Gates' budget cuts: Sharing the pain
Stop me if this sounds like your place of work.
On any given assignment, there's at least three people to whom you report. Meetings are filled with more people in management than people doing the work. And when it comes time for downsizings, the bottom 80% gets deeply slashed while the top 20% is barely touched.
Like seemingly every organization, the military is top-heavy--so much so, in fact, that Defense chairman Robert Gates announced this week that he will be cutting five percent of the armed forces' general and senior-ranking officers, a move that has the country's brass "squealing," writes the Post's Craig Whitlock. There are, he reports, 40 four-star generals and admirals, more than there were during the Vietnam War, even though the number of active-duty troops has diminished by nearly half.
In calling it "brass creep," Gates seems to imply that the too-many-chiefs phenomenon at the Pentagon is the innocent byproduct of an effort to hang onto its best and brightest. And surely, that's partly prompted the problem--many organizations try to hang onto their stars through extra pay, promotions, or responsibility, leading to more and more experienced hands on hand. That's a good thing--until, of course, there's too many of them.
But I'd argue the Pentagon's top-heaviness--or that of any large institution--is really the byproduct of fear. For one, organizations are terrified that when it's time to grow again, they won't have the experienced professionals around to help them compete, manage, or in the military's case, keep the country safe. And they're afraid--generals are human, after all--that cutting their peers will lead to more work for the top rung and make their own jobs look replaceable. If you had the power to prevent that from happening, you might too.
Many will say that Secretary Gates' trim of the top brass doesn't do much to address the Department of Defense's bloated budget. But even if it's a small step, it should have a big impact. By making cuts to jobs at the top, the rank and file will be reminded that everyone is sharing the pain.
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