The Best Defense

The quiet decline of Leavenworth: 33 civilian slots cut, and counting

By a guy at Fort Leavenworth

Best Defense guest columnist

The big issue at our institution is the Title X contract length policy -- although Dept of the Army civilians, we are signed to multi-year periods and then must be reappointed at the end of our terms. At SAMS the faculty get 5 year periods for appointment (even though our faculty is as good as theirs). This last summer the college leadership standardized the 2 year period as the standing contract length for all Title X faculty now at CGSS (the part of CGSC that delivers the Command and General Staff Office Course, what used to be called ILE.)

Previously the maximum contract length had been 3 years, although for a short time a few folks did have 5 year agreements. There are still some old Title V/GS instructors around, but as they retire, those billets are eliminated since they were designated back in 2003 as "overhires"-- even though they were not. From full professor to instructor, the best one can hope for is two years. Obviously no one wants to have their contract up for renewal during a time of cuts.

With the move to lower the civilian side of the civ-mil faculty ratio, the Title X reappointment system is an ideal way to cut faculty -- simply do not reappoint them. There is no tenure, as you know, not even for full professors. The target goal for faculty reduction at CGSC this last fiscal year was 33, and we have pretty much met that goal using retirements without backfills and Title X non-appointments using order of merit lists. The retirements have all been "voluntary" -- the Department of Military History just lost Dr. Tom Huber to retirement, who is a big name -- he is the guy who came up with compound warfare theory, which Frank Hoffman will tell you is the name for hybrid warfare before Frank et al. came up with hybrid warfare. He is a loss. The history department also lost a promising young ABD (all but dissertation) historian who frankly was worried about job security.

In the rest of the building there is much angst over this sort of uncertainty, and the green suiter instructors are still not showing up either -- for history they have to be 5x (the military history additional skill identifier) level of education (i.e., have a masters degree). The army does not have a lot of those to go around. The college has lost some key non-Ph.D. level instructors, again, many of them moving on to GS jobs outside the college. For example, a logistics instructor who headed up the College's writing improvement program left -- he was a former West point professor and went to a GS job in another state. One last OBTW, just learned a colleague in the tactics department is leaving, very erudite and a great instructor (but not a Ph.D.). Tom, the quality of the faculty is being harmed by a simplistic and ultimately self-defeating personnel policy because it gives the Army max flexibility and top cover -- just what its leadership is used to.


The Best Defense

Quote of the day: When facing wicked problems, perhaps just try things out

I was reading "How Strategists Really Think: Tapping the Power of Analogy," an article from the Harvard Business Review (semi-necessary disclosure: I also have an article appearing in that magazine -- I said I've been busy!) and was struck by this comment:

Trial and error is a relatively effective way to make strategic decisions in settings so ambiguous, novel, or complex that any cognitively intensive effort is doomed to fail. In altogether new situations . . . . there may be no good substitute for trying something out and learning from experience.

Tom again: I found the article especially useful for the section on "How to avoid superficial analogies." The key step, as friend JK pointed out, is assessing the actual similarity of the two cases, or, as the authors put it, to "Actively search for differences between the source and the target."

(HT to JK)