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How to lose great leaders? Ask the Army - The Washington Post

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The U.S. military is one of America’s premier leadership factories. But the product it manufactures is in decline.

Seven years ago, the number of young officers willing to recommit after their initial tours of duty dropped precipitously. Before the Iraq war, three-quarters of Army officers stayed for a career, a number that dropped to just two-thirds starting in 2006. The broken pipeline was initially blamed on the sputtering war effort in Iraq, but in fact the problem is a deep-rooted one. The Army has bled talent for decades, a consequence of a deeply dysfunctional organization that poorly matches jobs with talent and doesn’t trust its officers to make choices about their own careers.

The solution, however, isn’t beyond reach. The next step in the evolution of the Pentagon’s leadership system should be what I call a “total volunteer force”—one that treats officers as human capital with autonomy rather than as physical capital in inventory.

Let me explain. The retention crisis, even in an era of cutbacks and sequestration, is a decades-long dilemma that the military doesn’t often talk about. The Senate investigated the “critical and delicate” problem of a military brain drain as far back as 1954, after President Eisenhower called for Congressional action. Yet after public attention flared following a 2011 survey of junior officers, retired U.S. Army general Frederick Kroesen mocked the issue in the publication ARMY, declaring that “no other profession has developed better ways to identify, develop and reward its leaders.”

Total volunteer force sounds like a great idea. 

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