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D isciplining the All-Volunteer Force is going to be an interesting challenge that will tax to the utmost the creative abilities of those in charge. While that challenge has historically been met by an unbending insistence on obedience (/.<?., unquestioning compliance with a superior’s orders), it is obvious that this traditional solution is more and more seen as inadequate and sometimes counterproductive. Because the process producing this result has been so gradual, the factors underlying it have been thus far unperceived. It is time, therefore, to isolate them, examine the nature of their impact, and prepare more contemporarily relevant responses in the overall context of maintaining effective armed forces.
Charting the course. "Discipline” nowadays often means "punishment”; and, further, it means punishment imposed (or inflicted) by an officer on an enlisted man. But, accurate though these reflexive assessments may sometimes be, they actually camouflage the traditional (and more vital) nature of the art of military control and distract analysts from commenting on the real, inherent problems.
More generically, discipline is direction imposed on inferiors by a superior to achieve desired institutional objectives. Thus, it requires both authority to direct (i.e., a superior-inferior relationship) and the superior’s knowledge of the institution’s goals, or, a sense of direction if you will. And of these, the latter is clearly more important, for even the best-qualified, best-inten- tioned superior who marches his army in the wrong direction, leads them at best into futility and perhaps into chaos. He must, therefore, know what is required of his charges before he orders them to perform. In our democracy with its long history of civilian control of the military, that means he must understand goals which have been established by others (unless he serves at the very highest echelons).
But just as our military strategy at any particular point is a function of, and a reflection of, our current national strategy, so, I believe, is our approach to military discipline at any particular point related to the national strategy being concurrently pursued. That is, the objectives set for the armed forces will determine the objectives set for those within the armed forces; what shall be required of them will be determined by the demands to be made of their services. Put another way, how they shall be disciplined (directed) will hinge in large part on what they are being disciplined (directed) for.
After World War II, America was in the midst of one of her periodic returns to normalcy when she became painfully aware that she had not only to reverse the process of disarmament, but to expand it in the direction of rearmament. Instead of relegating her
military steel, honed razor sharp in the massive war, to 1939 status or lower, America called out the guard again. But this rush to arms was crucially different from that following on the heels of Pearl Harbor. There was, first of all, no enemy against whom to field our armies. Indeed, with the exception of Korea, that was to remain the case for nearly two decades before our forces were thrown (dribbled?) into the fray. There was, of course, ample justification for their existence, for there was the threat of an enemy: Communism hung, to borrow Mr. Justice Holmes’ phrase from another subject, "like a brooding omnipresence in the sky.”
But Communism alone was not the whole story, for Fascism, too, had filled the air, albeit less cloyingly, and our response to it was far less timely. The reason for our alacrity in responding to the post-1945 challenge posed by the rise of the new form of totalitarianism lay in technological advances, most perceptibly in the form of the nuclear weapon. Faced with the possibility of instant destruction, our leaders could not afford the luxury of a true peacetime army, with its cadres of professionals around whom whole corps and fleets later could be built. The "force-in-being” was a political and military necessity. And therefore America presented herself with her first true Standing Army.
There was, moreover, one further consequence of the technological revolution: in addition to making conventional warfare old-fashioned (or so it appeared), it rendered warfare unusable and unimaginable. Without belaboring this point, it suffices to state the obvious: America constructed her national military establishment in the hope that it would never be used. That, certainly, was one of the metaphysical ingredients in the glue that held the early doctrine of Massive Retaliation together.
In brief, our new Defense Department, a hybrid of prewar and wartime ideas, was not really a fighting machine; it was intended to avoid fighting, to serve as a deterrent against its outbreak. And on this point, if our experience in Vietnam should serve us at all, it should stand as a clear warning of the conflict between this rationale and the traditional American ethic. We are a pragmatic, goal-oriented people whose chief satisfactions lie in the accomplishment of an objective and not in its doing. Thus, our Standing Army represented at its outset a compromise between reality and traditional American ideals.
