June 1, 2007  

‘Up or out’ folly

I read my first copy of AFJ while waiting to speak to my Area Support Group commander. The articles “Growing the Army,” “Rightsized Army” and “Transformation reality check” all presented keen insight and intuitive thought as to what is going on in and with the Army. However, I believe one idea was overlooked in all three: abolishing the antiquated Personnel Management System. With the archaic “up or out” policy so firmly entrenched in the senior manager’s mind-set, the Army throws away more talent than it can now replace. The skills, knowledge and experience the Army has cast aside with its “competitive promotion system” pyramid have led to a hollow force that is not being replenished fast enough. Yet not one of our “experts”has even hinted at replacing this dinosaur.

The late David Hackworth once opined against “up or out,” saying that not everybody can be “the next Chief of Staff, or wants to be.” But the Army’s adherence to “up or out” has cost it too much talent, a cost the country is paying in blood as we enter another year in the global war on terrorism. Leaders are calling for more troops, yet they don’t know where they will come from — a classic “forest for the trees” scenario.

I resigned my commission in the Army in 1995, only to be called back into service last year as an NCO to spend 12 months in the desert as an Individual Ready Reserve soldier. In discussing this phenomenon with some of my fellow “re-enlistees,” I heard a grizzled three-war vet say, “The Army could give itself a helping hand but instead chooses to shoot itself in the foot.” Sadly, as the war drags on, I think he is correct.

Jeffrey S. Goldfarb

Maastricht, Holland