- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

A confidential study of Army officers' career hopes reveals deep frustration with their senior leaders and peacekeeping assignments.

More than two-thirds of officers in a survey sample agreed with the statement "I see no possibility for continued job satisfaction in the Army."

"Job satisfaction is down across the officer corps," says the Army report, which has not yet been presented to Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff. "Optempo [operational tempo, meaning the frequency of missions], micromanagement and not adhering to training doctrine are the major factors causing job dissatisfaction among the officer corps."

"Many officers look at their superiors and note that they are not having fun," adds the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times. "Then they ask themselves why they would want that job."

The report is the result of polling and conducting focus groups with more than 3,000 commissioned officers in combat and combat-support jobs. The report was written by a study group for the Army Training and Leader Development Panel, a special group set up last spring at Gen. Shinseki's behest at the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Lt. Gen. Mike Steele, commander of the Combine Arms Center at Leavenworth, heads the panel. The survey results will be included in the panel's final report to the chief of staff at year's end.

Gen. Shinseki is alarmed at the high number of young officers quitting the Army. But an Army official said the panel was set up for a different reason: to assess the developmental needs of officers as the Army transforms its 10 active divisions into a lighter, more mobile force.

The survey documenting low officer morale represents the Army's first comprehensive look at officers' attitudes and needs since the Pentagon in 1998 acknowledged that the high pace of overseas war and peacekeeping missions was draining readiness and causing people to quit.

The Leavenworth study offered a simple solution:

"The Army must restore the spirit and quality back into the unit experience by reducing optempo [operational tempo] and enforcing our training doctrine. We must provide more time to units for [mission essential task list]-focused training."

An Army official familiar with the study said the survey results are "a good news story" because it shows an Army commitment to analyze what it takes to train and develop the next generation of leaders.

"It's unprecedented in our history … and we are doing it at a time when there is a lot of turbulence out there," said the official, referring to the ongoing presidential debate over military combat readiness.

The official, who briefed a reporter on the condition he not be identified, downplayed the high percentage of officers who say they are dissatisfied. He said the panel's study group was directed to combine responses as one affirmative answer if they said they were very dissatisfied, moderately dissatisfied or didn't know.

"It's not as bad as you see here," the official said, adding that this particular survey represents only 20 percent of panel research to date.

"I would agree things like optempo, the amount of time to train for their missions and the number of training [distractions] we have out there impact on their ability to train and to do their jobs the way they want to do their jobs," he said.

The official also said surveyors, in questions about career satisfaction, included only officers who had decided to leave or were thinking about leaving.

Still, he said, the study team has additional information to justify its conclusion that "Job satisfaction is down across the officer corps."

"The chief of staff of the Army is committed to doing something about it," he said.

Well over 70 percent of surveyed lieutenants, captains and colonels agreed with the statement "I am not having fun anymore." Two-thirds of majors registered the same sentiment.

Between 69 percent and 73 percent of those ranks agree with the statement "I see no possibility for continued job satisfaction in the Army."

More than 70 percent of officers agreed that "I can no longer balance the needs of the Army with needs of my family."

The Army is maintaining more than 11,000 troops in Bosnia and Kosovo in open-ended deployments. It also rotates troops in the Persian Gulf in addition to a permanent presence in South Korea and Europe.

"Assignment experience is not meeting officer expectations to some degree for all cohorts studied, with the greatest dissatisfaction being found among Lts., Capts. and Majs. Overall command environment, however, is still considered good," the report concludes.

The survey team for this study visited combat and combat-support officers at 10 posts, including armor units at Fort Hood, Texas, intelligence officers at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and infantry at Fort Benning, Ga.

When generals were asked how their midlevel officers performed problem-solving tasks, most of them responded that "officers struggle in both command and staff positions because of a lack of experience. They spend too little time in key duty positions to sufficiently develop."

More than two-thirds of all polled officers agreed with the statement "there is excessive micromanagement in the Army."

A majority of officers stated that "some pressure exists to inflate unit status on readiness reporting."

President Clinton has sent the military on a record number of war and peacekeeping missions. The rapid rate of operations weakened combat readiness and spurred officers in all services to rethink a military career.

The unhappy state of some officers was documented in a separate survey for the U.S. Army Research Institute. A lieutenant gave a typical written response: "Reason for first thinking about leaving the Army: Lack of training time and resources. I don't want to do battle with an unarmed unit; i.e., untrained is unarmed. Task Force Smith will happen again and I don't want to lead it, just because I stayed in and found easy promotion, along with less qualified peers." Task Force Smith was the first contingent of ill-trained American troops to enter South Korea to blunt the North's invasion.

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