The decision to give some flag-rank jobs to civilians, actually civil servants, of the Senior Executive Service (SES) is the result of a natural selection process of back office domination of front office operations, also known as dog wagging. This is a process not peculiar to the military and is a principal cause for bureaucratic incompetence in both public and private sectors where the delivery of goods and services become subordinate to palace politics, administrivia, and job security for the high and mighty.
While much as been said about the shortcomings of the General Officer Corps in the press lately, the General Officer Corps is the result of a long and progressive development process subjecting the officer to increasing levels of complexity and responsibility designed to gain competence across the full spectrum of military operations from platoon to combined and joint operations. It requires demonstrated competence in the art and science of war.
The civil servant has no such progressive educational and experiential process and is primarily the result of adroit self advancement through the labyrinth of office politics. No measurable standard exists to determine an understanding of war and it’s vagaries within the Civil Service.
While a uniformed officer’s career if file-centric (personnel file) based on the successive inputs of rater and endorser, the civil servant’s career is position-centric in which survival is enhanced by turf expansion and protection. As a retired bureaucrat from a large unnamed Texas city known for oil, I have been there and done that. Efficiency reports in civil service are more a formality than a matter of career life or death.
The turmoil attending the rotation of uniformed officers through senior positions to feed the military promotion mill is a cost of career progression that can be corrected by slowing the process down. The stubborn persistence of the process of “Transformation” which stalled at the Brigade level attests to the ignorance of the Department of the Army of division,, corps, and field army operations which expertise was sloughed off to the Army Reserve, and forgotten.
Were it not for the retirees, reservists, and Guard personnel called up in ad hoc manner or hired at multiples of their civilian salaries, there would be no logistics structure. It is tribute to the adaptability of our people to task organize in the field a structure originally task organized by TOE instead of METT-T.
If senior civilians are to act at General Officer level, they should have demonstrated the tactical and technical propensities we expect of their military counterparts. This is the case with Guard and Reserve "technicians" who must maintain their military rank and qualifications to keep their civil service job, often operating in the same duties in both capacities. Guard and Reserve technicians often command units.
Left disconnected to military art and science, an expansion of the flag rank SES virtually could eliminate the need for flag rank military persoonnel, indeed of a professional force of any component. What could be civilianized could also be privatized. Think of a Blackwater bluewater force operating with a Letter of Marque and Reprisal (as Privateers) as in the days of the Bounding Main.