What’s Good for General Dempsey is Good for the MDA                        April
16, 2013

By  Leonard
Zwelling

            The
headline in Sunday’s NY Times said it all: “Military’s Top Officers Face Review
of Their Character”. It seems that Joint Chiefs Chair General Martin Dempsey is
leading a complete “overhaul” of the system of evaluating the military’s
highest ranking officers. This is due to a series of embarrassing instances of
poor behavior and questionable leadership exhibited by some senior officers
including, of course, General David Petreus. Here is how the Chairman was
quoted:

            “You
can have someone of incredible character who can’t lead their way out of a
forward operating base because they don’t have the competence to understand the
application of military power, and that doesn’t do me any good. Conversely, you
can have someone who is intensely competent, who is steeped in the skills of
the profession, but doesn’t live a life of character. And that doesn’t do me
any good.”

            I
believe that General Dempsey is unwilling to choose between content competence
and integrity in those he selects to lead our military.

            The
360 degree reviews of our senior commanders is coming in the hopes of improving
our readiness, our performance and our character as an American fighting force.

            Here’s
something else General Dempsey said. “We’ve been living with unconstrained
resources for 10 years and, frankly, we’ve developed some bad habits.” He is
referring to the huge military expenditures of the US since 9/11.

            Some
of what is concerning the Chairman is style, but more is substance and he
believes that the combined power of a full range of performance evaluations and
increased training will promote those most capable of leading when leadership
is most needed and do so without their character being questioned. General
Dempsey is proposing the use of direct observers and inspections to determine
the fitness of current leadership to perform.

            Two
final quotes from the General are worthy of consideration:

            “The
perception in a profession is just as important as performance” and “I have
learned that you are not a professional just because you say you are. You have
to earn it and re-earn it and re-evaluate it from time to time”.

            An
oft heard quote in my childhood was “What’s good for General Motors is good for
the USA”. It turns out this was a misquote of Charles Wilson a GM exec during
his confirmation hearings to be Secretary of the Defense under President
Eisenhower. Later, the non-quote was spoofed in the show L’il Abner with the
song, “What’s Good for General Bullmoose, is Good for the USA”.

            I’d
like to propose that we modify the misquote once again. If a 360 review of the
highest ranking officers in our military is deemed a worthy exercise by the man
chosen to lead them all, then perhaps we at MD Anderson (the MDA of the title)
could also benefit by having such a review of our leaders, of both the academic
and administrative variety.

            Now
that’s a faculty survey that would be truly valuable! 

Leonard Zwelling