While You Weren’t Looking The National Security Council Changed

Lost in all falderal about the refugee bans and protests at airports was an Executive Order, which reorganized the National Security Council (NSC). That reorganization excludes the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs (CJCS) from regular committee meetings and instead has him attend only when his/her expertise is needed. Moreover, it installs the controversial White House adviser Steve Bannon as a permanent member.

This is an especially worrisome development as the military members are specifically trained to develop estimates and play the role as the strongest advocate AGAINST their own position. The CJCS provides presidents and the national command authority apolitical continuity.

The second part of order is the ascension of Mr. Bannon as a permanent member. Mr. Bannon is a longtime rabble-rouser and purveyor of questionable journalistic products. He has been accused of catering to white nationalists at Breitbart News.

It is important to remember that during the campaign Mr. Trump was quick to remind that he “knows more than the generals.”

While council and committee assignments lack the visibility of protests at airports, it is in these bodies that policy and priority are determined. Assigning the right people matters. By adding Mr. Bannon and subtracting the CJCS president, Trump may be creating a body that lacks the gravitas needed for complex, dangerous decisions.



The recent announcement by US secretary of Defense Ash Carter to open all military occupations to women signals another step backward for wage disparity and gender equality. This is not the good news for which women have been waiting. Rather, it is deliberate sleight of hand to eviscerate veteran benefits, keep military wages low, and provide budget relief to a cash strapped pentagon.
Like any other snow job, it doesn’t sound that way at first glance – it is the second and third glances that should keep soldiers and potential soldiers of both genders marching the floors at night.
For the past few years the president and congress have been reviewing military pay, veterans benefits, and retiree plans. Each of these reviews have one thing in common – spending less money on military members.

You can dress it all up anyway you choose, but in the end it is about controlling costs while maintaining personnel numbers.
That’s why the Sec. Ash’s announcement is both brilliant and diabolical.
It goes like this.
• The greatest resistance to pay changes comes from the people thinking eviscerating wages and benefits will drive recruiting, retention, and readiness down.
• Women have been lobbying for inclusion in combat skills for decades (probably with good arguments).
• Opening all combat skills to the entire population more than doubles the number of potential recruits for combat skills.
• The readiness argument will be destroyed as there will be no drop in filling combat slots.
• Women will join combat skills at a high rate and thus ameliorate the need for better military compensation.
• Simply there will be an abundance of potential workers in combat skills keeping wages artificially low.

The great irony is of course that introducing women into combat units is supposed to level the playing field in career opportunity. Unfortunately, the only thing it will probably do, is ensure an upside-down pay equity as everyone earns less in direct compensation and benefits.

If One More Person Tells Me Their Resume I’ll Scream

When I hear these words, or any combination of them I want to get up, go to the nearest window and jump out.

This words are “I have been doing this for _________!” Oh God it aches to hear them.

I am in the middle of writing the new state workforce development plan and part of that process is trying to get people to explain what it is they currently do. I have to ask questions – some of them hard questions and invariably the chest thumping begins.

The other one I love is “I forgotten more than you’ll ever know!” Since I am a pretty smart guy I guess that means the person in front of me is a blithering idiot and was once an intellectual heavy weight.

Sorry he forgot so much – that a shame.

My response to this way of putting me in my place is to say, “Well, I guess I’m just a moron, but you’ll have to bear with me for the moment.”

Here’s the thing, I have been doing stuff for a long time too and I can’t count the number of times I thought I knew something and went back to check and discovered I was wrong.

Just a rant!

Military Disconnect: An Unintended Consequence

My friend posted this story about the nation’s disconnectedness from its military, and while there is a bit of unnecessary editorial blather with which I take issue, by and large the writer, David Zucchino, has about the 80 percent solution on the topic.

