Brent Scowcroft Center Nonresident Senior Fellows for Military Affairs and National Security Policy Dave Barno and Nora Bensahel write for War on the Rocks on the issues within the military personnel system and the Department of Defense’s strategies to solve them: 

“You’re killing me, Lieutenant.”

That’s what Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Lt. Joseph Riley, his fellow panelist last month at the Reagan National Defense Forum. Riley, a Rhodes Scholar and the top nationally ranked ROTC cadet of 2013, had just shared that he had recently been told that he would not be promoted and was at risk of being forced out of the Army. Why? Because after being commissioned, he had spent two years studying at Oxford instead of holding the standard military jobs expected of junior officers during that period of their careers. The military personnel system saw him as lagging far behind his peers. So even though around 90 percent of his fellow lieutenants would be promoted, Riley was told that he would not be one of them and that he would face a separation board.

At that moment, the military personnel system stood as a massive barrier between the young lieutenant on the left of the stage and the Army’s most senior general on the right. Milley immediately tried to reach across that barrier, telling Riley “I’ll be your personal assignments officer — I just adopted you,” and ending their exchange with a hearty “Welcome back to the United States infantry, young man!” But this story reveals the depths of the problems within the military personnel system — that even promoting a Rhodes Scholar to a relatively junior rank requires active intervention by senior officers, up to and including the Chief of Staff of the Army.

Read the full article here.

Related Experts: Nora Bensahel