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The Cost Of Treating Troops As Free Labor Providers
It’s become almost a trope that government is less efficient and more wasteful than the private sector. Sometimes that’s true and sometimes it’s not. What is true is that most government organizations lack, at least relative to private firms, economic incentives in daily management decisions, particularly in regards to how managers use labor.
Not to descend into a dissertation on labor law and policy, but generally speaking, in the private sector, the people doing the grunt work are usually on some type of hourly wage. The more skill and expertise a job requires, the more that hourly wage usually is. The fact that these people are getting paid for every second they’re at work also means that business try to minimize how much time they spend sitting around. Businesses also try to avoid keeping them at work too long unless it’s essential, because extra time may require extra pay, e.g., time and a half. Even when it comes to salaried managerial employees, it’s usually considered wasteful to use them to do jobs that could be done by non-supervisors.
If a manager in the private sector used an electrician, earning $24 an hour, to answer the phone, he probably wouldn’t last long. More to the point, if he told his electricians to get to a job an hour before it started, just to stand outside in the cold waiting for the building to open, he wouldn’t just be fired, he’d be ridiculed first for spending his company’s money to get nothing done.
The military can’t, nor should it, pay its workers by the hour. And clearly a military organization can’t have such narrowly defined jobs that a service member can tell his noncommissioned officer, “Sorry, I don’t do windows.”
At the same time, pretending that we do pay by the hour can be a useful tool for the military. Far too many leaders come at any problem with the assumption that labor is free. We regularly use highly specialized and trained people to do menial tasks. We keep people at work, often doing nothing at all, just to make others who actually have things to do feel as though everyone’s suffering equally. We keep absurd numbers of people at unit “duties,” even though technology has greatly reduced the need to do so. Keeping people around doesn’t cost a unit anything, so why not do it?
Everything has a cost, whether it’s immediately visible or not. If the military treats labor as if it’s free, the bill eventually manifests itself as poor retention rates, mistakes at work due to fatigue, or negative effects on service members’ lives that eventually carry over to work.
For example, the Marine Corps started putting “firewatches” on every floor of every barracks as part of former Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos’ “Reawakening.” There may be an infinite number of universes, but in none of them does it make sense to have extra people aimlessly wandering barracks hallways in the middle of the night. Reserve units even started putting firewatches in hotels, even though the Holiday Inn already had it covered. In the eyes of the commandant, this created the illusion of greater order and discipline at zero cost. In reality, he was getting jets fixed by mechanics who didn’t sleep the night before. “But what if we ‘comp time’ them the next day?” you ask? Then his work just goes to his buddies who are then either staying late to finish the job or not getting it done at all.
Similarly, everyone in the military has endured the phenomenon wherein if something actually starts at 0600, each level of supervision pads the time by 10 or 20 minutes. Eventually everyone is standing around doing nothing at 0430. While being on time is important, the idea that labor is free means that the balancing act of cost versus benefit never occurs. The leader balances not getting yelled at for having his people late against no downside to him whatsoever, and tells everyone to come in ridiculously early. If his department had to write checks for that extra 20 minutes, he likely would’ve cut it down to five.
Not everything in the military can or should come down to direct dollars-and-cents analysis. Good order and discipline is hard to put a pricetag on. But, just because the military doesn’t pay by the hour doesn’t mean that time is free. The costs aren’t reflected in a balance sheet, but they are real, borne by the military and its people.
The military has a nation to defend, and things need to get done, but leaders at every level need to enforce the idea that everything has a tradeoff. Sometimes it’s essential that everyone stays late, but many other times it’s not. In either case, leaders need to balance the mission against the cost to personnel. When making a decision, leaders always need to ask themselves, Is the cost worth it?
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.