Antiquated Pentagon Looks to the Future

June 12, 2015

A new generation of troops could mean big changes in how the military operates.

According to Navy officials, in a decade, 98 percent of the force will consist of millennials. In order to preserve the all-volunteer force, senior leaders say the services must adapt to meet their needs.  

At a conference with defense officials this week, Undersecretary of Defense Brad Carson called the Pentagon's personnel program "antiquated," stating that "oppressive bureaucracy exists" when it comes to force management. Carson emphasized his concern that "great dissatisfaction" of the system could lead to an exodus of talented leaders.   

Drawing comparisons with corporate America, Carson said that although DoD can't pay as much as companies like Google, it must give troops new missions to inspire continued service. In order to recruit and retain troops, Carson wants "the services [to] be beds of experimentation."  

To address this, the Pentagon is in the midst of conducting a six-month study of DoD's personnel management system. Some things being considered are common private sector practices, like flexibility in choosing assignments, and talent-based, rather than time in service, promotions.   

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hopes to implement findings from the study within the next 18 months.  

"It's an ambitious timeline," said MOAA's Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) "that seems based more on how much time folks have  left in office rather than feasibility in implementation."   

Changes to the personnel system could come at an interesting time for the services. DoD is preparing to make some of the biggest changes to military compensation in a generation.

MOAA supports reviewing the current personnel system and learning from the private sector to encourage better talent management. However, it's imperative that reforms take into account the needs of troops while also meeting service requirements.  

"Just because it works in the boardroom does not always mean that it will work on the battlefield. The conditions of service are vastly different, and the need to keep well-trained and experienced personnel is essential to maintaining the all-volunteer force," said Hayden.

MOAA will continue to track the progress of the study.