|This page in the original is blank.|
A Military Organizational Characteristics
Organizations are studied in general terms because they share regularities and common features. Were they truly unique, only case studies would be possible. The success and utility of organizational studies is a demonstration that organizations have enough similar features, structures, and purposes to make comparative studies feasible.
Conversely, all organizations are different in some respects. And these differences often have an effect on the organization's structure and function, so that similar changes in different organizations have different impacts. Either a classification scheme that groups organizations by relevant characteristics is necessary, or the particular features that modify a change must be specified in order for the effects of the change to be understood. There must be a comparable base of organizational characteristics in order to assess the regularities in their operations. There is no general scheme that enables an organization to know in advance which differences are cogent for which changes.
That there is variability in the purposes, structures, and functions of organizations is hardly a radical or novel observation. Organizational scholars are well aware of this and consider it in their discussions. Sometimes, however, because of the focus of their studies, scholars may concentrate on one or another type of organization and neglect to delimit the generalizations of their findings to those actually examined. For example, studies attempting to relate organizational culture to productivity are most often conducted by researchers located in schools of business or management. Their general discussions expound on a wide range of possible cases but, when empirical evaluations are made, the focus of the studies narrows to
only corporate organizations (see, e.g., Ouichi, 1981; Kotter and Heskitt, 1992).
Generalizations from corporate to noncorporate organizations may of course be valid. That is a matter of fact to be ascertained on a case-by-case basis. But there is no reason not to articulate the differences between corporate organizations and noncorporate ones so that they may become salient and brought into consideration more appropriately and clearly.
The United States military is a large and complex organization that is not corporate in nature. There are differences between the military and corporate organizations (this is not to say that all corporate organizations are alike) that may relate to structure, downsizing, leadership, interorganizational cooperation, and a host of other topics. Not all of these features are unique to the military, nor are all of them stark in contrast to corporate features. They do give reason to consider carefully these issues before positively affirming the applicability to the military of relationships developed in nonmilitary milieus.
The remainder of this appendix is a list of features within military organizations that are not likely to appear in similar form in nonmilitary organizations. The list is not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. Some of the differences may be pertinent, others not. Not all of the differences are unique to the military. Some are common to government agencies in general; others are specific to the U.S. federal system; others are shared by nonprofit organizations; still others are characteristic of organizations dealing with matters of public safety. Nevertheless, as a cluster of characteristics, they serve to characterize the current United States military and also as a set of markers or constraints against the blanket application of techniques developed for corporate organizations.
Two points should be noted. First, these differences are well known to those in the military, who live with them and their consequences. They are not usually articulated, so that these different feature may routinely pass unnoticed by those not familiar with the military organization on a day-to-day basis. Second, the point is not merely that the military is subject to congressional rules. All organizations (in the United States) are subject to such strictures. Fair labor practices, requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, civil and criminal law, the Internal Revenue Code, and antitrust legislation, to name just a few, represent some of the legal regulations that define and constrain all organizations. It is the particular nature of the rules governing the military that makes its organizational operations so different.
- First and foremost is the military's distinct mission. The military is the only organization with the mission to destroy and kill enemies of the nation. No one, neither police nor police-like organizations, is authorized
- to kill in this manner. Although the military may be charged with a host of other missions, the use of deadly force in aggressive and defensive actions against the nation's enemies is its defining characteristic. No other organization has a similar mission.
- The budget for the military is approved by Congress on a year-by-year basis (with the exception of special categories, such as major equipment, that may be obligated over several years). This poses limitations on the military's ability to make organizational plans beyond the current fiscal year and means that funds unspent in a given fiscal year cannot be carried over to the next. The annual budget also drives end-of-the-year spending, which in turn creates disincentives for the implementation of various improvements in efficiency and undercuts the rationale for prudent spending. The budget also has an impact on authorized number of personnel for each year. For instance, Congress may mandate a decrease in personnel, an increase in the procurement of materiel, and a decrease in budget unrelated to either.
- There are several separate but related sets of personnel in the military, such as active-duty service members, civilian employees, reserves, and the national guard. Both the military and civilian sets cover the breadth and depth of the organization, from clerk to secretary of defense on the civilian side and from recruit to chairman of the joint chiefs on the active-duty side. The President, a civilian, is designated commander in chief by the Constitution. The active-duty component can be further divided in a number of ways: officer versus enlisted, flag, field, and company grade, and so forth.
