On February 25, 2011 Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, spoke to the cadets at United States Military Academy, West Point. Speaking to our future leaders, he emphasized several important, interrelated Army issues to consider: the future of conflict, and the implications for our Army; how to best institutionalize the diverse capabilities that will be required; and the kinds of officers the Army will need for the 21st Century and how the service must change to retain and empower those leaders.
Emphasizing the first major challenge, Gates explored how the Army will need to structure itself and what we must be able to do after our combat forces drawn down in Afghanistan, and what that means for our new young leaders entering the force. He also stated we must attempt to predict the nature and location of any future military engagements and what combat power and number of forces will be needed to support any of these engagements.
Second, utilizing lessons learned, Sec. Gates asked how we might institutionalize what we have learned from our military engagements and adapt these practices to our forces. As Army professionals, we continue to demonstrate the development of expert knowledge and leadership to support any mission solving complex problems while mentoring and training our force.
Another of Sec. Gates’ concern was that of retaining and empowering the Army’s leaders. Further, how the Army can break up the ‘institutional concrete’ its bureaucratic rigidity in the assignments and promotion process to retain the best, brightest and most battle tested officer to lead the Army of the future? He also mentioned the frustration our junior leaders must feel coming home from Theater where they were given tremendous responsibilities in a combat environment, to seemingly miniscule “preparing power point slides” levels of responsibility back home in garrison. “The consequences of this terrify me”, he said.
I encourage you to read his speech Gates Address to West Point Cadets, February 25, 2011 and consider the key points as we strive to retain and empower you our leaders of today’s Army:
- What do you think the future of conflict will look like?
- What are its implications for the Army?
- How we might institutionalize the needed capabilities to support these missions?
- Is the personnel system “numb” to individual performance? How should we change it?
- How do we motivate our junior leaders as they transition from Theater environments and responsibilities to much less levels of responsibility here in garrison.
Discuss this with your peers in classrooms and provide your dialogue to this blog. I look forward to your feedback.