01 March 2009

Future Risk: Citizen Soldiers Extinct...

It's not often that we see an editorial article that prompts us to get the scissors out of the drawer to cut it out of the Washington Post. This opinion by Matthew Bogdanos is worth some additional review from an Operational Risk perspective. He is a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and an assistant district attorney for New York City.

"A nation largely founded on the citizen-soldier ideal finds itself, following Vietnam and the expulsion of recruiters from campuses, with the military and civilian worlds warily eyeing each other across a cultural no man's land. As budgets shrink future forces, veterans will be fewer and the chasm wider -- to our peril.

No one wants everyone to think and act alike. Diversity is a major source of our nation's strength. But this diminishing shared experience leaves us ill-prepared against global terrorism. As the British general Sir William Butler warned a century ago, "A nation that will insist upon drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."

We will leave it up to the Operational Risk Managers of the globe whether to agree with Col. Bogdanos and his comments. What is our take away from his words about "Duties That Are Best Shared?" We think it's quite simple.

How can an "Operational Risk Manager" make effective decisions without having walked a few "clicks" in another persons boots? Effective decision support from the Incident Command Center is far more effective if the person making those decisions has relevant and first hand experience. Asking a new hired employee to take the week long orientation training without having done it yourself, is not only bad management, it's reckless governance of the organization.

Years ago after the invasion of Baghdad, this OPS Risk manager (Bogdanos) did what we do every day. He adapted, improvised and overcame risks in order to recover stolen artifacts from the museums. The investigation was successful because not only was he someone that had experienced what it was like to operate in a war zone, he also was a subject matter expert on much of what was recovered.

If you are going to be an effective risk manager, you have to train with your troops in the business unit or the base. You have to know first hand what you are talking about. Without these, "we risk a future without all of us working towards the same ends --whatever society decides those ends should be."

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