These several sets of personnel are recruited differently, managed differently, evaluated differently, often held to different performance standards, serve different terms of office, and differ from each other in a number of other ways. The implications of having several distinct workforces are complex and cannot be specified completely. Unless explicitly noted, the rest of the points made here refer to the active-duty component of the military organization, with the civilian comparison left implicit. Congress can direct trade-offs among these groups by such means as privatizing, transferring responsibility to a reserve component, and using civilians to replace military personnel.
- The military has a fixed rank structure. There are at least 15 standard levels of rank (9 enlisted and 6 officer); others, such as warrant officers and flag rank officers (generals and admirals), add additional ones. The rank structure is determined by federal law, and the number of incumbents at each rank is fixed. This requirement has as one of its consequences, for example, that the military has no ability on a short-term basis to change its organizational management strategy by flattening or expanding its rank structure to better accommodate its mission-based needs. The military may make a case or a request for such a change, but it cannot be implemented without
- legislative and executive approval. There is a differential impact of rank structure on operational force units on one hand, and various headquarters and staffs on the other. Headquarters and staffs can be transformed in many ways; units must be systematically restructured—command billets must be filled or abolished.
- Military personnel cannot organize for the purposes of collective bargaining, or for the negotiation of working conditions, pay, or benefits. Service members can join voluntary organizations, but they cannot advocate for such changes either. Even civilians employed by the military are limited compared with their private-sector counterparts. They are executive branch employees and are prohibited by law from trying to influence pending legislation—the major pathway to modifying their conditions of employment—because such legislation is in the purview of the legislative branch of government, and the separation of powers principle keeps the executive branch at arm's length. Needless to say, strikes or other work actions are out of the question for the military. As a counterbalance to these restrictions, there is a sizable number of other nongovernmental organizations that testify on behalf of the military budget and about various conditions of employment. Among such groups are veterans' organizations, retired officers' associations, retired enlisted associations, and variations of these for each of the separate services.
- Military enlisted personnel serve fixed terms of enlistment. They cannot resign or quit unilaterally, unless they are at the end of their terms. Even then, resignation is with the permission of the service and can be refused. If the military is engaged in an operational procedure, such as a military action, departure at the end of a term may have to be postponed for those engaged in the operation. Officers have different rules for resignation and retirement, but they are also limited in their options by the current state of operations and by the payback owed for previous military-supplied educational opportunities. Employee dissatisfaction cannot always be translated into immediate resignation or separation from duty. There are even limits on the ability of personnel to voice their dissatisfactions publicly.
- The pay structure of the military is fixed. It is entirely determined by rank and time in service. In some cases, there may be supplementary special pay, as in the case of extra salary awarded to physicians whose medical specialties are in short supply. A key issue is that bonuses or merit pay are not and cannot be used in individual cases for either rewards or incentives. Merit is recognized through the issuance of (nonmonetary) awards and medals. In the long run, superior performance is recognized in a number of ways, such as special honors, earlier than usual promotion, and selection for a higher position on the rank pyramid. However, the short-term use of salary and bonuses to motivate and encourage achievement cannot be utilized, nor can failure to award a bonus be used as a sign of disapproval.
- The use of salary-based incentives and rewards occurs through the promotion system, but, for many officer ranks, that system is not under the control of the immediate commander but rather goes through a complex Promotion Board review procedure. In addition, there are some special pay and promotion attributes of the military. Prisoners of war, although away from their jobs, still accumulate pay, length of service, and promotions. Under some circumstances even military members serving jail time in military stockades still amass some pay and retirement credits.
- Unlike most other organizations, the military's rules of conduct have the force of law. In most organizations, a violation of company policy may result in being fired; in the military, violation of company policy may result in formal charges, trial, and imprisonment. In addition to the U.S. criminal and civil codes, the Uniform Code of Military Justice also governs the conduct of military personnel. And to enforce its standards of conduct, the military maintains its own judicial and penal systems. The mechanisms of control of military members stands in sharp contrast to the treatment of civilians employed by the organization. They have the employee protections of the Civil Service Code, have a number of avenues of appeal, and are not subject to the procedures of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In the civilian world, certain conduct may result in loss of employment but is not criminal, such as unbecoming conduct and certain forms of disrespect to one's superiors. In the military, these are crimes and one is under threat of imprisonment for such lapses.
