Lost Opportunities: The Revision of AR 220-1

By DePue, Mark R. | Military Review, November/December 2000 | Go to article overview

Lost Opportunities: The Revision of AR 220-1


DePue, Mark R., Military Review


Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.

-James B. Conant1

In 1997 the US Army commissioned a leadership and professionalism assessment survey among selected officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs).2 One year later the Army Times, quoting the unreleased survey, stated that it "revealed a deep malaise among officers and NCOs [and that the] Army's current culture forces some officers to behave in ways that are contrary to the Army's stated values."3

In June 2000, representatives from all of the Army's major commands (MACOMs) rewrote US Army Regulation (AR) 220-1, Unit Status Report.4 The writing conference was sponsored by Headquarters, Department of the Army (DA) Force Readiness Division. The conference would have been a golden opportunity for senior Army leaders to stimulate the change in culture for which they had been searching. Sadly, the opportunity slipped away.

Army Regulation 220-1's importance cannot be overestimated. Soldiers' safety and the nation's defense depend on unit status reports' (USRs') accuracy. Unit readiness reports are the tools senior leaders use to determine how ready units are for the next war. If ever there is a place where honesty and integrity should count, reporting on how ready units are in the event of war is that place.

During former Chief of Staff Gordon Sullivan's address to the 1991 US Army Command and General Staff (CGSC) class, he issued this challenge: "No more Task Force Smiths!" Task Force Smith remains a catch phrase for what happens when the Army is unprepared for war. In June 1950 Task Force Smith was slapped together, thrown into combat, and because of unreadiness, decimated by the North Korean Army.

The Army recently revised its values, articulating them in the August 1999 version of Field Manual (FM) 22-100, Army Leadership.5 Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are the values US soldiers must embrace. They are the profession's cement. Sadly, the Army seems embarrassed to talk about them beyond directing soldiers to carry a values card in their billfolds.

Abrams a Worthy Model

While attending the writing conference, I read Lewis Sorley's book Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times.6 Abrams, a man of unquestioned integrity and professionalism, represents the Army's best. He combined a keen tactical insight, an indomitable will and a real compassion for those he led.

Observing the post-World War II Army, Abrams was discouraged by the decline in professionalism and integrity among his fellow officers. The decline occurred during a time of drastic force-structure reductions, in an environment where punching one's ticket became the norm as officers fought over a shrinking pool of promotions and plum assignments. Abrams knew what was needed-a return to the values of integrity and selfless service.

After the Vietnam War, Abrams again was deeply troubled by the Army's identity crisis. Riddled with drugs, crime and racial tension, it was in the midst of a rift. Again, Abrams knew what was needed-a return to the Army's core values. In October 1972, when he became the chief of staff, one of Abrams' first acts was to cable his commanders: "I cannot emphasize too strongly the critical necessity for candor. Tell it like it is."7

Today, the Army seems again to be searching for its values. General Eric Shinseki and the Army's senior staff are trying to revitalize the Army. The laments about a zero-defect mentality, declining readiness and a return to the hollow Army have been heard for years. In fact, Congress has heard it so much it asked the Government Accounting Office (GAO), its investigating arm, to seek the truth.

As reported in the Army Times, the GAO found that the Army was more hollow than readiness reports had suggested.8 Years of budget cuts, reduced manning and resources and rising operating tempo had indeed taken a toll. …

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