David H. Hackworth
January 2, 1996
A MAJOR SOURCE OF CORRUPTION
Last fall, I told a story about an Army lieutenant who was physically roughed up and told to remove his head from a certain orifice by his 3d Infantry Regimental commanding officer, Col. Stephen Nash.
The good news is, after this story hit the wires Col. Nash was reassigned. The bad news is the lieutenant's brain has shorted-out. He now says, "I don't recall that incident."
The lieutenant's pals say he gave them a blow-by-blow right after the colonel manhandled him, but now he's scared that if he tells the truth about what happened he'll get zeroed out on an efficiency report, or ER -- not by Nash himself, but by sycophants -- and his career will be ruined.
The ER system calls for superiors to evaluate most members of our armed forces. ERs determine how fast a person climbs the promotion ladder, whether he goes to career- enhancing schools or get rewarding assignments.
Good reports mean an upward climb; bad reports mean a career nose dive. This is especially true today, when, with all the downsizing going on, the slightest blemish on an ER means the blemishee is toast.
In 1927, a general wrote in then Cpt. George Patton Jr.'s ER, 'This man would be invaluable in time of war, but is a disturbing element in time of peace.' Such a remark on an ER in 1995 would have Patton issued a pink slip just as quickly as a Pentagon computer could spit it out.
During my years of wearing a soldier suit, I saw a lot of fine warriors' careers destroyed by ERs rendered by petty, vindictive and/or power-crazed raters. From all the recent horror stories, the situation is even worse today. Too often, ERs are used as silencers, weapons of terror or tools of reprisal by those who want to cover up their own wrongdoings.
In today's environment, the inflation-driven ER system requires everyone to be "top-blocked," or rated as "outstanding," just to get by. To rate someone honestly as "excellent" or "superior" would have them in the unemployment line before you could say "drawdown."
The present ER system makes everyone a liar, exactly as false body counts did during the Vietnam War. Then, many officers were fried because they refused to puff up the score. Today, the guy who rates someone higher on his ER than he really is, is lying. And the officer who turns a blind eye toward waste, abuse and wrongdoing just to get by and get a glowing ER is lying.
Today's ER system in all services has produced a culture in which no one can tell the truth without fear, a culture of too many slippery people who go-along-to-get-along. It has created a military filled with yes-men and -women who are afraid to blow the whistle on corruption or to tell it like it is to the boss.
This is as dangerous to our country as is a large enemy force that's about to attack. In an armed institution whose only purpose is to defend America, honor and integrity among our leaders is an essential ingredient that cannot be debased if our country is to remain free.
The best serving war fighter I know says, 'The ER system is broken and needs overhauling immediately." This leader, with almost 30 years' service, mostly with troops, says the fix must be simple and quick. He advocates the addition of peers and subordinates to the ER system who should be asked simply, 'Would you want to go into combat with this person?'
The colonel says, 'The rater must indicate on the ER how much time he or she has spent with the rated person and the rated confirm this with a check in a true-or-false block."
People who are afraid to tell the truth won't be capable of standing tall when they're needed. A corrupt military is even worse than a sick police force, because it's not just our cities at risk, but our country.
I hope 1996 brings you and yours peace and prosperity and
the honest, two-fisted leadership at the top that America deserves.