Skip to comments.The Future of Army Professionalism: A Need for Renewal and Redefinition
Posted on 09/21/2005 6:27:48 PM PDT by Axhandle
The Army that won the battles of the Gulf War in 1991 was one of the most professional ever fielded by America. As General Schwarzkopf commented, "We could have traded equipment with the Iraqis and still won." And when that Army returned home, it was welcomed by a supportive, even adoring, public. Now, almost one decade later, the situation has changed dramatically. During the past nine years, the US Army has undergone radical changes--major force and budget reductions, revised modernization programs, and successive base realignments and closures. All were intended by design to adapt the institution to the post-Cold War geopolitical situation.
But there are many indications that the result is an Army quite unlike the victor of the Gulf War battles. It is instead an Army of decreasing effectiveness, one which suffers from a weakening relationship with the American public and, of more concern, with its own members.
The last decade has been one of massive change to which the Army profession has yet to adapt fully. Simply stated, the end of the Cold War, which roughly coincided with the culmination of other shifts in the organization of Western, postindustrial societies, has drastically altered the expectations of where and how the profession of arms will apply its expertise. Today, in this new interwar period, the Army is expected to operate effectively across the entire spectrum of violence, from major theater wars to domestic disaster relief. Further, it must be prepared to conduct these varied operations worldwide in any physical and political environment, and to do so in very rapid order. With these shifts in society's expectations came the need for a huge expansion in the profession's knowledge base and in the application of that expert knowledge to new situations. Such growth in expertise should have generated changes throughout the Army's leadership and management systems--from organizational structure to applied technology, from measures of readiness to measures of effectiveness, and from military training systems to professional military education.
The Army is faltering, however, in its attempts to adapt to these stark changes; this inability to adapt is itself a significant manifestation of a decline in effectiveness. Unfortunately, this potentially dangerous situation remains, at the systemic level, largely unrecognized by the institution. Even worse, it is not clear that there is currently within the officer corps of the Army a consensus on just what "Army Professionalism" is, nor a common language with which to analyze and discuss it. Absent such analysis and dialogue, the Army is looking elsewhere for solutions to the decline in effectiveness by studying individually the recurring symptoms as they reach crisis proportions, such as recruiting shortfalls, an exodus of captains, unfunded adaptations in structure and technology, and leadership failures.
There are two ways to look at the Army. The first is as a large, bureaucratic organization. The second is as a profession. The Army has, over past decades, increasingly moved toward using organizational concepts for decisionmaking to lead, design, and structure the institution's systems, and away from using professional concepts to do so. Such is the case today: operations research, efficiency goals, outsourcing, reengineering, and bonuses dominate the institution's analyses and solutions. As such, efficiency is a dominant goal, surpassing military effectiveness. Due to an excessively organizational perspective, the Army has borrowed aspects of human resource systems from corporations, and then wonders why the members of the profession are acting like employees. The Army is missing (and thereby losing) competitions with other professions and organizations at the boundaries of its expertise. And, it is resisting change because that threatens present force structure, rather than viewing the needed change in the context of how it affects the Army's expertise and jurisdiction, and thus its professionalism.
This approach denies the Army's professional nature and accentuates its bureaucratic elements. Although professions and organizational bureaucracy often coexist in modern society, they differ in their approach to their work and to their members--their emphasis on effectiveness versus efficiency, their commitment to knowledge development rather than knowledge application, and their view of members as professionals versus employees.
It appears that today's Army sees professionalism as a property of individuals--its officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers, and Army civilians--rather than of the institution. As we will discuss, however, both the institution and the individual officer have unique, but complementary, roles to play in creating and maintaining Army Professionalism. To our knowledge, there are no ongoing Army studies of professionalism per se at the institutional level, nor have there been any since early in the 1970s.
One might argue that the Army should be allowed simply to deprofessionalize, becoming an obedient but nonprofessional military bureaucracy. One need look no further than Europe to see Western democratic societies readily accepting this outcome. But if that happened here, American society would lose two key benefits of military professionalism--the development and adaptation of military expertise, and social control over and within an institution capable of terrible destruction. Professions are by nature more adept than bureaucracies at evolving expert knowledge and controlling human behavior in complex and chaotic environments (e.g., threatening or using coercive force to maintain the peace or fight wars). Since the continual development of military expertise and control of a military engaged on behalf of American society are both essential to the republic's future security, a nonprofessional Army is certainly not in America's best interest. Perhaps equally important to the readers of this essay, neither is it in the Army's best interest. We doubt whether citizens of the necessary character and capabilities will ever voluntarily serve in large numbers in a nonprofessional, bureaucratized military.
In this article, we propose an alternative perspective, one that emphasizes the Army as a profession over the Army as a bureaucracy. If the Army is to overcome its current problems, it must make institutional professionalism the predominant criterion in decisionmaking while opening a dialogue with its own professionals about the state of the institution. Based on recent advances in the understanding of professions, our suggested perspective transcends the Army's historic emphasis on the ethical component of professionalism--military values and ethics--to use a broader definition of the Army profession. Using this perspective, we view the Army's present situation as the result of dramatic changes in the objective and subjective nature of the Army's professional work and in the number and diversity of professional and organizational competitors vying for jurisdiction over this work. Focusing first on the Army's professional nature offers an alternative to organizational criteria by which policy and structural changes can be assessed--an alternative that emphasizes task effectiveness, the Army's relationship with the client (society), and the institution's implicit contract with its own professionals.
The task of this article, then, is to: (1) assess the Army's task effectiveness, which suggests to us a problem with the institution's professionalism; (2) review how the Army has traditionally understood its professionalism; and (3) provide an alternative explanation of the Army's decline based on a more recent understanding of professions, suggesting new ways in which to think about the issue. We do these tasks in sequence, including a suggested framework with which to facilitate an informing dialogue among the officer corps.
(Excerpt) Read more at Parameters...
Then why post it?
Really!? Was this posted just to start to bum everyone out? What's up?
Now I am in the NG.... The points of this article are now made moot by our current conflict. A Hot War always injects a good dose of Professionalism into a formerly peacetime Army.
Rumsfeld with the help of GEN Schoomaker put a much needed boot in the Army's ass.
I think this is a good article to show how far we had to come to dominate far lands as we do now. We did falter, but we learn quickly--it beats dyin'.
...I'd Sure like for the Duo Author's to do a Sequal--Just so we can have an UPDATE.
This article is from the quarterly publication of the US Army War College. Though that is a periodical, the article is not all that dated because it discusses philosophical concepts. It is good reading for those interested in the nature of professionalism and what type of a profession we want the Army to be. The military is mature enough to have these discussions. It's not a hit piece.
For a more feel-good though useless post, see here.
ping for later