McCain eyes reform of 'archaic' military personnel system

McCain eyes reform of 'archaic' military personnel system
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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDonald Trump's 2020 election economic gamble 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that too many excellent service members are choosing or being forced to leave the military for "ridiculous personnel reasons" and that the military personnel system needs to be reformed.

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman held a hearing on Wednesday that looked at reforming the way the military promotes people, evaluates performance and assigns jobs.

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“Too often, our military is losing and misusing talent because of an archaic military personnel system," he said in his opening remarks at the hearing. 

"Promotions are handed out according to predictable schedules with only secondary consideration of merit," he said. "That’s why even after more than a decade of service, there is essentially no difference in rank among officers of the same age. Is it really because they all perform the same or deserve the same rank?"

McCain also criticized the way jobs are assigned in the military — based on need versus personal choice.

“Jobs in the military are assigned rather than chosen. To some extent, that is necessary," he said. "But we should ask whether we can better support this mission by giving service-members more of a say in their assignments." 

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley had described at a forum last month meeting a soldier who spoke six languages but was assigned as a truck driver. 

"We need truck drivers, of course, but we also need first-rate linguists and intelligence analysts, and we need a personnel system that can manage our people’s talent accordingly," McCain said.

“We should ask whether we should give commanders greater discretion to build a staff with the specialists and experts they need in the right positions. Commanders are likely better able to assess their needs than bureaucrats in the personnel system," he added. 

McCain also said the military personnel system undermines entrepreneurship and innovation in favor of enforcing conformity.  

“Our military has always had an entrepreneurial culture that encourages individuals to innovate. But the military personnel system undermines that spirit when it mistakes upholding professionalism with enforcing conformity," he said. 

"When high standards give way to a ‘zero-defect’ mentality in performance evaluations, this discourages risk-taking, truth-telling, and the cultivation of entrepreneurial leaders," he said.