The military regulates not only the conditions of employment and conduct of its members but also aspects of their personal life. Mandatory drug screening and a prohibition on abortions at military hospitals represent a type of involvement in members' personal lives to an extent that is not usual in the civilian world.
- All active-duty military personnel are on permanent 24-hour call. Except for times when they are on official authorized leave status, all active-duty military may be called in to a duty station at any time. Even their leave is subject to cancellation. Equally pertinent is that they may be deployed—that is, assigned to duty at a station remote from home and family—at any time as required by government policy. As noted above, personnel do not have the option of resigning rather than reporting or being deployed. Nor do they receive any special compensation, unless combat or hazardous duty pay is officially authorized for the period of the assignment.
- The military operate under a distinctive retirement scheme. Personnel must serve a threshold amount of time in the service to qualify for a retirement pay. The minimum time requirement is 20 years. Separation from the military before this length of service, either voluntary or involuntary, means no retirement pay. Some benefits, such as health care up to age 65, are bundled with the retirement status. The military medical system
- cares for both retirees and their dependent family members; former military personnel who are preretirees are cared for by the Veterans Administration medical system; their family members are not covered. A retired active-duty service member can accept employment in the private sector. If he or she serves as an active-duty officer and then accepts a postretirement job with the federal government in a nonmilitary capacity, the retirement pay will be reduced during the tenure of this second job; in some circumstances, this reduction can be waived. An officer in retirement pay status is eligible and liable for recall to active duty.
- Major decisions in the military are often confounded with civilian political issues that are not necessarily related to the military's plans or effectiveness. The acquisition of major weapon systems and the continued operation of bases are determined by many factors, not the least of which are political and economic considerations. A base that employs hundreds or thousands of civilians and houses many active-duty military is a large economic engine. The closure of one or another base may be proposed on grounds of purely military efficiency; the decision of which base to close is made by a process that is politicized, with states and communities competing for bases on, at best, quasi-military grounds. Almost all aspects of higher levels of mission, structure, and function of the military, including discretionary acquisition of weapons and other equipment, are controlled by elements in the larger political system rather than determined solely by the organization itself. Although consultation with senior military officers is routine, major and strategic decisions are determined by the political process and are often responsive to extraorganizational priorities and pressures. Civilian appointed leadership in each military department and at the Department of Defense, not active-duty military personnel, control budget decisions.
- The budget of the military is imposed from outside, even to the point of subcategory specification. The budget is not directly linked to organizational performance, and it may contain mandates for specific programs or operations that have absolute priority: they can be neither can-celled nor deferred. The provision of resources for these externally established programs cannot be offset by adding personnel; staffing must be provided by diverting personnel from other programs or operations.
- Almost all of the military's regular management functions are governed by large sets of externally imposed, complex sets of regulations. These rules may have been designed for other purposes and other organizations. The domains of civilian personnel, nonoperational travel, and procurement are particularly constrained. It is cumbersome and time-consuming to hire a low-level clerk, and the process is not completely orderly. At any point a recruitment action may require the hiring of an employee whose job in another part of the organization or government has been terminated.
- If the person whose hiring is compulsory earns a higher salary than what has been budgeted for the position, the hiring unit must absorb the increased cost from other parts of its operating budget for up to two years. It requires difficult and heavily bureaucratic procedures to discharge a poorly performing or nonfunctional civilian employee. Similar complexities and difficulties exist in almost all areas of routine management operations.
- It is customary for corporate organizations to distinguish among customers, employees, and stockholders, especially when assessing productivity or effectiveness of performance. These distinctions are not clear for the military. The employees are distinctive enough, but it is unclear whether the general citizenry are customers or stockholders, or how exactly to characterize the role of Congress and the secretary of defense. In operations other than war, these distinctions are even fuzzier. The organizational responsibility for a military operation, such as a peacekeeping mission in conjunction with the United Nations, leaves many issues of management and control ambiguous. For clarity of mission these issues should be resolved prior to commitment of U.S. forces.
- The military organization makes a distinction between line and specialized staff functions. In many ways the specialized staff is favored by being able to move more quickly through the officer rank structure. Physicians, dentists, and clinical psychologists, for example, are recruited as O-3 officers, Navy lieutenants, and Army and Air Force captains, reflecting the military service credit they are given for their specialized training and education. Line officers in all service branches start their careers as O-1 officers, Navy ensigns, or Army, Marine, and Air Force second lieutenants. Yet at the higher ranks, particularly at the general officer level, the line officers have a large role in the promotions of the higher levels of staff. Indeed, as specialized staff officers move up the rank ladder to serve in command positions within their specialties, they are judged more and more on whether they have acquired skills and experience in command and control; in some ways their line-like experience outweighs their professional achievements in determining whether they are promoted.
