[January 15, 2015] When we think of the military, we think of leadership. But there are many of us that have begun to believe that the U.S. military, in particular the Army, has begun to outsource its leadership. Leadership in the military leadership is a fundamental attribute that cannot be removed without serious national security consequences. Outsourcing leadership means that key decisions are being given away.
Those of us who have spent many years in the military fear that the increased use of contractors, consultants, experts, and advisors have had the long-term effect of reducing the capability of our leaders. Since 9/11 there has been a cultural change for the U.S. military to rely on others to take on many of its most important tasks. Change in particular has come in the fields of logistics, engineering, medicine, and surprisingly in intelligence gathering and analysis.
The affect on junior leaders, major and below in rank, has been profound. They have seen the military operate in no other way. Each junior leader is responsible for less, has fewer relevant experiences, and is held to a lower standard for leadership qualities.
Older ways of leadership are being pushed to the wayside without a vision of how this will impact their future leader capabilities. Many of these leaders, who were majors and colonels in 2001, have moved into more senior positions and are coaching, teaching, and mentoring younger leaders in the new ways of leadership … where much of it is outsourced.
By this, I’m not talking about outsourcing of work. That is to be expected when expansion or contraction of workload needs to be done quickly. It’s the outsourcing of leadership and many of the particulars of it that are important to how we do business, that we should be concerned about.
For example, today’s platoon leader (usually a Second Lieutenant) is less concerned about the details of the supply chain for his platoon’s equipment and supporting supplies. When this lieutenant advances to the rank of colonel, his understanding of logistics is less than a lieutenant prior to 2001.
Is the U.S. Army outsourcing its leadership? I think the answer is yes. There will be unexpected consequences to this trend in military matters. What that will be is likely to manifest itself in unpleasant ways because there is little positive that can come from those with less relevant leadership experiences.
Outsourcing leadership is also a trend throughout the U.S. government and we are beginning to see the impact of this in other federal agencies like the Secret Service, Department of State, etc. Long term, I cannot see anything positive coming from the trend.
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