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<Thread>Coast Guard Commandant, Adm Schultz, criticized the shutdown today in a viral clip. Is it a problem for civ-mil relations for a sr officer to speak out like this? I don't think so & sr officers probably can be even more engaged than they've been.1/
It’s worth noting that although retired officers have been making a lot of news the last few months, active duty officers really haven’t. The current CJCS (Gen Dunford), in particular, has kept a historically low media profile. 2/
This is at least partly due to Sec Mattis’ influence & choice to hold few SecDef/CJCS pressers, but a large part also seems to be an active decision by Gen Dunford to stay out of the press spotlight. 3/…
But, in addition to Adm Schultz, there are other signs this could be changing. Since being announced as the prospective CJCS nominee, GEN Milley has been in the news on several occasions and hasn’t always offered the ‘party line.’ 4/…
Is a bad thing for generals and admirals to be more publicly engaged than they have been? That depends on what they speak about and how they do it. It’s an art, not a science, but there are some principles they should keep in mind. 5/
The big difference between Adm Schultz’ video & GEN Milley’s statements compared to the interview by GEN (Ret) McChrystal & the op-ed ADM (Ret) McRaven is that they aren’t partisan and they don’t talk single out particular elected leaders for criticism. 6/
They also stick w/in their knowledge/mil expertise & don’t really venture into personal opinions. Although retired generals & admirals have the right to express personal opinions about candidates, they also have responsibilities to the profession and to those still in uniform. 6/
By both norm & statute, mil leaders shouldn’t offer private advice or make public statements that are partisan or that attempt to influence electoral outcomes. As I’ve argued, I think this applies to both active and retired generals and admirals. 7/…
When Peter Feaver, Kyle Dropp & I looked at partisan endorsements by retired officers, we found they are self-defeating. They don’t really impact outcomes, but they do make the mil look more partisan & undermine public confidence. 8/…
As @korischake argues, endorsements by retired generals also create perverse incentives for mil officers and undermine trust between civ leaders & active duty mil leaders. Even if retired officers think they're speaking for themselves; they aren't. 9/…
However, our research also shows that when generals that focus on particular issues within their expertise CAN shift public opinion, WITHOUT all the negative effects. This is the type of behavior we saw w/ Adm Schultz’ video & GEN Milley’s statements. 10/…
There are still risks that pol leaders will politicize the military by using it as a shield from criticism or by creating the impression that the mil is on their side, but the advantages to public discourse sometimes outweigh these concerns. 11/
This is where Congress plays an important role & where the party change in the House could have a big impact on civ-mil relations over the next year. 12/
Since mil leaders have a constitutional responsibility to keep Congress informed & Congress has oversight responsibilities, they can & will attempt to get military officers on record on important topics. (e.g., see SEN Gilibrand’s questioning of the JCS on the #TransBan). 13/
But, and this is a BIG but, it is increasingly difficult to give non-partisan military advice. Military advice is ALWAYS given in a political context, and the political context in America is deeply polarized along partisan lines. 14/
This isn’t going away soon, regardless of who is president; its been growing for awhile. As @m_robinson771 shows in this great piece for @WarOnTheRocks, military leaders gain partisan followings whether they mean to or not. 15/…
As @DefenseBaron has shown, DoD and Joint Staff have tried to avoid the spotlight recently. This approach minimizes the risks of politicization, but at the expense of informed public debate. 16/…
As I noted earlier, this may be changing, but the risks of politicization & getting caught in the crossfire are real - so mil leaders need to be selective about how and what they speak about, and careful about how they do it. 17/
As Don Snider argues here, they’re on the most solid ground when they speak on important issues within their areas of expertise (in my view, that holds for both active and retired officers). 18/…
This is more an art than a science, which I sometimes learned the hard way when I helped prep GEN (Ret) Dempsey prepare for testimony on the Hill, press conferences, and occasional media engagements. 19/
The guiding principle I came to rely on was to always try to think about how his public statements would impact trust – with the public, with elected leaders, and with those in uniform. Those weren’t easy and sometimes they were impossible to balance. 20/
There are some people who won’t trust people who disagree with them or who will demand loyalty over expertise. There’s not much senior officers can do to mitigate those situations, but they can do their best to act in a way that is worthy of that trust. 21/
I also should add that, apart from civil-military concerns, Adm Schultz is simply being a good leader. The service members and civilians under his command have been working without pay, doing difficult & sometimes risky jobs. 22/
But it is not just the Coast Guard or federal employees who are vets. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been working without pay to keep our govt running & our country safe. There are more details on who is affected in the attached article. 23/…
So while the Coast Guard is in the news, don't forget about everyone else who is affected. And if you can help any of those impacted get by in the meantime, please do. They deserve better. 24/24
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