Military Professionalism versus Bureaucracy

By | August 31, 2015

[August 31, 2015]  The greatest threat to a nation outside of armed invasion is the degeneration of its military from its professional standing into a bureaucracy.  If we are to believe the outgoing U.S. Army Chief of Staff who told us that there is a struggle for the Army to maintain its professionalism, we will have to reverse recent Congressional mandates that are pushing the military backwards.

After the Vietnam War, for example, the U.S. military was no longer a professional force because it had decimated its Non-Commissioned Officer corps through moral compromise and active attrition in its ranks.  Morale plummeted and the best soldiers exited in droves.  Fortunately, almost two decades later the Army had regained its professionalism and as such it was aptly demonstrated in its Gulf War success.

The U.S. military’s character is one first as a professional organization and second as a bureaucracy.  The tension between these two is expected.  But when bureaucratic behavior is exercised at the expense of professionalism, we can rightly predict the military will be like any other government bureaucracy where its civilians and soldiers are more bureaucrats than professionals.

There are several Congressional requirements imposed on the U.S. military that places stress on its professional character.  Defense cuts, for example, reinforce the military’s bureaucratic nature and undermine its indispensable professional character with an impersonal micro-managed personnel cuts and fiscal restrictions that mean doing more with less.  Yet there are resource-intensive mandates that encourage bureaucracy.

Another example is Congressional endeavors to restrict commanders’ legal authorities and mandate time-consuming classroom training on a variety of topics that target symptoms of a problem instead of attacking the source. This has already demotivated large numbers of its military members and discourages those who remain.  Instead of Congressional intervention our elected representatives should allow decisions to be made by our military moral professions who are trained to exercise moral discretion.

The practice of Army professionals is to make discretionary judgments routinely; those judgments are highly moral in nature.  Such decisions are better made by professionals of high moral character who have the relevant honorable service experiences.1  The Gulf War showed the military at its apex of professionalism.  Since then, unfortunately, there has been a steady and unremitting decline.

[Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.