JOINT CHIEFS: Why We Don't Care That You're Resigning

The following is an opinion article written by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It has come to our attention that another company grade officer has very publicly resigned, citing numerous reasons for doing so. As the top commissioned leaders of the different branches, we feel this issue now requires that we respond to these resigning officers.

First and foremost, thank you for your service. Most Americans will never understand what can be gained from putting yourself at a point of great friction in defense of your nation's way of life. We are truly grateful for the countless sacrifices every one of our servicemembers makes, especially the ones that will never be perceived at our level. We know that this is a hard life, and it hurts us to know that there are good things you do that will never be recognized.

Second, we do not care that you are resigning. Your career is less than a blip on our radar screen. Your skills and experiences will never in a million years cause us to raise even a finger to stop you from resigning, much less cause us to look back on your resignation with regret. Regardless of your unique and valuable perspective, you could not be more replaceable.

While we regret that we have not been able to give your career the personal attention you feel it warranted, the seven of us are manning the controls of an unfathomably complex war machine that must account for both present and future threats. Some of these threats are capable of ending all life on earth, while others are merely capable of ruining the lives of millions of innocent people. This requires all of our attention at all times in order to ensure that forces are constantly ready for employment by the combatant commanders, who asked us to tell you that they also do not care that you are resigning.

We understand this may seem frustrating to you, so we believe it might help if you understood our perspective, from which, we cannot emphasize enough, you are not visible with the naked eye. Congress has set legal restrictions on overall military manpower. Within those limits, we need to not only ensure that qualified bodies are available to fill billets for diverse jobs at every unit in the US military, but also ensure that there is a relatively smooth career progression up the ranks across every single one of those jobs. While your career may seem slow from your perspective, reflect for a moment on how many people are in the midst of changing assignments on any given day.

We cannot overstate how complex this process is, but managing it requires that we visualize career progressions as a series of professional experiences that we believe are critical to maintaining this fragile system. Unfortunately, to a junior officer striving for a promotion, it often appears to be an arbitrary set of boxes that must be checked, or wickets that must be hit. If it is any consolation, we are every bit as replaceable as you are, and this entire process is structured to produce officers capable of one day replacing us. Indeed, one of the main reasons we do not care that you are resigning, and why no one would care if we resigned, is because planned attrition is one of the many variables built directly into the process as a safeguard.

Beyond managing this impossible Rubik's cube of careers, we must also visualize future threats, imagine capabilities to fight them, and then beg Congress for funds to pay for the development of these capabilities. Forgive us if we overlooked that you were forced to move to what you felt was a boring staff job after being attached to a unit that left the wire, but we were busy attempting to predict the future and address it with multi-year, multi-billion dollar projects coordinated through the nation's highest elected officials.

In retrospect, perhaps it would have been less frustrating had you known that we see rotation between staff jobs and jobs in the field as a feature, not a bug. From our perspective, when officers who have been on a staff go to the field, their experience makes them a better resource for the troops in the field with them. Similarly, when officers from the field move to a staff, they help keep the staff oriented on the concerns of those same troops out in the field. Again, this is part of that career progression of checking boxes and hitting wickets that we talked about.

Even though you are all replaceable, we believe it is important you know that we do not see you as identical. We are not fools, and we know perfectly well that each of you has a huge variety of skills and interests beyond your billet. Trust us when we say that the details of those skills and interests would not in any way change our minds regarding what billet you should hold. We're perfectly willing to tolerate inefficiencies in assignments in order to keep the volatile manpower system working. In this sense, we see the fundamental demands of national security as more important than considering who spent their childhood around horses when we're assigning people to Bridgeport.

This does not mean that we don't value your diverse skills and interests. We depend on that diversity to reinvigorate us with new ideas in the style of Boyd, Ellis, Mahan, Wass de Czege, or Krulak. Even a room full of conservative white men with the same haircut and wearing the same clothing is wildly diverse if you actually talk to them, and in that diversity is intellectual power. So let us state, in no uncertain terms, that discussion of your ideas is not limited by your current billet, or even your occupational specialty.

It has never been easier to publish a scholarly article on the profession of arms, whether in one of our many journals or on any one of numerous military blogs. All of you managed to find venues to publish your resignation letters talking about all the great ideas you couldn't find ways to circulate. None of us can figure out why you couldn't just publish your actual ideas instead.

In conclusion, we hope that you have gained something from your time in the active duty military, where even now someone just as unique as you is stepping up to do the job you would have been doing, though probably not in quite the same way you would have. We also hope that you will consider continuing your service in one of our many outstanding reserve units, which help us keep talented individuals who want to continue to invest in their military careers, yet without being so dependent on the administrative grind of the peacetime military.

However, if you choose not to, we will never miss you.


M.E. Dempsey J.A. Winnefield R.T. Odierno J.W. Greenert M.A. Welsh J.F. Dunford F.J. Grass

Duffel Blog reporter blondesoverbaghdad contributed to this article.