Even outside the American heritage, the Cold War Standing Army is also a strange inconsistency unto itself: what is an army that never fights? Conceive, if you will, of the best-managed, best-equipped, best- organized, modern military institution imaginable; as long as it does not make war (and it probably won’t), it does not measure up to the classic notions of the
Disciplining the All-Volunteer Force 35
fighting machine. Thus far, soldiers and sailors and airmen on each side of the Iron Curtain serve best only if they sit and wait.
What does this mean to our search for a contemporary sense of direction for those in charge of disciplining the AVF? One obvious consequence seems clear; we are emphasizing less warrior-like characteristics and emphasizing more the institutional characteristics of their position. We are, it seems, beginning to require as one of their principal functions the performance of tasks that are militarily significant not in themselves but only insofar as they serve the ultimate goal of military preparedness. And that is a crucial point: the longer the period of inactivity of a standing army, the more important the nonmartial facets of its operation become. In the Navy’s venerable producer- consumer dichotomy, for example, the primacy of the consumer (the forces afloat) has long been assumed without discussion. Yet, the reduction of available commands at sea, the restriction on operating funds and the like have begun to wring the slow concession that shore commands are of equal stature with sea commands. And if administering the armed forces is now almost as important as fighting them, what will the future bring?
The problems that this gradual development presents for DoD disciplinary (directory) authorities may be
likened, somewhat, to the difficulties of a manager whose team practices and practices but never plays. At some point, a decision must be reached as to whether it is reasonable to disband the team or to find an opponent.
While America’s military has never been the first to seek an encounter, we do not yet find ourselves in the position of being able to put a "For Sale” sign on the Pentagon. Both politically and militarily, the
option to play or disband lies with our opponent, who is thus far apparently unconvinced that it has anything to gain from undertaking such a contest, but is fearful, as well, that he might have to forfeit if he had insufficient forces to respond to our challenge.
Both sides have accordingly agreed to stand on the sensible middle ground, a detente based on comparable capabilities and similar abhorrences. But precisely because it is a middle ground, the detente adds immeasurably to the difficulties DoD authorities already face as a consequence of the long period of relative inactivity of our Standing Army. At the outset, the proper direction was difficult to discern because a Cold War standing army is unlike any other in history. The semiagreement of detente can only add to the problems, for it removes the' immediacy of the threat (which was, after all, why the Standing Army was born a quarter- century ago) and thus adds a greater measure of uncertainty: what really is required of the armed forces?
And the burgeoning Soviet-American spirit of cooperation, strikingly illustrated by the ABM and SALT agreements, is likely to present even further difficulties for those charged with divining the proper disciplinary sense of direction. Each side, by agreeing that it will maintain no more than its allotted share of ballistic missiles nor more than 200 anti-ballistic missiles, has now publicly admitted that it can inflict but not prevent the infliction of Armageddon. The agreements did not, obviously, produce this rough nuclear balance, but they more than memorialize it; they represent mutual undertakings not to upset the balance (at least in the next five years) in order to provide time to complete the more difficult task of actually agreeing to reduce, in a balanced fashion, the nuclear forces on each side of the equation. And they call for earnest efforts to achieve that outcome. In this respect, the agreements are revolutionary, far transcending the impact achieved by armaments strictures imposed by the naval conferences earlier this century. They represent, in short, for the first time in modern history, a situation where true bilateral agreement has produced reciprocally acceptable objectives traditionally reserved for attainment by the application of force. They achieve consequences directly connected with the very core of sovereignty, matters controlling the heartbeats of both nations. Both for that, and for the promise they hold, they are truly significant.
But however politically significant they may be, they suggest even greater import in terms of further reducing the likelihood of use of America’s armed forces. If believed, standard learning holds that our military might serves two essential functions: it provides us with a nuclear shield that deters our opponents from sinking their swords into our breast; and it provides
us with flexible modes of applying, if necessary, force in a given factual context to secure its favorable resolution. The former posits the total-war confrontation, from which neither side emerges in a form that guarantees viability of the country; the latter, a limited-war problem that concerns part but not all of the bundle of interests that comprise a country’s national security.
