Are we building a conscript military?

Photo courtesy of US Navy, http://www.doncio.navy.mil/uploads/0412GDD49863.jpg

The U.S. military is well known throughout the world for being the best trained military force on the planet. But recent events are eroding that, and it should cause worry for the average American.

Event number one: Air Force 100% promotion rate to major. Normally officers go before a board to determine whether they will promote to O-4 (major in the Army and Air Force, lieutenant commander in the Navy). The boards tend to promote 75-85% of the available pool, which helps the military services cull members that aren’t making the grade. This is important because this review happens at the 9 to 11 year point in an officers career, and if selected they have a fairly solid guarantee to stay for another 10 years. Now the Air Force has removed that and essentially made it a check in the box.

I seriously thought this was the Duffel Blog…then I cried.

Event number two: War college water down. The service war colleges are some of the few places you can study the art of war. While the services also push STEM degrees, the War Colleges allow degrees in Strategic Studies, and allow officers to focus on designing operations for the next war. Now it seems we’re focused on making the college a regular university instead of focused on war.

Event number three: Overwhelming focus on transition. While I’m all about supporting military members that are leaving the military, we seemed to be using it as an excuse. We had ratings eliminated because it would make it easier to transition and changes to a retirement that reward people leaving, while we continue cutting base housing and housing allowances. It seems we are more focused on building citizens that have one tour of military service than professional service members who serve for a full career.

Event number four: Shipyards sucking. Not only are they in poor condition, but they don’t even do maintenance anymore. Increasingly ships that need to get underway are performing depot level maintenance. If the crew is doing that, guess what’s not happening? Training.

What’s Congress doing? Not passing a budget. Focusing on social issues. Paying lip service to taking care of veterans while continuing to allow unions to kill them. I haven’t seen one discussion about giving our military more time to train.

Our military is increasingly looking like a conscript military. We are more focused on helping members come in, serve some time, and easily head back to society. Training is expensive, so when push comes to shove, we cut it, focusing instead on numbers. We put ships out that float, but have been rushed through a training cycle. We’re building a watered-down officer corps.

Conscript militaries look great on paper. They are cheap to have and can march nicely in formation. They also lose wars. Unless you’re fighting a lopsided battle, you tend to lose (see Iraq circa 1991). And unless we start making changes, a conscript military is exactly what we’re going to get.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. Which, considering it disagrees with said agencies policies, should have been fairly obvious from the start.

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