President Donald Trump hands a pen to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie during a spending bill signing ceremony at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)

The Trump administration wants to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans' hospitals to private health care providers. That's true even though earlier this year the administration vehemently denied it would privatize any part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The privatization of essential government services is nothing new, of course. Over the years, countries have privatized dozens of services and activities that were once the sole domain of governments, such as the provision of electricity and water, road operations and prisons and even health care, with the ostensible aim of making them more efficient.

But before going down that road, the question needs to be asked whether privatizing essential human services such as those for military veterans serves the public interest. New research we recently published suggests that privatization may come at a social cost.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

What can we do to counter the negative effects of ambitious promotion seeking? I offer the following:

  1. Don't look at your evaluation
  2. Speak truth to power
  3. Strive for impact, not promotion

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By John Bolton

Among the islands of Micronesia, a strange phenomenon occurred after the first Westerners arrived. Not understanding how industrialization had created ships, guns, and cannons, the islanders assumed a strikingly similar response: presuming magic had given the whites "Cargo." Soon, emergent "Cargo Cults" preached a forthcoming doctrine of abundance, believing that if they built the artifices of "Cargo" such as wooden docks, bamboo roads, and dirt airfields, the goods would return.

If at first inclined to scoff at stone-age ignorance, we should consider that the Army's implementation of Mission Command follows a similar pattern. The natives mistook the artifacts of "Cargo" from supporting its factors, processes, and systems just as the U.S. Army is mistaking mission orders and disciplined initiative as the tools of Mission Command rather than a changed Culture.

Consequently, Cargo Cultists provide an example of how not to implement change — one the Army should consider as it struggles to make Mission Command a reality.

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"So what?"

"Huh?"

"So WHAT? Your experience. So what?"

I'd just given my friend a copy of my resume to read. "So what?" wasn't the reaction I'd been hoping for, but he was absolutely right.

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The British Army has an interesting take on what makes a good advisor to foreign forces.

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