- The relationship between the internal and external control of the organization is fixed by law. The military chiefs of staff work for their civilian counterparts, the politically appointed service secretaries. At the highest level, this is paralleled by the joint stewardship of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. At lower levels there are various civilian assistant secretaries, as well as military deputy chiefs. Although in theory the responsibilities of these two groups differ, there is some partial overlap in how they actually function. Many issues of management and service policy are vetted by both groups, and the formal lines of demarcation between their responsibilities and authority are sometimes shaded in practice. Civilian authority, however, is paramount. The chiefs of staff/commander
- of naval operations have no authority similar to that exercised by the commander in chief, the secretary of defense, the deputy secretary, the undersecretaries, the service secretaries, etc.
- The organization assumes a responsibility for the entire military community, including family members and retirees. In part to serve that obligation, the military maintains a pastoral corps, a social work capability, a family housing stock, schools for dependent family members, and a large medical system. In some cases in which the military is not able to provide these services with its own resources, it will contract for them to ensure access to them by the entire military community. The Exceptional Family Member Act makes the services responsible for the care and education of exceptional children from birth up to the age when that responsibility devolves to the community or the military school system.
- The military often engages in sudden and unexpected transitions from regular operations to what are often dangerous and life-threatening operations. The movements of personnel are not voluntary, involve the separation of families, and are impervious to the demands of unfinished business and personal crises. One of the distinguishing features of military operations, in contrast to those of fire departments or police forces, is the length of time involved—from months to years—and the distances—up to thousands of miles—to be covered. There is no easy way to bring a service member home routinely from such a mission. The stresses imposed on both the service members and their families by these separations are very different from those of dangerous occupations in the civilian sector. Even on a daily basis there are differences: Police and fire departments, for example, are organized by shifts, with the day shift replacing the night shift, and so forth. On military deployments, there are no formal shifts.
- The structure of the officer force in the military is pyramidal in nature: the higher the rank, the fewer the incumbents. Some of the thinning out is accomplished by the attrition of officers voluntarily separating from the force, but most of it comes from their forced exit from the military through a process of selective retention. Officers and noncommissioned officers are reviewed for promotion at all levels. At the field grade level, after a certain time in rank, the situation for a candidate officer is up or out—and it is repeated for each new rank. Those not selected for a higher rank must leave (under some circumstances, those not selected may be retained at the old rank). Although it does not usually happen, nonselected field grade officers may not have served long enough to qualify for retirement. If this occurs, they lose their pension rights, and they and their family members lose other benefits, such as access to the military medical system. In the Army in the early 1990s, of a given cohort of captains, 80 percent would be promoted to major. Of the cohort of majors, 70 percent would be promoted to lieutenant colonel; of the cohort of lieutenant colonels, only 50
- percent would be promoted to colonel. Thus only 28 percent of the original captains, about 1 in 4, will make colonel. Approximately 5 percent of colonels will be promoted to general. The finality and inexorableness of the system promotes both excellence and competition, but it also produces anxiety and disappointment.
In past years, an officer who attained the rank of O-6 (Navy captain or Army, Air Force, and Marine colonel) could expect to serve up to 20 years, the minimum service to qualify for retirement, or longer, up to 30 years. With the end of the cold war and the subsequent downsizing of the military, that is no longer the universal case. In some instances, the services have temporarily lowered the requisite years of service to qualify for retirement, an action that has consequences for a longevity-based retirement pay plan. They have also established Selective Early Retirement Boards that may select eligible senior officers for involuntary retirement before the 30-year limit.
- The military has an internal system of organizational culture that lends support to its personnel. In some instances, this culture also creates resistance to organizational change. This cultural system extends into groups that are related but marginal to it. They include other governmental entities, such as the Veterans Administration, and voluntary civilian groups, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and service alumni organizations. All these groups share in the culture of the military and to varying extents participate in the public political process of testifying before Congress and the administration and lobbying on military matters. Sometimes these efforts are concordant with the command management of the military; sometimes they are at cross-purposes. Other groups tied to but not part of the military also influence the organization's wherewithal and allocation decisions. The industrial part of the military-industrial complex pursues its own goals within the political system, goals that partially establish the parameters of the military's operations.
