Morale In The Military Is The Lowest It’s Been Since Carter
I happened to have lunch recently with a friend in the military, a captain in the Air Force. In the course of our conversation, he complained about the state of morale in the military. A few days later I happened to talk with another military friend, a captain in the Army, who also spoke of the growing morale problems in his branch of the military. The similarities of their separate remarks surprised me.
As captains, I look upon them as “middle management” in the military, charged with instructing their men under orders from their superiors. Remarkably, both painted a dismal picture, not at all what the general public perceives as the state of our military. What I heard was a dog-eat-dog world where there is little teamwork or cooperation, a cover-your-ass mentality, and people bailing out of the service as opposed to making it a career. They described a very bureaucratic world with an inordinate amount of paperwork impeding progress. There is also a lack of leadership, and you are discouraged from taking charge. In other words, there is no longer a culture of “improvise, adapt and overcome” as characterized by the Marines. Instead, it appears the military is suffering with a bad case of “Theory X,” a top-down autocratic form of management best characterized by the expression “micromanagement.”
I was also told the millennials coming into the service are “soft” as they feel entitled to promotions without having to earn it. This is alarming to people just ten years their senior.
After speaking with the captains, I was reminded of the military culture under President Jimmy Carter, which was perhaps one of our lowest points in recent memory. This all changed for the better when President Ronald Reagan became Commander-in-Chief.
Following these discussions, I decided to do a little investigation to see if these were legitimate grievances. It didn’t take me long to validate their stories. This past December, the “Military Times” ran a story titled, “America’s Military: A force adrift,” which described a worsening morale crisis. The Times surveyed 2,300 active-duty troops and from this, “found morale indicators on the decline in nearly every aspect of military life. Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago. Today’s service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated, the survey data showed.”
The survey goes on to report, “active-duty troops reported a stunning drop in how they rated their overall quality of life: Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, down from 91 percent in 2009” (at the start of President Obama’s administration).
All of this follows years of deep cuts in the military and tens of thousands of troops pink slipped. Unfortunately, most soldiers do not see the military getting better any time soon, hence the growing disenchantment. From this perspective, the parallel to the Carter years is uncanny. What is most troubling is the American public has no idea of the problem and prefer to think everything is rosie in the military. The truth is, it is not. It should make us all wonder what kind of leadership we’ll have in our next armed conflict, and if anyone will follow.
Keep the Faith!