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U.S. Army Soldiers from Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), stand by for their night guard shift in Kenya, Jan. 20, 2020. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are assigned to the East Africa Response Force and provide the ability to rapidly respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn White) [1]

May 21, 2020


This “Major Malfunction” piece is comprised of several parts. It’s main purpose is to take another look at the problem of training management and organizational effectiveness in the Army. I’ll examine the issue from multiple perspectives—from statistical analysis, anecdotal story-telling, personal observations, and existing academic publications. Let me qualify all of this by very clearly acknowledging the limitations of my perspective and experience. This is simply what I’ve observed through my humble lens and I have enough intellectual humility to know there’s a lot that’s beyond my understanding and areas where I’m just plain wrong. I’ve worked with and for leaders that fall on every part of the spectrum and this isn’t an attack on a particular echelon or rank. Dealing with a problem with such a large scope requires starting and maintaining the dialogue at every level for multi-echelon and interdisciplinary input, actionable change, and comprehensive feedback. It’s not something that is going to go away anytime soon. So please keep that in mind before you fire for effect! Thanks for visiting–I hope you’ll stick around for its entirety!


Let’s face it: we have a problem. A pretty significant one. The Army is an extraordinary organization with some extremely devoted, impressive people. Despite this, an issue that has continually plagued our organization for years is a lack of organizational predictability which has consequently eroded our ability to plan and be effective. At every level, we continue to struggle to manage our time, prioritize, and truly see a vision through to effect lasting organizational change. I would argue that real predictability in any meaningful way is dead. We undeniably have a crisis in training management and training proficiency assessment, but it’s become normalized.

A U.S. Soldier kneels at the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on the way to Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, March 26, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Angel Ruszkiewicz) [2]


In February of 2015, Dr. Leonard Wong and Dr. Stephan Gerras authored a research paper titled “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonest in the Army Profession,” where “It has been fairly well established that the Army as an institution is quick to pass down requirements to individuals and units regardless of their ability to actually comply with the totality of the requirements.” [3] Further, their paper discusses training management, “Much of the Army, from the most senior levels on down, no longer follows or cannot follow the Army’s training management doctrine. The doctrine, when applied to support mission focus, prioritizes tasks and locks in training far enough out to provide predictability and allocate resources. It acknowledges that units cannot do everything because there are not enough resources, especially time. Today’s Army ignores the training doctrine.” [4]

In 2019, RAND Corporation published a research paper titled, “Reducing the Time Burdens of Army Company Leaders.” The study found that “Although soldiers mentioned many solutions for managing their time effectively, several top solutions appeared to be counterproductive (categorized as ‘just do it,’ ‘lie,’ and ‘misrepresent’) and can lead to inaccurate readiness reporting. For example, faced with multiple competing tasks, soldiers mentioned at times being exhausted beyond the point of productivity but having to ‘just do it’ without regard for how well they actually accomplish the task.” [5]

As General McConville, the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) assumed his responsibilities in the top position in the Army, he distributed a welcome message to all Soldiers declaring his number one priority to be people—soldiers, family members, Army civilians and retirees and veterans. While readiness is still in the CSA’s top four priorities, people have risen to the top of the list. [6]

U.S. Army photo credit unknown [7]

During Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper’s tenure as the Secretary of the Army, he directed the creation and publishing of 18 Army directives titled “Prioritizing Efforts – Readiness and Lethality.” [8] His efforts were specifically aimed at “A systemic simplification, reduction, or elimination of required activities (training and non-training) which consume commanders’, leaders’, and soldiers’ time that they might otherwise spend building and sustaining combat readiness.” [9] (Thanks Dr. Esper.)

Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper visits U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, Germany, Sept. 24, 2018. Esper conducted PT with 212th Combat Support Hospital, visited the Kaiserslautern Army Depot, conducted a town hall, toured the 1st Inland Carg… (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) [10]

In an effort to standardize orders publication timeline requirements and timely tasking and prioritization, Army Regulation (AR) 350-1 states that tasks originating from the corps level must be published 120 days out. Tasks from the division level require 90 days, tasks from brigades require 60 days, and tasks from the battalion level to the companies require 45 days. [11]

This issue is complicated and multifaceted. It’s a pervasive problem that isn’t easily measured or quantifiable. It’s a stubbornly persistent problem that takes a considerable amount of time to understand, and even longer to influence change. My perspective is limited as I’m viewing this dilemma through a company grade officer lens, but based on the data, it’s not unreasonable to infer that the cumulative impact of organizational ineffectiveness rests on the shoulders of those at the lowest levels. These are the people who receive the information the latest and are expected to actually execute the task.

It’s been said again and again: The Army has fostered a contradictory environment where it’s literally impossible to accomplish all that is required to the proper standard. We are a chronically dysfunctional organization.

Consequently, the Army’s most senior leaders have implemented policies that place emphasis on people, prioritization, and organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Appropriate illustrations of this are the “six-week window” planning time horizon and the HQDA “prioritizing efforts” memorandums.

So…what is really going on?


[1] DVIDS. “101st Airborne provide security in Kenya” Accessed May 5, 2020. airborne-provide-security-kenya.

[2] DVIDS. “Chinook flight.” March 26, 2020. chinook-flight.

[3] Wong, Leonard, and Stephen J. Gerras. “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession.” Strategic Studies Institute Publications. February 2015. pdf page 4.

[4] Headquarters, Department of the Army, “The Army Training and Leader Development Panel Officer Study Report to the Army,” Washington, DC: Department of the Army, June 2001, pp. 2-9.

[5] Saum-Manning, Lisa, Tracy C. Krueger, Matthew W. Lewis, Erin N. Leidy, Tetsuhiro Yamada, Rick Eden, Andrew Lewis, Ada L. Cotto, Ryan Haberman, Robert Dion, Jr., STtacy L. Moore, Michael Shurkin, Michael Lerario. “Reducing the Time Burden of Army Company Leaders,” RAND Corporation. 2019. RR2979.html.

[6] Army News Release. “Gen. McConville confirmed as next chief of staff, ‘people’ to be his top priority,” October 8, 2019. mcconville_confirmed_as_next_chief_of_staff_ people_to_be_his_top_priority

[7] Army News Release. “Gen. McConville confirmed as next chief of staff, ‘people’ to be his top priority,” October 8, 2019. mcconville_confirmed_as_next_chief_of_staff_ people_to_be_his_top_priority

[8] Army Publishing Directorate. “Army Directive 2018-07 (Prioritizing Efforts-Readiness and Lethality),” April 13, 2018. _a/pdf/web/ARN9184_AD2018_07_Final.pdf

[9] HQDA. “Army Directive 2018-07 (Prioritizing Efforts-Readiness and Lethality),” April 13, 2018. _a/pdf/web/ARN9184_AD2018_07_Final.pdf

[10] Northcutt, Benjamin. “Army Secretary Esper addresses ACFT, readiness in Germany visit,” September 27, 2018. secretary_esper_addresses_acft_readiness_ in_germany_visit

[11] HQDA. “AR 350-1: Army Training and Leader Development,” December 10, 2017. DR_a/pdf/web/ARN18487_R350_1_Admin_ FINAL.pdf