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Feel like clearing the air, but can’t find anyone to listen? Why don’t you speak to our readers? Send your written comment to us for the “Nobody asked me, but ...” column. If we publish it, we’ll pay you $60.00. If we don’t, you’ll feel better for having gotten it off your chest. At least you will know that we listened.
cratic wars. So often the rationale like this: “If we don’t ‘game’ the (the overall departmental progra the upcoming five years), OSD
If you can keep your honor when those about you are losing theirs . . .
The headlines during the past year have raised many questions about the ethical climate in Washington and the dilemmas military personnel face as they try to operate in the bureaucratic and political jungle of the Pentagon, the White House, and the Congress.
The military ethic of a strong institutional and personal commitment to duty, honor, and country has served this nation well in war and peace for more than 200 years. The concept of eivilian control of the military is deeply ingrained in our national culture, and it, too, has served us well for two centuries. Unlike so many other nations, we have not had to face a “man on horseback,” for this great democracy has been blessed by a long line of military leaders who respect the basic democratic tenet that they operate under the control of civilian authority.
But let’s face it—Washington is a tough political town, full of pressures that make it difficult for military men and women at all levels to stay true to their ethical codes. In the lectures on ethics that I give at military commands around the country, I have found it useful to break the Washington scene into a number of segments.
First and perhaps most interesting is the military relationship with Congress. Daily, a stream of military people goes to Capitol Hill to meet with staffers and members of Congress and to testify in open and closed hearings before committees of both houses. Senators and representatives have strong constituent interests, and they often take positions that serve their constituencies but do not necessarily serve the national interest. Congress is a place of deal making, vote trading, and log rolling. Rational decision making is not the name of the game. It is easy for a military person to become cynical about this process and to begin to see the Congress first as incompetent, next as an impediment, and finally as the enemy.
The process of making laws and passing appropriation bills to fund the nation’s business is admittedly a messy one. But it allows the interests of many groups to be heard, and the results, though far from perfect, are clearly representative government at work. The legislative process is part of the underpinnings of our constitutional form of government, and it is incumbent on those who have sworn allegiance to the Constitution to work with rather than against members of Congress and their staffs.
In testifying many times to committees in both houses of Congress, I have been impressed by how parochial interests tend to balance out. In most cases, the Congress makes good decisions if not perfect ones. Something else has impressed me: the lack of leaks from members of Congress and their staffers. I have briefed Congress on numerous sensitive, compartmentalized programs, and not once have members or staffers leaked information that I gave them. In fact, I can say categorically that leaks from all the dozens of highly sensitive programs I have been cleared for have been very few—and those that have occurred have come from the executive rather than from the congressional side of our government.
One cardinal rule for military people in dealing with the Congress is never to lie. It is wrong and a clear violation of a military person’s constitutional responsibility. Much less important but certainly of interest is that if you lie you will be caught; and once caught, you will never have any credibility in the Congress for the rest of your life. It is amazing how long memories persist on the Hill. Most congressmen and key staffers stay for decades. You can go away for years, come back, and find the same people in the same committees facing you in the same hearing rooms-
It is also important for military Pe°' pie, no matter what their positions, to stop assuming that they are wiser than the Congress and the people it repre sents. I am amazed at the arrogance individuals who think they are always right and the Congress is invariably wrong when it will not support their positions.
As for ethics within the executive branch, the problems are many. In the interest of protecting your boss, defending your service, serving your ambitions, and lots of other reasons, •* is very easy to sell your soul increnie'1 tally. Some examples may help to if" lustrate my point. If the goals you an your service are pursuing are good an honest ones, you may feel the need 1° lie to carry them out. But remember- Your fidelity to duty, honor, and conn try applies to means as well as ends- American democracy in the latter part of the 20th century is not Italy in the 16th; we in the U. S. military have n° business following the rules Machim velli outlined for his prince.
Too many people in the Pentagon another service, the Joint Staff, or th° Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) as the enemy and are willing act unethically to win in the bureau (the overall departmental program 10 .|j the upcoming five years), OSD will some of our most important programs.” Or more subtly, “If we sh° weakness toward this program, OSD Congress will kill it.” Military serv'1^ must, of course, understand the bure cratic and political rules of the game' but they can still live within the ffal11 j work of high institutional and person integrity. If standing up for principle costs you a promotion, or a great ne job, or even if it forces you to retire^ so be it. Happily, what often happellSjS when someone stands up for integrity that the boss backs down. He may mad at first, but he learns to respect
Proceedings / J°^
and treasure the truth-teller’s inability sleep at night if he has done some- l ,ng unethical. Everyone in the chain command is responsible for taking a ■and on issues of integrity. If the °°ss’s integrity is not too high, you Can often help raise it by taking a stand Ourself.
