The More Things Change….

It is my sad duty to report that all is not well with the US Army Signal Corps.

I retired from active duty in the US Army as a field grade Signal Officer after 33 years of service last April. I took a position as a project manager at Augusta University and then a contract position with the Cyber Center of Excellence doing lessons and best practice analysis. (you can read a bit about what that experience taught me here). Last August I took a mundane general service position with the Signal School because I had heard things might be changing and there might be hope for the future. I wrote about those hopes here.

My assessment at this point is things are not better, nothing is changing in a positive way and essentially the Signal Corps is mired in the same sort of ineptitude, bureaucracy and petty political in-fighting and personal empire building that I observed across the breadth of my career.

In short:

  • The organization lacks a clearly defined, articulated and disseminated strategic plan and vision.
  • “Leaders” spend much of their time refining and shaping organizational charts – not to build efficiency and effectiveness but to solidify personal empires.
  • Instead of making many new hires of fresh thinking, eager people with unique skills, the School has populated its upper tiers with people that just walked over from other ineffective entities on Fort Gordon. Some of them came with real baggage and in some ways, it is the island of misfit toys.
  • Senior Civilians on Fort Gordon, in general, exert too much control over the future – as a result of efforts at empire building mentioned above. Senior officers have always been and continue to be either blind to this or afraid to rock the boat.
  • The NCO Corps in the Signal Corps is, at the senior levels, perhaps the worst in the Army. Everyone that wants to become a Sergent Major becomes a Mason and that club exerts undue influence in how the NCOs act and perform and where their loyalty resides. (this became painfully apparent to me a few years ago when I conducted a 15-6 on allegations against a BN CSM and found an entire platoon of Sergeants Major willing to lie for him despite proof contrary to their statements I uncovered later on)
  • Too many Colonels with no other place to go and no real prospect of decent employment after the Army migrate and roost at Fort Gordon, occupying positions that could make a difference, if only…
  • The union at Fort Gordon exerts entirely too much influence on operations. Supervisors are afraid to supervise for fear of a complaint.
  • Too many ordinary civilian GS employees that perhaps could make a difference have simply given up. They come in each morning, put their heads down, do mundane tasks and go home.
  • The Signal Corps was perhaps the originator of the insane concept of the “top 5” or whatever number you want to designate. The notion that you have to have a senior civilian, warrant officer, NCO and other spuriously designated folks to make a “command team” is ridiculous but it is alive and well at the Signal School. This in effect “excuses” every little GO that cycles through there from making hard decisions.
  • Overall the Signal School is like 11 men on a football field, all running around, some trying to secure little plots of land for themselves, others hoping they just get to stay on the field and get paid a little longer and others dancing in the endzone to be seen – yet the ball sits at the 20 and never moves forward.

A friend of mine laughs at me often when I make statements akin to those above saying “man, Barry, you say some stuff”. He is not disagreeing with me, he is stating in his own way that people do not state the truth about the state of the Signal Corps in the way that I do. I realize that making such raw statements sets me up as a straw-man, my assertions are easy to dismiss as rantings. I might even agree, if I were disgruntle or felt slighted in some way but I do not. It took me years to arrive at the conclusions above, years of observing a Signal Corps that was divorced from the real needs of the warfighter. I came back to be a GS employee because I heard there was hope. I am not disgruntle. I am disappointed and perhaps a little angry that such ineptitude has gone unchecked for so long.

It is said often that one should not raise a problem without presenting a solution. I have often found that to be a lazy way for bosses to tell subordinates not to complain. However, there are solutions to all of this. Some big and some small, some painful and radical and some mundane and easy. It is not the point of this post to articulate those. I have rallied for many of those points numerous times in the past to no avail. In my current position I advocate for some of the smallest of fixes – yet nothing changes. If someone with power reads this, does not get personally offended and dismiss it and wants to see real change, contact me, I will join your team and help.

Barring that…

I will soon transition out of my GS position and focus solely other pursuits that interest me. I have done my best during my time in uniform, as a contractor and as a civilian employee to effect change or at least find a team with a leader that wanted to really move the ball. Life is too short, there are too many other interesting things to do.

I have taken numerous oaths over the years, and take the idea of doing one’s duty seriously – I have, yet nothing has changed.

Author: Barry

Southerner, father, husband, Christian and a retired Army field grade officer. Author of three books and of several papers and articles on ethics, culture, history, geopolitics and military affairs. He is the Executive Director of The Calhoun Institute and a partner at B&B Clark Consulting.

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