anti-authoritarian nature would make her a poor fit for service.

Now, you could say that the medical corps would be (and is) different than Cyber Command. And maybe that's true. But I want you to consider the skill set required for Cyber Command. They want hackers. Oh sure, you can pretty that up by calling them "information technology security specialists", but ultimately, you want individuals who know how to break into secure systems and how to defend against those breaches. And that's not something you can teach in a classroom (or at least, not something that has ever been taught in a classroom. And given the highly fluid nature of internet security*, anything you teach in the classroom today (outside of the broadest brushstrokes of "this is what constitutes a DDoS attack") would have any value even months later, as those security exploits get patched out of existence, and new ones must be found. And those kinds of people are generally seen as unfit for military service. So, I totally agree with the idea of having them work as contractors (and extremely well monitored ones at that, as they have a greater potential to go rogue than say... a civilian intelligence analyst would), but at that point the military side of the house is an empty shell. There would be no lower enlisted doing the "grunt work" of internet security, and the officers and senior NCOs would be tasking contractors, not soldiers. So that then begs the question, why is this in military hands at all?

* I refuse to use the term "Cyber" unless referring to the echelon above corps unit structure within the Army, and then only begrudgingly... back in my day "cyber" held the connotation of exchanging sexually oriented messages over the internet, so the "Cyber Center of Excellence" would mean something VERY different to me than I think they intend

Grim said...

Oh, I misunderstood you, Raven. We had State Deparment guys doing that -- we had a SES or FO-1 at the Brigade levels with the PRTs, and a formal Political Advisor (POLAD) at the Division level. They were keeping close tabs on us.

raven said...

Some remark on how this would be a great way to bring in "diversity" without having to wait be promoted up through the ranks,or to find enough of the "vibrant" who could meet the normal military standards.

Pardon my paranoia, but wouldn't this be a great way to bring in as officers, leftist indoctrinated college grads with heavy student loans, as a debt forgiveness package? Then for troops, dragoon a bunch of guys from the hood with no cultural affiliation with middle Americans and they would have the equivalent of a Soviet Mongolian army to subdue Hungry.

And pardon my cynicism, but lately everything I see from the feds is sleight of hand- they say they are taking some action to solve problem A, but the action, just coincidentally, can be used to enable a whole range of other outcomes, regardless of the relationship to "A".

"Fast and Furious" is an excellent example - ostensibly an action to track arms flow and arrest cartel members, but with a sub plot of greatly exacerbating the number of US derived weapons involved in Mexican crime, slotting neatly into a domestic gun control agenda.

Ymar Sakar said...

Paying for the Senate's health care exemptions and other special privileges Costs a lot more.


Here's a prophetic statement. A description of the future that came to be true, which is hard to believe it came from merely mortal and human talents.

Hence the topic circles back to prophets of the CHristian God.

As I said before, Hussein's Regime and the Leftist alliance has been creating political commissars for awhile now. It is not new, nor surprising, except to the people who just woke up to this war.

Ymar Sakar said...

We had State Deparment guys doing that -- we had a SES or FO-1 at the Brigade levels with the PRTs, and a formal Political Advisor (POLAD) at the Division level. They were keeping close tabs on us.

Which is why State and Defense sharing power in Iraq didn't work except to aid our enemies. Until Petraeus +Crocker came along.

Grim said...

Well, this was after that, Ymar: I was in Iraq from 2007-9. I don't know about the POLAD at Division, but the guys in the PRTs at the Brigade level were actually quite helpful.

Tom said...

Huh. What did they do?

Ymar Sakar said...

Raven wrote to ask whether or not I could come up with a better way to subvert the military and introduce politically-preferred persons into it than Ash Carter's new plan. I can't, really, but there's more to be said about this than that.

I could think of plenty of ways if I was the Left's strategic czar in this field.

But a lot of them requires the usage of precious strategic assets, which once the Left uses, they cannot recover easily. These are assets created from generations of subversion and corruption. Even for renewable resources like human livestock, they cannot be replaced based upon WIllpower alone.

The Left's priority, before 2003, has always been to use their political, religious, and indoctrination cultural capital on political power and wealth making pyramid schemes like social security.

It wasn't until recently, in the 21st century, that they decided to uncap the vast 99% of strategic power, which they as an alliance had kept as a reserve. A lot of the things they do now, they wouldn't have done before, because the alliance sub structure links weren't allowed to connect, because they were hiding in the shadows. Unions weren't linked to X, and X wasn't linked to Y, and Y wasn't linked to Islamic Jihad. Some of them did business with each other, but they didn't go out on a limb to regenerate and protect the other, until recently. It's hard to keep stuff like JournoList off the radar screen for long.

And there are existing world organizations and special private clubs of the rich and famous, who may have been pulled in. Some guy of Rockfeller's clan wrote about his circle of allies before. When HRC talked about a "vast right wing conspiracy", the Left as usual was talking about themselves.

I don't know about the POLAD at Division, but the guys in the PRTs at the Brigade level were actually quite helpful.

How much of that was due to Condi Rice's temporary control of State?

Ymar Sakar said...

It's also why I didn't fall for nor believe in Democrat/Leftist calls to "reinstate" the Draft during Bush II's years.

For one thing, it was designed to sabotage Bush II's war efforts against Islamic JIhad. Islam being the LEft's allies, and thus the Demoncrat's allies.

But even if it was serious, that was an even better reason to oppose it, because the only reason why they would to put the draft back into the military is to flood them with John Kerry look a likes. Leftist loyal only to the Regime and their death cult Messiah. Only loyalty. People can connect the dots at that point.

They can also use the draft "deferments" as a government favor system to get rid of conservative patriots, send them to die in wars, and keep their favorite clan members, like Chelsea, in control of things. But that's a tertiary priority goal.

Grim said...

Huh. What did they do?

They had a major role in seeing that the elections were fair and honestly conducted. The Iraqis trusted us to do that way more than they trusted each other.

They also did a lot of Civil Affairs type projects via USAID contractors.

Tom said...

Oh. So they were there to cover the bases on Iraqi politics and so forth, quite unlike Soviet political officers.

Have you seen "Enemy at the Gates"? That is my favorite view of Soviet political officers, fictional as it is.

Then there's the German movie "The Lives of Others." Excellent, if you haven't seen it. But it's about the Stasi, not military political officers.

Grim said...

Well, they were also there to make sure that the Ambassador understood what was going on at the tactical level -- independently of military reports. In that way they were at least potentially like Soviet officers, although Crocker was a good guy and thus it was not a problematic relationship.