Does The US Military Have Too Many Generals?

news
Left to right: Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd; Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly applaud during the change-of-command ceremony for the U.S. Southern Command at the command's headquarter in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

On May 12, the Senate Armed Services Committee proposed some pretty substantial cuts to the military’s general and flag officer corps. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017, the provision proposes cutting the number of generals by 25%, or 222 of the Department of Defense’s 886 generals and admirals.


According to the committee, the number of general and flag officers has “become increasingly out of balance with the size of the force it leads.”  

As of Feb. 29, there were 411 one stars, 299 two stars, 139 three stars, and 37 four-star active generals and admirals, with several more appointed recently. The ratio of officers in the military to the total force size has grown from 15.69% in 2000 to 17.54% in 2015.

The Daily Beast reports that there are 12 generals commanding the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. That’s one flag officer per 400 troops. That’s about the size of two infantry companies, which are typically led captains, not someone four or more pay grades above.

Related: 5 Epic Military Leadership Fails Of This Decade »

“Over the past 30 years, the end-strength of the joint force has decreased 38 percent, but the ratio of four-star officers to the overall force has increased by 65 percent,” wrote the committee. “Especially at a time of constrained defense budgets, the military services must right-size their officer corps and shift as many personnel as possible from staff functions to operational and other vital roles.”

According to Time, part of the problem is that there are many generals who are now doing jobs like legal, medical or public affairs, that used to be done by a colonel. In addition to cutting down the overall number of admiral and general officers, the committee is taking aim at its four-star ranks in particular.  

The Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Sen. John McCain, wants to cut their ranks by 34%, from 41 to 27. Those who remain would include the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the head of the National Guard Bureau; the combatant commanders; the commander of U.S. forces in Korea; one additional joint billet nominated by the president, like the four-star command currently in Afghanistan; as well as three additional four-star billets each for the Army, Navy, and Air Force to be filled as the services choose.

It almost goes without saying, but the higher the rank, the more money you make. As reported by Time, in the case of a four-star general, the basic annual pay comes out to $181,500, so eliminating some of these positions frees up that much in more in DoD dollars, not to mention the fact that general officers are often flanked by numerous aides, and those with three or four stars may even count other one or two-star generals and admirals among their entourage.

There’s also the issue of redundancy, with four-star generals and admirals falling under the purview of other four stars.

The Army recently had a three-star position in the Pacific elevated to a four-star billet, simply so it could be on par with the Air Force and Navy commands in the area, all of whom report to another four star, Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., with U.S. Pacific Command. Additionally, the four-star general in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., reports to U.S. Central Command, which, you guessed it, is also headed by a four-star general.

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Rangers resting in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of "Omaha" Beach landings on "D-Day," June 6, 1944. (Public domain)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Read More Show Less
Senior Airman Marlon Xavier Cruz Gonzalez

An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.

Read More Show Less