Our introductory agreements with the Russians on the larger of the two, the strategic weapons that are our Maginot Line, mean that we have now determined that such total-war issues may be resolved at the conference table as well as on the battlefield (due recognition being given to the fact that the agreements were achieved when America was at war with one of Russia’s allies). And if it is possible to agree on the accomplishment of total-war objectives, then surely it is so much more possible to agree on limited-war objectives.
And thus arises the long-term impact on determining an institutional direction for DoD to take. If war has been all along the accomplishment of a nation’s foreign policy "by other means,” then its objectives have always been rational, no matter how improperly conceived in some instances. But between the rational formulation and the rational objective lay the basically irrational act of war, "the other means,” which was, if historians are to be believed, a populace that operated on emotional and not rational bases. Standing armies from both East and West have from the outset been required to walk a tightrope on this delicate issue: it has been necessary that the populace view the opponent as a threat, but also necessary that it not be so inflamed that it demand a venting of emotional outrage. The thaw in East-West relations (perhaps itself a function of popular wearying of this process) makes the balancing act even more difficult; war in the grand sense has been relegated to an inferior status because the stakes are far too high for either side to refuse to make concessions. And agreement on large military issues presages agreement on smaller ones.
Thus, the potential for further reducing the likelihood of use of America’s armed forces is clearly present. But until that ultimate (and surely universally desired) goal is obtained, disciplinary (directory) authorities must ensure that the Standing Army is effective so long as it might be needed. Clearly, the Standing Army must lay down its arms only when told and not drop them before that time. In the meantime, though, these contradictory processes will require skill and imagination, for how are military men to be persuaded to prepare to undertake the basically irrational act of dying to achieve a rational end that by definition does not involve our total national interest?
To answer this difficult question, we can look at the other half of the disciplinary art that we noted earlier,
and examine superiors, inferiors, and their relationship to one another in the second DoD generation.
Renovating the feudal structure. The power pyramid that characterized feudal societies (absolute authority originating from a few with responsibility for dutiful performance resting on the many) most aptly typifies the traditional structure of most of our institutions. Even though feudalism as a political form of government stepped aside because it could not accommodate basic egalitarian principles of democratic theory, these institutions, the military of course among them, have retained it as the best (only?) management form suited to achieve their goals. Yet, they are now finding that many recent developments call into question whether the feudal form (in its classic dimensions, anyway) will satisfactorily serve even that limited purpose.
There is an undeniable social undercurrent that in the name of democracy is moving superior and inferior closer together. In the armed forces, it is very easy simply to characterize this as the rise of the enlisted man, whose lot certainly has improved in several respects. But it would be incomplete and therefore inaccurate analysis to leave the matter at that, for the leveling phenomenon is more far-reaching: it affects inferiors, enlisted and officer alike. Though it is permissible to study separately the effects of the movement on them it would be profound error to fail to recognize that the same forces operate on both. There is burgeoning throughout our land (and presumably many others as well) a Renaissance-like spirit that emphasizes individual capabilities and qualities. It highlights man’s rationality, and since all men are rational, all men are equally lauded.
So far as enlisted men are concerned, our analysis can begin with one judge’s recent observation that "the [military] cannot function as a debating society.” Writing in a freedom-of-speech-in-the-military case, he was referring to the obvious fact that there is nevertheless plenty of debate going on in military circles these days. Though the issues being debated have existed from the first days of the Army and Navy, they are being pursued with new enthusiasm primarily because the number of eligible debaters increases with each new recruit.
Part of the responsibility may be traced to the 26th Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation of the Young. Under it and implementing legislation in many states, the eighteen year-old is now a full-fledged citizen able to vote, marry, drink, and enlist of his own volition. Though his attainment of full citizenship comes only three years earlier than for those of us who arrived there at 21, the difference is crucial for the armed forces. Many enlistments (or conscriptions) were completely served during those three years; now, from the outset the enlisted volunteer in the AVF will have claims to
complete adulthood and no one, neither parent nor military department standing in loco parentis, need protect those rights for him.