There are those who think that noth- nS of importance can be accomplished a the bureaucratic quagmire of Wash- ngton without bending the rules, cook- the numbers, misleading the enemy”—but, of course, they are ^tong. Since the invasion of Afghani- ftan on Christmas Eve of 1979, much as been accomplished under two Presents to strengthen our defenses and to eal with international crises. It is not "hen we have told the truth that our j’olicies have failed; it is when we have led and misled people in the executive
branch and in the Congress that we have stumbled badly.
I hope that in the years ahead the military can lead the way in raising the level of integrity throughout our government by setting good examples and by expressing outrage when ethical violations come to light. A useful model for those who operate in the corridors of power is George C. Marshall: a leader, a man of great vision, and most important, a man of towering integrity throughout his long and distinguished career of public service. In the brilliant new book Commander in Chief (Harper & Row, 1987) Eric Larrabee tells the story of Brigadier General Marshall in 1938 disagreeing with President Franklin Roosevelt on an issue of substance. Marshall strongly felt that FDR was wrong, and that someone had to tell him so, which Marshall did forthrightly. One year later Roosevelt chose Marshall to be the new Chief of Staff of the Army, perhaps the most important personnel decision of his 12-year presidency.
Those who would politicize the military and reward the bureaucratic street fighters rather than the people of substance and integrity do a great disservice to our democracy. Let us have, instead, subordinates who demonstrate a deeper commitment to personal and institutional integrity than to their personal ambitions, and bosses who respect that abiding commitment to high ethical standards.
General Smith is the author of Taking Charge: A Practical Guide for Leaders (National Defense University Press, 1986), a new edition of which is being published this year. He lectures frequently on the topics of ethics and leadership.
Nobody asked me either, but...
y Major J. M. Leavis, U. S. Marine Corps
y that any uneducated soldier from Poorest of countries can learn to e a surface-to-air missile with disas-
uct amphibious air operations at Tactical thinking in our Gator
’ers often launch these assaults
JQ!ors need new tactics . . .
ne amphibious Navy faces some seri- vUs challenges brought about by ad- i^ces in helicopter technology and fJcs. In Vietnam we discovered pain- ,°us results. In response, first the j, rrrjy and then the Marines replaced l(.e ‘fly-high-or-die” mentality with .'v-level flying techniques. Today,
J^y and Marine Corps pilots use ght-vision enhancement devices and /fain-following techniques for special Rations, and we drill into our pilots tlntense awareness of antiaircraft sys- t^rris7—and how to avoid them—from first day they arrive at replacement groups. Yet in spite of these re- her able advances in the way we fly (j| lc°pters ashore, we employ inflexi-
and outdated methods when we c°ndi
^munity is stagnant. f0r °r example, we launch helicopters If dawn L- (landing assault) hours as 6 Were con<Juct'ng daylight air op- carr°ns ^rom any a'rfield. Helicopter
they are on the hook, little more than two miles from the hostile beach. If the weather is bad enough for Case- Ill departure procedures to be used, aircraft are subjected to inordinate delays, and they must make standard instrument departures up to unrealistic altitudes. We place these procedures under the umbrella of “aviation safety,” ducking beneath an outdated and inflexible NATOPS (Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization).
The time has come to free ourselves from our complacent practices. When we assault an enemy’s shore, we must use our mobility for surprise. At sea, we must launch aircraft quickly, then marshal them and send them shoreward with minimum delay and maximum secrecy, possibly under electromagnetic radiation control (EmCon)—quite often at night. We have the talent and technology to start practicing this now. If hostilities started today, we would suffer unnecessary losses until we began employing the lessons we have already learned—in Grenada, for example. We must not allow documents written before the modem threat was even conceived to immobilize us.
The Gator Navy, working closely with Marine Corps helicopter pilots, could develop new doctrine for our embarked aviation assets. We should devise new procedures to expedite efficient—but safe—launches and recoveries, and incorporate them into our NATOPS. We could relax the strict interpretations of our governing publications in areas where we foresee growth, so we can implement it smoothly when it does arrive. But above all, we should place the management of this program in the hands of those who are adept and willing to use it—the Gator Navy.
The first step in incorporating advanced helicopter tactics and technology into Gator flight operation procedures would be to reassign the NATOPS model manager for helicopter carriers to a fleet billet—logically, in one of the East Coast amphibious squadrons, which have the most experience with underway flight operations.
The world picture is evolving rapidly. becoming more dangerous each day, but the principles of warfare remain the same: mobility and surprise will often succeed where massed troops and costly frontal assaults fail. In amphibious operations, technology and tactics offer us the tools we need to succeed in the future.
Major Leavis has served as an operations officer in the USS Guadacanal (LPH-7).
e<Hngs / July 1988