The disconnect between the society at large and the military is one of those unintended consequences of the advent of the Volunteer Army (VOLAR). The architecture of the force was supposed to prevent the disconnect.
When Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams began designing the post-Vietnam force, he sought to limit the nation’s ability to go to war without the public’s engagement. To do that he redesigned the Army, The US Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

He gave the US Army enough resources to fight a limited engagement, but not enough resources to conduct a war or long duration conflict, He put almost all the logistical support in the US Army Reserve (no combat units), put all reserve combat power in the national guard under the peacetime command of the governors of the 54 states and territories. By designing the force this way it requires the mobilization of citizen soldiers to fight a larger conflict. The thought was that civilian communities and employers would scream bloody murder as we mobilized neighbors, employees, and parents.

It’s a pretty slick idea, or at least it was for a while until the haves and have-nots self-segregated and we developed a warrior class who sought military service as a way to better their position in the economic food chain.
What Abrams didn’t plan on was the improved professionalism of the army and other services, the general apathy of the citizenry, and the drawdown of force and force structure after the cold war.

Frankly, our smaller military can now do what a larger one once did and that smaller number of participants is in and of itself more self-isolating. As a result the misapplication of military Abrams sought to stymie is very alive and well. The smaller numbers of potential combatants spread across a nation more than 330 million and 54 states and territories means no single community or state suffers enough to make generating political will to blunt military action likely. I’m not sure what we do about that, but sure is bad place to be.

Note: I take great issue with Mr. Zucchino’s implication that the military lifestyle, healthcare, and retirement benefits are in some way exorbitant. I won’t fight that battle here.

Throttled By Seminar: Why Outside-In® Has Me Pacing the Floor At Night

Beth Bunting Arnhholt
Beth Bunting Arnhholt, Vice President of Integrated Talent Management for Comcast/NBC Universal

I went to a pretty great seminar last week on Thursday, 29Jan 2015, put on by Outside-In®. Seminar: Influencing Cultural Transformation – One Small Step at a Time. The guest speaker, Beth Bunting Arnholt, vice president of Integrated Talent Management for Comcast/NBC Universal, was captivating in the way of most big thinkers.

There is a seminar axiom I always keep in mind when listening to big thinkers like Ms. Arnholt, “Take the best and leave the rest.” And although there was very little to leave behind from her presentation, there were some pearls shinier than others.

Either her second or third slide haunts me a bit. It was a quote from Edgar H. Schein former professor at MIT and leadership and organizational culture authority – another big thinker to note. The slide defined organizational culture as, “A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”

Boy, that’s something. The phrase, “that has worked well enough to be considered valid,” is – while undoubtedly true – enough to keep leaders pacing the floor at night and start smoking and drinking again.

It’s not that something worked well, or is a preferred method, or even a good idea, but rather that it works well enough. Hokey smokes Bullwinkle, that’s terrifying!

I imagine smoke-filled rooms where a bunch ne’er do wells, spend their time collectively dodging proverbial bullets, patting themselves on the back and saying, “Yep, good one! That worked well enough!”

I want to cry when I think of the enormity and truth of the definition. It is so obvious now after listening to Ms. Arnholt why organizational change is the dominion of Hercules and Sisyphus – it’s hard and there is good chance you’ll be run over by a boulder along the way.

Though she only talked for a while, she made some good points about boulder avoidance. There were several points, but as I cut through it all, a lot comes back to the “vision thing.”

Ms. Arnholt said:

  1. You have to define the future, by knowing what you want and why you want it.
  2. You have to spark the fire, by dealing with a present day situation that will get you toward your vison.
  3. You have to fan the flame, by connecting the dots and helping the future grow.

But more than that, I took away from her presentation the same things I learned at the Infantry Officers Basic Course so many years ago:

  1. Identify the end state – what does success look like?
  2. Begin with the end in mind – what are our small steps along the way and how do we measure the journey?
  3. Lead enthusiastically.
  4. Take blame, never credit.
  5. And remember no plan survives first contact with reality.

After having my psyche rattled by her second slide, one of her final slides put it back into perspective. “It’s not getting one person to go a mile; it’s getting a thousand people to go one step.”