And from present indications, it appears quite likely that the recruits will exercise their rights. Such willingness is, indeed, the hallmark of the presence of youths ! in any of our institutions: whether for the purpose of electing officials in a university town, preventing dismissal from schools, or requiring corporate consciousness in environmental matters, the young have shown a propensity to exercise their rights. Generally, they have done so by questioning a superior’s decision which affects them, expecting a satisfactory explanation. Though they may not in every case have the mental and emotional maturity to appreciate fully an explanatory response to their probing, that in a sense is severable from their basic adult right to demand "Why?” The 26th Amendment stands indeed as conclusive evidence that they are presumed to be capable of fully rational conduct, for it was intended to recognize an extant fact rather than to create it.
Why or how long the new Age of Reason was dawning before the youthful emancipation cast its light on the young isn’t really so relevant as the need to recognize that it is one of the principal forces operating on the youth of many Western societies. (Servicemen in West Germany, for example, seem to have found no more satisfactory answer than their American counterparts to the question of why their hair should be close-cropped.) But their now-found preoccupation with rationality does not work a complete hardship on the armed forces, who certainly have been among its principal beneficiaries. The technological advances that spawned the Standing Army have placed great demands on them to develop technological superiority, that is, the ability to use a machine with minimal personnel risk to subject an opponent to maximum personnel risk. For this shift from manpower-intensive to hardware-intensive warfare, the military departments require and benefit from access to a pool of talent able to operate such machines. But what has been learned only with great difficulty is that a young recruit capable of operating a given fire-control system, for example, is
Disciplining the All-Volunteer Force 37
also capable of analyzing the reasons that call for its use. In fact, he uses the very training which gives him his technical ability.
And thus with increasing frequency the enlisted man can be expected to ask, "Why?,” and to expect some form of explanation. It is important to recognize that what is crucial in this development is not so much the nature of the response as the fact that a response might be given, for that represents the superior’s ac- kowledgment of the enlisted man’s right to an explanation. And on this very point there has been, of course, considerable discussion in the "superior” community. To some, the acknowledgment of a duty to respond is taken as a derogation from authority, a weakening of the feudal form that is the backbone of a military institution. They argue that DoD leaders would blunder egregiously were they to adopt this general posture, since it might lead to war by committee where the "one man, one vote” principle determines whether an operation is carried out. As proof of the pudding, they need only cite the widely publicized incident in Vietnam where members of an infantry company refused to comply with their superior’s orders to retrieve damaged military equipment because by democratic consultation they determined the action unwarranted. No one can argue against the unacceptability of that result, but many argue against its inevitability. Responding to inferiors’ questions they may concede as a dilution of the classic feudal form but not certainly as an overall weakening of the strength of our armed forces.
There is obviously considerable material for both sides of the issue and little room for social experiment in an institution as vital as the Standing Army. But at least for the present, it looks as if there is not going to be any further "official” discussion, for practical- minded people appear to have determined that not to adopt an "Answer the Why” approach is to run the risk that there will never be a Standing Army in which to form a backbone. For that reason, among others, the decision has been made to join the recruit, and not vice versa.
If that is in fact happening, it obviously represents a substantial shift from the policy in force until recent times. Indeed, the shift is dramatic enough by comparison to have earned, at least for the Navy the unflattering appellation of "permissiveness” from the Special Subcommittee on Disciplinary Problems in the U.S. Navy, which examined the mutinies aboard the carriers Kitty Hawk and Constellation. Popularly called the Hicks Committee, this Congressional body defined permissiveness as, among other things, "an attitude by seniors down the chain of command which tolerates the use of individual discretion by juniors in areas in
the services which have been strictly controlled; ... a sufferance of the questioning of valid orders.” (Italics in original.) The Committee’s views will be examined in more detail later, but for the moment it is important to note that its perception of a change certainly seems to be shared by those military members who as a group seem most perplexed by and least prepared to deal with it, the senior noncommissioned and petty officers.
