WASHINGTON, D.C. – A recently published survey that was conducted internally in the Army in 2011 shows that only 26 percent of active-duty Army officers believe the Army is headed in the right direction. Many of those surveyed identified “political correctness” imposed by both outside policymakers and senior Army leaders as the driving factor in what they perceived as a decline in their branch of the U.S. military.
The 26 percent that said the Army is headed in the right direction reflects a significant drop from the 33 percent that thought the Army was heading in the right direction in 2010. It is also the lowest percentage to give such a response since the Army started conducting this survey in 2005.
The Annual Survey of Army Leadership, conducted by U.S. Army’s Center for Army Leadership, asked 16,800 commissioned and non-commissioned officers to agree or disagree with the statement: “The Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.”
Of those who did not agree, their top reasons were:
- 58 percent cited the Army’s inability to “retain quality leaders.”
- 57 percent cited “a lack of discipline, or the “Army is too soft”
- 53 percent pointed to “ineffective leaders at senior levels”
- 52 percent said “senior leaders focus on the wrong priorities”
- 46 percent said junior leader promotions/advancements are happening too soon
- 39 percent said “resources/funding or technology are insufficient”
The report that one-fourth of those who believed the Army was not headed in the right direction offered additional comments on why they believed that was the case. “Two themes stood out in these comments,” said the report. The first was concern over the downsizing of the Army and the impact it might have on national security. The second reason given was the negative impact of “political correctness.”
“Secondly,” said the report, “several comments indicated that political correctness or the influence of politics in the Army is a reason the Army is not headed in the right direction. These comments generally cited the negative influence of government policy makers (outside the Army) as being detrimental to the future of the Army, and indicated that senior Army leaders themselves felt the need to bow to ‘politically correct solutions’ to appease policy makers, or to ‘play politics’ within their own organizations.”
Ret. Lt. Colonel Bob Maginnis, a security and foreign affairs analyst, says when it comes to leadership issues, the survey results are positive. But, he added, “What this communicates is that below the surface, there is a lot of tension. A lot of skepticism, and to a certain degree, pessimism.”
Maginnis added that “cultural trends” within the Army such as defense budget cuts, political correctness and a shift in national security strategy have deepened the pessimism of many Army officers. “I’m very concerned about the cultural trends here. I’m very confident that we have a very effective fighting force, but even the leadership is beginning to see some erosion because of forces from the outside. They’re concerned that they’re going to lose their capability because we’re going to be so crippled in terms of cuts,” said Maginnis.