We were all chatting last night and discussing the complete fiasco that has become this so-called “reorganization.” Clearly all of the promises made in the early stages of the reorganization, particularly under Michael Lumpkin, DASD for SO/LIC (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflicts) were strategic in nature. Or, at least that is how it has played out. We would like to think that Lumpkin, a former Navy Seal, took his role in the reorganization to heart. Based on what we experienced both individually and collectively, we think he did. It was those that followed Lumpkin in January of this year who refused to “keep the promise.”
These were some of the more poignant quotes from Mr. Lumpkin’s June 12, 2014 comments during the Annual Briefings for Vietnam Families in Washington, DC with regard to the reorganization. (Taken from the website for the National League of POW/MIA Families.)
“Our Service members’ lives are valued and their families our focus.”
“We are working to change the culture and processes that guide our workforce.”
“… a balanced and more family-centric approach, improved access to information will be the bedrock of the process and cultural for this new agency.”
“I look forward to developing a new way of working that is realistic, dynamic and responsive.”
“We’d like the voice of our missing personnel families to shape and inform our process for the future.”
“I want to ensure every stakeholder is aware of our intent, and an active participant in this change-process and feels empowered to provide feedback.”
“ … the goal of all of the officials you’ll hear from today is to bring an end to talk about the government being unresponsive.”
A few weeks later, before the House Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee, Mr. Lumpkin shared similar sentiments to Congress. (Taken from the Military Personnel Subcommittee’s website.)
“Their families are our focus, and better service to those families is our goal.”
“The Secretary’s decisions to change how the Department conducts personnel accounting addresses deficiencies in process, workplace culture and organizational structure.”
“The decisions are based on dispassionate analytical assessments and informed by feedback from families and Congress.”
“The Director of the new Defense Agency, in coordination with the SCOs, will develop guidance that details roles and responsibilities to ensure, responsive, timely and transparent communication with the families.”
“All external communication with families, VSOs, concerned citizens and the public will be robust and two-way.”
Now the question is, how much of these promises made specifically to families have been part of this reorganization?
Since Admiral Franken, LTG (ret) Linnington, DASD René Bardorf and former JPAC leader Commander McKeague took charge of the reorganization in January of 2015, families were categorically put at arm’s length and “robust and two-way” communication as well as being “an active participant in this change-process” were thrown out the window. The promise of feeling, “empowered to provide feedback” is now sadly, laughable.
Weekly conference calls became one-way with DoD personnel telling stakeholders what they had done, were doing and their travel plans. One the first call, when leaders of family groups attempted to question rationale for decisions made without their input and attempted to provide feedback, they were quickly removed from the calls, told they could no longer participate until their attitude changed. The remaining stakeholders still on the calls learned quickly from this initial call that these weekly events were nothing more than an exercise, allowing the DoD to report back to Congress that they were working closely with stakeholders.
This became an underlying theme in everything that the DoD has done in the past eight months; showing more concern for appearances than substance.
To quote the ever-poignant 1991 resignation letter of former Chief of the Special Office for POW/MIAs Col. Millard A. Peck:
“...the tawdry illusion of progress”