Posted on Jul 28, 2015
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From: Fortune

As more Americans pursue college degrees, it has become less of an obstacle to becoming a leader in the military, hurting their relative quality.

The law of unintended consequences is alive and well in a strange place: more Americans are going to college, which is a good thing, but it has reduced the quality of officers joining the military.

I saw the importance of having a high-quality officer corps firsthand when I was deployed with an infantry company to Sangin, Afghanistan in 2011. For seven frustrating months, our battalion was stuck in a Groundhog’s day of either finding Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or having the IEDs find us. The only variation was imposed on us by the actions of the other side.

Waiting for the plane home, I joked to another officer, “That was nothing like what the counterinsurgency manual described.”

“I wouldn’t know – I haven’t read it,” he replied. “I don’t need a book to tell me what to do.”

This anecdote of one lieutenant’s antipathy to “book learning” reflects a deeper problem: the decline in the intelligence of military officers, which our recent study found has become significant. This is not just a result of continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has been a trend for at least 35 years.

Using data from a Freedom of Information Act request, we found that the average intelligence of Marine Corps officers has dropped since 1980. For example, 41% of new Marine officers in 2014 would not have met the intelligence standards demanded of officers in World War II. This decline is especially surprising because, as others have documented, 2011 saw the most intelligent group of enlistees in the history of the volunteer military. Thus, even as the intelligence of our enlisted troops have been rising, that of our commissioned officers has been declining.

Why the decrease in officer quality?

We didn’t find it was due to more minorities or women in the ranks, as many have assumed. The basic answer is that more people are going to college. Officers in the volunteer military have always been required to have a four-year college degree. The pool of college students has increased by over 50% since 1980, so these days a lot more Americans meet the key qualification to become an officer than was the case three decades ago. That has been very positive for society by increasing social mobility. But perhaps it hasn’t been all good news. The expansion of the pool of college students means a larger, but lower quality, pool of potential officers. While our data were about Marine officers, the results likely apply to the whole military.

Another example drawn from my experience shows the problems created by a lack of intellectual curiosity. The Afghan Army had several large pictures in their bases and on their trucks of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famous Tajik warlord who fought against the Soviets. Few of the Marine officers knew his history, but more importantly many others didn’t care to learn. They then couldn’t understand why the local Pashtuns were upset with the presence of “foreign” Tajik troops in their village. Wrongly, we measured success as merely counting the number of Afghan Army patrols, which we took as an indicator of closer relations with the local Pashtuns, without recognizing how the locals truly felt.

Our military is being given increasingly complex and diverse missions across the globe; it doesn’t make sense to train a young officer how to fight against the Soviets in World War III and then ask him or her to be a sociologist and diplomat. But as long as the United States relies on the military to conduct foreign affairs, the military needs to be staffed with knowledgeable, intellectually capable officers.

This decline has not been helped by the anti-military culture that has prevailed at elite universities since the Vietnam War. While Harvard University restored its ROTC program following the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2011, the continued paucity of cadets there belies their claim that it was always about homosexuals in the military. This year, only *one* cadet was commissioned from Harvard into the Navy — hardly the contribution we would need to create a more intelligent officer corps.

This need for critical thinkers was recognized well before the current wars. In the 1990s, Marine General Charles Krulak wrote of the “Three Block War.” In a single city, the military is conducting humanitarian relief on one block; peacekeeping operations are conducted on the next; and in the third, the troops are engaged in a full-out fight for their lives. Krulak’s prediction was eerily prescient; in Iraq and Afghanistan, we would hand out candy to children on one block, on the next we were trying to solve problems of local governance, and on the third we were walking through a minefield of IEDs.

The military needs intelligent, flexible leaders. We are lacking enough of them right now. As a first step, administer the existing enlisted intelligence test (ASVAB) to all potential officers’ intelligence. After a year of results, establish a minimum score as a short-term solution. In the long-term, we will need to critically evaluate what qualifications produce a successful officer and how we measure those qualifications. The long-term solution will be complicated, but it is vital. Not just for national security, but for the sake of the enlistees who entrust their lives to officers.

http://fortune.com/2015/07/27/college-america-weaker-military/?xid=soc_socialflow_twitter_FORTUNE
Posted in these groups: Education logo Higher Education5a9f5691 College
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Responses: 13
MSgt Dwyane Watson
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I don't think it has anything to do with degrees but entitlement. Many people feel they come from privilege and don't need to listen to others that they feel are below them. I have worked for great officers and terrible officers as well as SNCOs. A leader is someone who listens to subordinates and learns from them. A good NCO will try to train their young officers and show them how to lead, other officers already know everything and don't need their NCOs and then you have your bad leaders. One young officer learned the hard way to listen to his troops when the LT was trying to show he was the boss and was demanding to get an aircraft fixed. The aircraft in question needed a jo-bolt (a blind fastener that you can only use once, it is not really a bolt) and the LT told the shop chief to cann the part. The subject matter expert said you can't do that and we needed to wait for the new fastener. The LT said you will do what I say, so the fastener was removed and the shop chief brought the remnants back to the Lt and said here is your fastener, now you have two broke aircraft. The Lt faced the music from higher ups and learned a valuable lesson, listen to the subject matter experts.
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COL Roxanne Arndt
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I disagree with this. Just because you have a college degree does not guarantee that you will be an officer. You have to be selected to go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and then there has to be a need. Unless you are part of the AMEDD, JAG, or Chaplain corp, then yes you receive a direct commission and do not have to attend OCS. Being a leader develops overtime. Maybe if you go to a service academy your leadership skills are at the very minimum at the novice level. Many college grads are in there early 20's when they do finish college if they go straight from high school. What 20 something do you know has the ability to be more than a novice leader. As a 2LT you rely on your senior NCO's, you have a mentor, you take leadership courses. Often times as a new officer you don't get an assignment based on your college degree, you learn your job OJT and depend on others. Being in the AMEDD I've seen many 2LT nurses be put as charge nurses, team leaders. They barely have their clinical skills down and they certainly do not know how to be a leader. In nursing school you take one leadership course....That is not enough. So bottom line, a college degree does not make a leader.....(Sorry if I got carried away!)
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2LT Aecp Nursing Student
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This is why I love AECP ma’am!
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SSG Scott Burk
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I'm tossing my BS card on this one. Just because you have a degree doesn't mean you'll pass the selection and training for a commission. I had 3 associates, a BS and an MS while I was in. It didn't mean I was smarter than everyone else, just more well rounded.
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2LT Aecp Nursing Student
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This mentions a “lack of
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