These superior inferiors, who entered the armed forces when permissiveness was a gleam in Dr. Spock’s eye, who worked their way through the ranks, and who rose to leadership positions anticipating the traditional functioning of their roles, now often find that is not the case. Having had little or no influence in shaping new disciplinary policies and often unsure of what is now required of them and their men, they feel frustrated and forgotten. Significantly, their alienation, or at least the failure to ensure that they can function properly, deprives the services of the leadership group on whom so much reliance has traditionally been placed. Unlike their youthful subordinates who have considerable experience in the less formalized functioning of a society, they clearly are in a plight which the services can remedy by choosing to ignore until the dual attritions of time and frustration take their toll or else by launching leadership re-training programs aimed directly at them. The former is, of course, no cure at all and would disserve both the armed forces and the NCOs and POs were it followed. If, though, there is to remain a shift in disciplinary (directory) policy (whether it derogatorily be called "permissiveness” or a realistic attempt to mirror the society that produces our military men), then the latter is the only meaningful alternative. Since it touches on recommendations emphatically espoused by the Hicks Committee, the likely impact of such programs can be examined during our later discussion of the Committee’s views.
If the principal outcome of the rational revolution is for enlisted men an apparent leveling of military society, its chief result in the case of officers has been more subtle yet in the end perhaps more profound. DoD leaders have been aware for some time that increasingly sophisticated weapons and supply systems require not only intelligent, well-trained men to operate them, but skillful, knowledgeable officers to supervise and direct their operation. Although educational preparation superior to that required for entrance into the enlisted ranks has always been a prerequisite for commissioning, today’s officers are being ordered to pursue even more advanced formal education to prepare them for these more challenging duties. Additionally, because responding to an inferior’s queries might be taken as a weakening of authority, postgraduate education
serves the further end of ensuring a superior’s demonstrably greater ability and thus tending to foreclose the inferior’s questioning of his judgment.
But infusing the officer corps with greater doses of formal education for these dual purposes appears to run, if historical parallels are applicable, distinct risks to the officer and to his military institution.
In a phenomenon that occurs in many institutions where there has been an unsparing emphasis on improving the minds of the members, there often results a decision by an unacceptably large portion of them to use their education elsewhere. In the armed forces, the forerunner of this kind of decision occurred in the (January 1972) West Point instructor resignations. Some of the Army’s best-educated officers, engaged in the important business of training future Army officers at the premier military science institution, determined that they could not pursue their Army careers. Certainly more than an event painful to the Army alone, the incident is of a type unlikely to be confined only to that branch of the armed forces; perhaps not so large in number, comparable resignations appear to be taking place in the other services.
The reasons why are complex and many. It may be that the officer believes as a consequence of his education that he is unable to accept the judgment of his superiors on an important issue and wishes therefore to dissociate himself from their decision. Or it may be that he chooses to pursue a path opened to him by virtue of his extended formal studies; he may simply come to prefer, for example, teaching others an area just recently taught to him. Or he may perhaps wish to do even more advanced research in a specialized area. Finally, the officer might come to have what might not' too facetiously be called a Kissinger Complex: if accommodation is to replace confrontation because total warfare is to be avoided at all costs, some of the traditional motivations for career service are rendered less applicable. And because limited warfare involves by definition less than the full sum of national interests, the officer may eventually come to see himself as a peace enforcer, much more akin to a law-enforcement officer than to the military leader like Bradley or Nimitz.
On the other hand, advanced higher education for officers poses for the military departments a risk distinctly severable from the possibility that the officer will be led to other interests. Briefly, this is the chance that he may not even be effective in battlefield situations: there the required reflection of academia is often less valuable than the reflexive application of training learned at a far more basic level. Indeed, instances of a superior’s disastrous delay, caused by his chess-like grasp of his options and his rejection of them because of their accompanying disadvantages, suggest that such
Disciplining the All-Volunteer Force 39
problems might arise in the services, which will have to ensure that academic training tempers and does not replace the officer’s fundamental martial skills.
