Oct. 1, 2017
Are There Too Many General Officers for Today’s Military?
There are approximately 900 Active-duty general/flag officers (GO/FOs) today of 1.3 million troops. This is a ratio of 1 GO/FO for every 1,400 troops. During World War II, an admittedly different era, there were more than 2,000 GO/FOs for a little more than 12 million Active troops (1:6,000). This development represents “rank creep” that does not enhance mission success but clutters the chain of command, adds bureaucratic layers to decisions, and costs taxpayers additional money from funding higher paygrades to fill positions. As end-strength fluctuates, force structure and strength projections for the next decade show the uniformed Services maintaining substantial excess capacity at senior ranks. Although historical numbers are inexact guides and future threats could radically change circumstances, the case for reduction is strong. The Department of Defense (DOD) should reduce the numbers, billets, and percent of GO/FOs in each Service to increase efficiency, streamline decisionmaking, achieve modest cost savings, and enhance accountability of decisionmaking.