New Officers: Are We Getting Our Best and Brightest?

Blizzard

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I didn't really want to start a new thread -- I thought there was a similar topic somewhere but couldn't find it...

Anyway, came across the following article today:
You aren’t wrong: Our military officers actually seem to be getting stoopider

The article is a bit dated now (published 2017) and we can debate the merits of the publisher, but it still makes some interesting observations, such as:

“two-thirds of the new officers commissioned in 2014 would be in the bottom one-third of the class of 1980; 41 percent of new officers in 2014 would not have qualified to be officers by the standards held at the time of World War II.”

and

“In 1980, there were 14 Marine officers entering who scored above 155 (on a test with a maximum score of 160). In 2004, the year of incoming officers who are now recently promoted majors, there were only two lieutenants who scored above 155. In 2014, there were none.”

The article is focused on Marine Corps Officers, but, once we move past the sensationalized headline, it's reasonable to assume these figures hold true for other services as well.

Screenshot_20230919_094322_X.jpg


Do you agree with the findings/statements in this article?

Are the services doing an acceptable job of attracting some of our best and brightest into the officers corps? If not, how do they change this?
 
"Best and Brightest" is not a quantitative metric.
We can look at numbers and those numbers can provide a snap shot - but a snap shot only captures a moment in time.

Who was joining the military in 1980?
What did American society "look like" in 1980 during the high point of this statistical snap shot?
Was math racist in 1980?
Were 'grades' culturally biased?
Is the test taken in 2022 the exact same test that was taken in 2014 and in 1980?
Did our military leaders think we had too many white guys flying airplanes?
Did our political institutions publicly label the military of 1980 as inherently racist and filled with potential rapists?

These things matter, and they all contribute to the qualitative standard of best and brightest.
-If college graduates with good grades are joining the service because they wanted to serve a common goal back in 1980, then "best and brightest" is going to look a lot different than it does today.
-If you are recruiting climate activists or youngsters suffering from gender dysphoria, the "best and brightest" are going to be judged using different parameters.
-If you prefer subjective over objective when setting standards and you are seeking intersectionality and diversity as your leadership foundation, then you MUST look at your statistical mapping subjectively.
You can't abandon objective standards and then ponder why common core test scores are dropping.

Sure - math is hard - but my level of awareness on the sexist, racist, oppressive history of western civilization is off the charts. When "Nazi Bad" and "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Good" is all the objective truth I need to know - who cares that "Made In America" is only two words?

How can anyone say I'm not part of the "Best and Brightest" when I am living my truth?
 
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Probably, but the military isn't cutting edge anymore so those high IQ folks are going elsewhere.

Compliance is considered a better trait than intelligence.

Are the folks coming in the right color? gender? support the alphabet crowd? Because that's what matters.

The AF missed it's recruiting goals, 1st time in 24 years. Funny thing is, we had a progressive president back then too.

We are building a Politically loyal military, and the high IQ folks aren't interested.

Can you blame them?
 
You can't just assume that the "high IQ folks" are somehow objectively 'the best and brightest' - only Joe Biden would say something so bold.

Cutting edge is also a problematic term.
Cutting edge of what?
War is different now. It isn't just about killing mother fuckers and breaking their shit.
War is all about nation building and empowering underrepresented populations.
War is about giving everyone an equal chance to serve.
War is about changing peoples behavior through socioeconomic pressure and education.
...because our diversity is our strength.

On the idea that compliance is a better trait than intelligence - there are times when I would argue that compliance is DEFINITELY a better trait than intelligence - but hasn't it always been that way to a certain degree?
-York, take some men and assault across that open field; I know that it is covered by enemy fire and landmines but we need to cross it so we can assault that trench line and take out that machine gun nest...
-Sir, could you repeat that order? I didn't hear you because I was busy killing Nazis on the other side of that open field that it is being covered by enemy fire and landmines. By the way, I need a hand processing these 130 Nazi troops that I just captured...
...Did you say something about some salt in a trench line?


Now imagine if a young Alvin York had stood firm on 'his truth' and his level of intelligence:
-York, take some men and assault across that open field; I know that it is covered by enemy fire and landmines but we need to cross it so we can assault that trench line and take out that machine gun nest...
-I'm sorry sir, but I am a conscientious objector. After a great deal of inner conflict and deep personal reflection, it is my belief that my religious denomination and spiritual faith forbids me from visiting violence upon others. I will gladly stay here and provide medical care for those wounded in battle, but I'll not be killing anyone today
.


I'd also argue that we have grossly underestimated the traits and motivations of "the high IQ folks" and their place in the US military. The US military is absolutely choking on an overabundance of high IQ folks. They just happen to be high IQ folks that have cast aside the concepts of selfless service, patriotism, and sacrifice.
-I'll join, but only if you cover my student debt.
-I'll reenlist, but only if you give me a cash bonus that's at least 50% of my annual base pay.
-As well as a school that provides a valuable skill to defense contractors when I leave the service.
-And some paid time off to work on my Masters Degree.