Finding a new equilibrium. There is no cause for optimism that many of these present and potential problems in disciplining the AVF will dissipate because each new recruit will truly be a "volunteer.” His enlistment or commissioning oath will not strip him of any rights nor provide the Standing Army any greater powers over him than could his induction into the armed forces. To be sure, some incentive to complain over the rigors inherent in the military profession may be removed, but the volunteer is nevertheless entitled to overall correct treatment from the services in their disciplinary policies.
Disciplinary problems of the kind we have examined are going to continue to confront this generation’s DoD leaders until they have adequately removed the sources of the problems. Of the many voices that have been raised to offer solutions for finding and eradicating the sources, surely the most authoritative is that of the Hicks Committee whose work has already been introduced above. Despite the alarming naval orientation of its long formal title, the Committee’s probe into disciplinary problems in our service should not be viewed as a sign of particular legislative pique against the Navy. Rather, as the Committee’s report states, concerned members of Congress had already become alarmed "over the developing of more relaxed discipline in the services.” The carrier difficulties capped this concern and provided Congress with an opportunity to review both the state of the Navy’s discipline in particular and to surmise from that the overall state of the armed forces’ discipline.
The Committee ranged far and wide to assess contemporary problems and to produce meaningful remedies. Perhaps mindful of the Manual for Courts-Martial admonition that, in the great majority of instances, discipline can be maintained through effective leadership, the Committee advanced as its principal recommendation the suggestion that "formal leadership training programs be expanded and emphasized for all personnel in middle management positions.” On this point, the Committee seemingly could not be on safer grounds, for few can dispute the necessity of such programs.
There is indeed an apparent need for contemporary training on the nature of military authority, but because the Committee does not indicate what principles of leadership should be emphasized, its suggestion is incomplete. Further, its thinking is subject to some doubt since one of its major premises just does not adequately reflect reality. In its report, it stated:
Whether young people today may be more inquisitive than those of past years has no relation to the maintenance of good order and discipline. Military discipline demands nothing less than immediate response to orders. The need for this immediacy is obvious in situations where lives are at stake. To demand a similar response during routine operations and on "minor” matters is essential to proper training for emergency situations and appropriate responsiveness to commahds which may be given in wartime. (Author’s italics.)
This comment broaches but doesn’t pause to analyze the two most sensitive themes in potential disciplinary problems: America’s better and better educated youths are becoming more inquisitive; and DoD leaders must adjust to this new reality while at the same time continuing to conduct Cold War military operations, which require preparation for crisis in a noncrisis atmosphere. The Committee appears to recognize that the stresses resulting from these countervailing demands have at times threatened the balance of a local military society; but aside from its plea for "immediate response to orders” it offers no explanation of how to accommodate these forces.
Finding a new (and not merely attempting to reinstate an old) superior-inferior equilibrium will indeed be the most challenging aspect of DoD’s present generation. It will be a process devoid of simple solutions, universal panaceas and frictionless transition; because it will require the accomplishment of what is right under the circumstances, the most important asset will be reasonable demands by the superior community. This should be the fulcrum of the rebalancing process, for it includes the acknowledgment that even the traditional military ways worked because they were reasonable under the circumstances to which they were applied. And in the process, the key rubric should be substance over form. It would not be mere literary legerdemain to argue that we should again recognize that superiors are commissioned because they are better able to lead; they do not lead merely because they are commissioned and therefore superior.
A 1967 graduate of the University of Detroit, Lieutenant Webster received his J.D. degree from the Notre Dame Law School in 1970, when he was commissioned through the NROTC Program. After brief practice with the Chicago law firm of Mayer, Brown and Platt, he served from 1971 to 1972 in the Administrative Law Division of the Office of the Judge Advocate General. From 1972 until his release from active duty earlier this year, he was the Assistant Staff Judge Advocate and a member of the Center for Continuing Education faculty of the Naval War College. Now back with the law firm of Mayer, Brown and Platt, he is a member of the Supreme Court and Illinois bars.