- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2001

Civilian flags atop an unwieldy defense pyramid

It was disappointing that former Col. Kenneth Allard brought up that old canard about too many generals and admirals in his otherwise good piece ("Military's new day dawning," Commentary, Feb. 22). Mr. Allard says "as vital as generals and admirals are to any military system, there are simply too many of them." He supports this judgment by offering that the military has 1,000 flag officers today for only 1.3 million active duty troops, compared to 2,000 flag officers in World War II for 12 million troops. Unfortunately, Mr. Allard ignores the National Guard and the Reserve, which also have several hundred generals and admirals for a million or so troops. He also ignores the Department of Defense's 600,000 civilian employees and civilian senior executives the equivalents of military generals and admirals.

It is poor practice to address the appropriate number of Department of Defense top management officials without taking into account the number of civilian senior executives and political appointees. For about two decades, the total number of civilian flag officer equivalents in the Senior Executive Service has exceeded the number of military flag officers. Today, there are more than 1,200 career and non-career senior executives in the Defense Department not counting presidential appointees.

The number of flag officers, both military and civilian, is no longer a function of the number of troops to be commanded. Rather it is determined primarily by the number of more senior officials to be satisfied. Only about one-quarter of the military flag officers command military organizations. Three-quarters of the military flag officers and all but a few of the civilian senior executives are in staff jobs, where they provide staff oversight and respond to inquiries from above.

High-level grade escalation is a major cause of having so many flag officers and senior executives. There has been in recent years a significant escalation of the grades and titles of civilian officials, creating additional layers of management in the Defense Department. The offices of the secretaries of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force are bloated with civilian officials who review work done by the military staffs. There are undersecretaries, deputy undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, assistant deputy undersecretaries, deputy assistant secretaries and directors galore. Each of these civilian flag officers has military assistants (often generals or admirals) and a contingent of deputies, aides, assistants, executive officers and secretaries. New layers are simply added to the top of a management pyramid that has to have an enlarged base for support. The work load of this unwieldy structure emanates primarily from the top in the form of meetings, guidance, reports, investigations and hearings by Congress, the White House and the top layers of Defense Department management. Work from the bottom works its way up to the top through multiple reviews that cause delay and increase ambiguity but seldom add value.

I don't know how many military generals and admirals and civilian senior executives are needed for the Defense Department. I do know that if there are too many senior officials, the remedy should start from the top and be applied to both civilian senior executives and military flag officers. The proper balance between military flag officers and civilian senior executives in a department ostensibly devoted to the conduct of war also ought to be examined. I am not optimistic, however, that an adequate analysis will occur and that an appropriate remedy will be applied. The people in charge of bureaucracies seldom view themselves as unnecessary, and cuts from the top to the top seldom materialize.


Burke, Va.

John R. Brinkerhoff is a retired U.S. Army colonel and a retired Level 5 official in the Senior Executive Service.

AIDS cases keep adding up

In his Commentary article "AIDS devastating urban U.S.," Armstrong Williams wrote, "Urban dwellers account for nearly two-thirds of all new HIV infections in America, with that rate jumping to 67 percent among urban dwellers between ages 13 and 24." Mr. Williams then goes on to tell us that, "more than two-thirds of young urban dwellers will die from this disease."

First, an increase from 66 percent to 67 percent can hardly be called a "jump." Second, Mr. Williams seems to be confused. That two-thirds of all new HIV infections are urban dwellers does not mean that two-thirds of young urban dwellers have HIV.

If AIDS is a problem in urban America, it will become a problem for the rest of America. There are no walls than can keep diseases from spreading from one American community to another. It was once believed that drug addiction could be confined to the ghetto. It was not.

If it is true that 66 percent of all young urban dwellers are going to die from AIDS, Americans are in serious trouble. There are 8 million people in New York City alone.



Reforming Ukraine's chaotic tidings

The dramatic turnaround of Ukraine's economy in 2000, the closure of the Chernobyl nuclear plant and the strategically critical cooperation of the United States and Ukraine to dispose of nuclear warheads, silos and Backfire bombers have all been obscured by the bizarre murder of a journalist and the sacking of high profile Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko on corruption charges.

The Washington Times carried a Commentary article by Gwynne Dyer last week on the murder and the political uproar that has ensued. He concludes by stating "there is a good chance that Ukrainian democracy … can sort this problem out by itself." I agree.

As president of the Ukraine U.S. Business Council, a group of some 30 American corporations, I do not represent Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Victor A. Yuschenko nor any Ukrainian officials or faction. The council is dedicated to the interest of American business in Ukraine.

But as "an old Soviet affairs hand," I find the murder scandal far too familiar to take at face value. Former Soviet adversaries and experienced U.S. intelligence officers are puzzled by the ready acceptance of the charges that Mr. Kuchma engineered the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze and by the Western press' subsequent reporting of chaos in Kiev. No one seems to question the motives for Mr. Gongadze's murder. Nor do they question the amateurish disposal of his body (with one arm protruding from his shallow grave), which would seem to indicate that the murder was a deliberate effort to implicate Mr. Kuchma and overthrow Ukraine's freely elected government. Who would gain from this scandal? Ms. Timoshenko, jailed former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and Mr. Kuchma's principle political adversary, opposition party leader Olexander Moroz. Also, no one seems to have critically assessed the "chaos." A few thousand demonstrators in a country of 50 million do not make a Belgrade. It is also worth noting that the demonstrators have not been brutally suppressed, as they would have been in the Soviet Union or would be today in Communist China.

Mr. Dyer describes Mr. Moroz as uniquely incorruptible, ignoring his nine-year campaign with the Communist Party against economic reforms. It is precisely these reforms, initiated by Messrs. Kuchma and Yuschenko in cooperation with parliamentary leaders Ivan Pliusch and Viktor Medvechuk, which have finally triggered Ukraine's recovery as observed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department.

American business and, as I understand it, the U.S. government, are viewing the situation with serious concern, recognizing the immense potential of Ukraine as a market and business partner and Ukraine's strategic importance in Europe. We ardently hope the Kuchma-Yuschenko government will act prudently and transparently to dispel the "chaos" now prevailing. Business conditions and government efficiency are improving, and U.S. business (and I assume other foreign investors) are not going to abandon Ukraine's potential as long as Messrs. Kuchma and Yuschenko continue to move Ukraine's transformation into a market economy.

The Ukraine U.S. Business Council agrees with Mr. Dyer that the Ukraine's new democracy "can sort this problem out by itself."



Ukraine U.S. Business Council

Washington D.C.

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