- The military has detailed uniform requirements that are quite complex. These vary from service to service from four to six levels of formality, each requiring a different uniform. They range from the informality of battle dress uniforms (camouflage print work clothes worn with boots in the Army, called ''cami" in the Navy and Marine Corps and fatigues in the Air Force) to the formality of mess dress uniforms—the military equivalent of the civilian's white tie and tails. In addition, all uniforms have a public display of the wearer's rank that clearly identifies the wearer's place in a hierarchical structure. Some uniforms contain medal ribbons, length of service indicators, unit patches, and special achievement insignia. At times it is almost possible to read a service member's military history and level of accomplishment from the attachments to his or her sleeves, collar, and chest. Military uniforms are established and serve several important functions,
- such as identification of friends and enemies, pride, and tradition. They inhibit the adoption of organizational changes based on informality of dress codes and the minimization of status differences.
- The military organization is made up of several suborganizations, the most prominent of which are the component services: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. These subunits both cooperate and compete. Each is supported by a large public constituency, and each strives to maximize its own role in the larger organization. Their successes in this competition result in seeming redundancy. Currently, the military has four air forces, two infantries, three medical corps, and lots of other units that seem to be duplicative across the services. The ability to analyze critically and to evaluate which of these duplications are functionally useful and cost-effective and which are vestiges of a dysfunctional competition is complicated by the heavily political nature of both the analysis and the decision elements, as well as the heavy influence of tradition that is a counterpoise to optimization.
- The military operate under a series of mission-driven constraints about the assignment of personnel to various operational roles and even about the suitability of individuals for military service. There exists a highly debated and still controversial policy about the role of homosexual men and lesbian women in the military. The current policy was established after discussion during the 1992 presidential election campaign and was one of the first initiatives put forward by the Clinton administration. The present "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is politically as well as militarily derived. Similarly, there is a debate about a national policy concerning the role of women in combat. That policy is the topic of much discussion and involves various political agendas that are not strictly concerned with the optimal use of human resources and military efficiency.
- The organizational boundaries of the military are somewhat unclear. It conducts a set of shared activities with other organizations that have affiliations with it. These include various reserve components (federal units), the national guard (state units that may be federalized when needed), and the reserve officer training corps, control of which is shared by the military and the colleges, universities, and schools in which they are located. These other organizations may share some of the same duties as the military. They may serve as front-line units; they may serve as supplementary units when emerging tasks require additional or specialized personnel; and they may backfill rear-echelon positions when regular armed services are deployed. The reserve components are in competition with the regular forces for current allocations of money and equipment, as well jockeying for position in long-range and strategic planning. Congress decides the funding and force structure for the reserve components; the national guard is handled on a state-by-state basis.
- The military does not have final control of the location of its operations. There are statutory limits, for example, on how many personnel can be assigned to the Washington, D.C., area. These limits are set independently of the organization's own judgments about efficient placement of personnel. On a more general level, decisions about the placement of military bases are heavily interwoven with local economies and jobs. As mentioned above, base closures and decisions about size and staffing are often based on civilian economic concerns and heavily brokered in a political arena that often ignores the functional and strategic requirements of the organization.
The other major factor is that operations in the future will be manned following today's predictions of likely missions. These predictions are often made by expert panels to meet a preconceived goal of either cutting or expanding the military, regardless of the desirable force mix. When the experts are incorrect in their estimates, the active-duty military leaders are often called to explain to Congress why they had the wrong troop mix, weapons systems, or inadequate training.
- The military does not determine all of its own standards for its personnel. Such rules as age requirements and limits, physical standards, and other aspects of policy regarding the attributes of the officer component are partially determined by legislation. In particular, the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act sets some of the standards for service. The organization has difficulty in arranging exceptions to statutory standards for specific operational purposes. The services may impose their own supplemental standards regarding height, weight, physical fitness, disqualifying disabilities, and so forth, as they find appropriate. All are potentially subject to congressional review.
As noted above, this list is not complete, nor are all the items of equal importance. They do give a start to suggesting differences between the United States military as an organization and some of the other organizations more frequently examined by corporately oriented organizational theorists.
Kotter, J.P., and Heskett, J.L. 1992 Corporate Culture and Performance. New York: Free Press.
Ouchi, W.G. 1981 Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the Japanese Challenge . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.