That act binds the military into a system that honors seniority over individual merit. It judges officers, hundreds at a time, in an up-or-out promotion process that relies on evaluations that have been almost laughably eroded by grade inflation. A zero-defect mentality punishes errors severely. The system discourages specialization — you can’t expect to stay a fighter jock or a cybersecurity expert — and pushes the career-minded up a tried-and-true ladder that, not surprisingly, produces lookalikes.
This reminds me of the Federal Reserve Board, or of the public school system. To some extent it reminds me of the way large corporations treat middle managers. As I explained almost fifteen years ago,
For corporations, encouraging middle managers to take good risks is not as easy as it sounds. Middle managers understandably do not want the same degree of personal downside risk as entrepeneurs. However, in the absence of personal downside risk, the middle manager’s incentives would be skewed toward taking unjustifiable risks. Bureaucratic controls and limits on upside incentives may be an appropriate adaptation for correcting this potential bias.
I think that mediocrity is the natural state of organizations. Only the discipline of competition serves to bring about improvement.