One of the most frequent platitudes given by senior commanders to their subordinates is that “people are our most valuable asset.” While this very well may be true in the abstract, the U.S. Defense Department at large prefers to focus its efforts on more tangible items—namely, expensive weapons systems. Even in an era of rapid technological change, the human being remains the linchpin that determines victory or defeat. Yet, despite billions of dollars spent every year on cutting-edge research and development projects for equipment, very few programs are focused on optimizing the physical, psychological and intellectual capabilities of our warfighters.
This is ironic because personnel costs are fast becoming the largest portion of the Defense Department’s budget. Much of these costs stem from widely applied and necessary medical, salary and retirement payments. Yet, treating the human as a weapons system requires concerted research into the realm of pushing human performance to its very limits throughout the spectrum of capabilities. Defense planners currently do a very poor job at capturing these results.
Even the U.S. Army, which boasts a program executive office devoted to the human, does so with a view toward external capabilities such as night-vision goggles rather than getting the most out of the human itself, sans anything else.
The mind is the greatest strategic weapon ever created. More powerful than any computer, its mysteries have only just begun to be revealed. Training such an asset, and understanding the best way to impart relevant lessons, should be paramount. Yet, one of the biggest complaints from trainees is the poor state of military education.