I don't think we have a problem recruiting and retaining intelligent service members; I think we have a problem with honor, commitment, and esprit de corps.
As to those young Americans that still place a high value on the concept of honor and commitment - I don't blame them at all.
 
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Out of curiosity, I looked up GT scores for various jobs. Commissioned and Warrant officers require a 110 GT score; the max GT score you can earn is a 144.

Other jobs requiring a GT of 110:

Prime Power Production Specialist
Cyber Operations
Special Forces
CID
Contracting NCO

The ASVAB isn't rocket science, but you could easily argue 110 is a little too low for a commissioned officer.

Consider other factors like those mentioned above. War for 20+ years, the plethora of social agendas, deployment frequency and duration, knowing you'll be around toxic leaders because apparently that's all we promote anymore, decreased flight hours for potential aviators, the prestige isn't there, forums like ours which highlight the numerous flaws and failures in the modern military (that's a long list), and I could go on.

A fat, broke, greasy-ass basement dweller will not attract supermodels. The current state of our military attracts Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius, not an actual genius.
 
I found my old ASVAB paperwork a while back but I don't remember what I got on it and I wasn't able to find it again just now when I looked for it. 110 might be about right, I don't think it was much higher than that, if at all.

I served with a lot of really good officers during my time in the Army. But I served with a lot of dumb ones too. Intelligence, and stupidity, are not confined to the O pay grades. Plenty of highly intelligent warrants, NCOs, and EMs and plenty of dumb ones too.

As a whole, Americans are fatter, dumber, weaker, and more-criminal now than they were a couple of generations ago. Combine that with the all-volunteer force, American children being force-fed a steady educational diet of "America is racist/bad/evil/etc," the fact that so many pro-military and former military are telling people **not** to join, erosion of incentives (why risk the Army for college money when the Democrats will just "forgive" your student loan?) and the ongoing political catastrophe that is the Biden administration, it's no wonder why people aren't joining up.
 
it's no wonder why people aren't joining up.

I'd add that benefits are changing too. For ex. I was promised free health care for life upon retirement..nope.That changed 1/2 way into my career and every year it keeps going up. So besides patriotism and career satisfaction, you have to ask yourself is it worth it?
 
Things you didn't hear from military officers in 1980:
-Does this dress make my balls look big?
-I need to update my gender status in DEERS.
-Which bathroom should I use today?


Does correlation equal causation?
Of course not.
Maybe.
I don't know.
Probably not.
Fuck.
 
We seem to be recruiting from an increasingly small pool nowadays. That is bound to affect the mean quality of our population. I’m sure the same thing happened after Vietnam. The opposite happened on September 12th, 2001. I’m actually surprised there isn’t any upward tick on 2001 when everyone wanted to join the military. Makes me wonder about the chart.

Personally, I think retaining our talent, both officer and enlisted, is a larger challenge than recruiting them. I will speak to the officer corps, since that is the focus of this topic. I believe we have a major brain drain around the 5 year mark when officers complete their initial contracts, around the ten year mark when they look over the precipice of the field grade ranks and a career in uniform, and finally at the 20 year mark after battalion command, and for my generation, retirement eligibility. I think the problem right now is most acute at the 5 year mark where bad cultures drive our most talented young people, and the 20 year mark where talented folks, like @Marauder06 and I think @DA SWO, decided to leave the uniform for a second career. It’s hard to keep putting your family through the stress of military service when you have other, more lucrative, opportunities on the outside that require significantly less sacrifice. Love of service can only go so far, especially after a 20 year career with limited promotion opportunities to the General Officer ranks.
 
We seem to be recruiting from an increasingly small pool nowadays. That is bound to affect the mean quality of our population. I’m sure the same thing happened after Vietnam. The opposite happened on September 12th, 2001. I’m actually surprised there isn’t any upward tick on 2001 when everyone wanted to join the military. Makes me wonder about the chart.

Personally, I think retaining our talent, both officer and enlisted, is a larger challenge than recruiting them. I will speak to the officer corps, since that is the focus of this topic. I believe we have a major brain drain around the 5 year mark when officers complete their initial contracts, around the ten year mark when they look over the precipice of the field grade ranks and a career in uniform, and finally at the 20 year mark after battalion command, and for my generation, retirement eligibility. I think the problem right now is most acute at the 5 year mark where bad cultures drive our most talented young people, and the 20 year mark where talented folks, like @Marauder06 and I think @DA SWO, decided to leave the uniform for a second career. It’s hard to keep putting your family through the stress of military service when you have other, more lucrative, opportunities on the outside that require significantly less sacrifice. Love of service can only go so far, especially after a 20 year career with limited promotion opportunities to the General Officer ranks.

The Navy, similarly. We also see a surge of officers getting out around the 15 year mark. A pretty good retirement package used to be pretty good incentive, but those bennies have eroded over the past 20-30 years to the point that if people (officer or enlisted) exit prior to 20 they don't feel like they're really missing out.
 
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