18 November 2012

This Might Explain the Problems We Have With General Officer Corps

The Washington Post details the rock-star lifestyle of US General Officers (Generals and Admirals), and it goes a long way toward explaining some of the problems that exist with them.

Simply put, they have no connection to reality, and they have every incentive to delay their retirement well past the limits their usefulness:
Then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates stopped bagging his leaves when he moved into a small Washington military enclave in 2007. His next-door neighbor was Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, who had a chef, a personal valet and — not lost on Gates — troops to tend his property.

Gates may have been the civilian leader of the world’s largest military, but his position did not come with household staff. So, he often joked, he disposed of his leaves by blowing them onto the chairman’s lawn.

“I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”

Of the many facts that have come to light in the scandal involving former CIA director David H. Petraeus, among the most curious was that during his days as a four-star general, he was once escorted by 28 police motorcycles as he traveled from his Central Command headquarters in Tampa to socialite Jill Kelley’s mansion. Although most of his trips did not involve a presidential-size convoy, the scandal has prompted new scrutiny of the imperial trappings that come with a senior general’s lifestyle.

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.

The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.
In a war zone, I could understand why a general might have someone to take care of ordinary day-to-day tasks, but for someone deployed to the wilds of Alexandria, Virginia, they can take out their own trash, and mow their own damn lawn.

The ratio of officers to enlisted men is not now 1:5.  For most of history, it was 1:10.  Additionally, we now have more general officers, with 1.5 million active duty military, than we did at the height of the 2nd world war when we had 12+ million men under arms.

The terms "top heavy" and "bloated" come to mind.


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