Internal Army Poll: Only 26% of Officers Say Army Headed in Right Direction--'Political Correctness' Cited

Patrick Burke | August 31, 2012 | 12:02pm EDT
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U.S. Army troops in Iraq. (AP Photo)

( – Is the U.S. Army headed in the right direction?

An internal Army survey that was conducted in 2011 and published this year discovered that only 26 percent of active-duty Army officers say yes--and that one of the two main themes cited by those who say no is that the Army is now adversely impacted by "political correctness" imposed by both outside policymakers and senior Army leaders.

The 26 percent who said the Army was headed in the right direction in 2011 was the lowest percentage who gave that response since the Army began conducting this survey in 2005. It was also significant drop from the 33 percent who had said the Army was heading in the right direction in 2010.

In the 2011 survey, in contrast to the 26 percent who said the Army was heading in the right direction, 38 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction and another 36 percent remained neutral on the topic, neither agreeing nor disagreeing that the army is heading in the right direction.

The report said that 24 percent of those who believed the Army was not headed in the right direction provided additional comments on why they believed that was the case. "Two themes stood out in these comments," said the report. The first was concern over the downsizing of the Army and the impact it might have on national security.

The second was the impact of "political correctness."

"Secondly," said the report, "several comments indicated that political correctness or the influence of politics in the Army is a reason the Army is not headed in the right direction. These comments generally cited the negative influence of government policy makers (outside the Army) as being detrimental to the future of the Army, and indicated that senior Army leaders themselves felt the need to bow to 'politically correct solutions' to appease policy makers, or to 'play politics' within their own organizations."

The Annual Survey of Army Leadership, conducted by U.S. Army's Center for Army Leadership, asked 16,800 commissioned and non-commissioned officers to agree or disagree with the statement: “The Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.”

Seventy-four percent, either actively or passively, did not agree with the statement: And of those who did not agree, these were the top reasons:

-- 58 percent cited the Army’s inability to “retain quality leaders.”

-- 57 percent cited “a lack of discipline, or the “Army is too soft”

-- 53 percent pointed to “Ineffective leaders at senior levels”

-- 52 percent said “senior leaders focus on the wrong priorities”

-- 46 percent said junior leader promotions/advancements are happening too soon

-- 39 percent said “resources/funding or technology are insufficient”

On leadership, the survey found that “interpersonal tact and innovation were identified as the two leader attributes that consistently show the most need for improvement across all levels of leaders.”

Ret. Lt. Colonel Bob Maginnis, a security and foreign affairs analyst, says when it comes to leadership issues, the survey results are positive. But, he added, “What this communicates is that below the surface, there is a lot of tension. A lot of skepticism, and to a certain degree, pessimism.”

Maginnis added that “cultural trends” within the Army such as defense budget cuts, political correctness and a shift in national security strategy have deepened the pessimism of many Army officers.

“I’m very concerned about the cultural trends here. I’m very confident that we have a very effective fighting force, but even the leadership are beginning to see some erosion because of forces from the outside. They’re concerned that they’re going to lose their capability because we’re going to be so crippled in terms of cuts,” Maginnis told

The Center for Army Leadership, part of the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. has conducted this survey annually since 2005. It is a scientific survey used to generalize findings for all Army leaders, Lt. Colonel Jeff Allen told in a statement.

Allen said there are more than 200 questions in the survey, and overall, the survey shows “positive” indicators about “the current state of commitment , satisfaction and engagement” of Army leaders.

According to Allen,90 percent are committed to their team or immediate work group, 83 percent are satisfied with their career in the Army, and 85 percent agree they directly impact the success of their unit.

“We, the Army, did this study on ourselves, this did not come from an outside source.  We think we are the most introspective organization in the Nation and continually strive to get better.  We listen to our young leaders and value their input,” Allen added.

The 2011 Annual Survey of Army Leadership was conducted by ICF International and  has a margin of error of  plus or minus 7 points.

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