D Tel: American colonel sacked after Afghan rant
- From: sufaud <sufaud@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2010 08:47:01 -0700 (PDT)
American colonel sacked after Afghan rant
A senior American staff officer has been sacked after publishing a
rant against the bureaucracy and endless PowerPoint briefings at
Nato's Kabul headquarters.
By Ben Farmer in Kabul
Published: 2:12PM BST 28 Aug 2010
Col Lawrence Sellin was sent home after generals read an opinion piece
he had written revealing "little of substance" was done at the
coalition's joint command in Afghanistan.
He went on to paint a picture of a bloated organisation, swollen by
the vanity of commanders, where endless slide show presentations are
given to brief "cognitively challenged" generals.
A spokesman for the joint command confirmed Col Sellin, an army
reservist with a PhD who was on his second tour of Afghanistan, had
lost his job because of his remarks.
"He's no longer working at the joint command, he has been sent back to
Col Sellin's piece, written for the news agency UPI and called
"PowerPoints 'R' Us", was published on Tuesday, but appears to have
been born of a long period of frustration.
Beginning by acknowledging the piece may not benefit his career, but
explaining it would be therapeutic, he wrote: "I have been assigned as
a staff officer to a headquarters in Afghanistan for about two months.
During that time, I have not done anything productive. Fortunately
little of substance is really done here, but that is a task we do
He said the international coalition's sprawling joint command, which
oversees operations across Afghanistan, was probably founded "to
provide some general a three-star command".
It had grown from a small group of "dedicated and intelligent
officers" to "a stove-piped and bloated organisation, top-heavy in
rank" where "you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a colonel".
However he reserved his deepest criticism for the daily slide show
presentations junior officers must give to keep top brass updated.
"For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering
with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of
cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them
information," he wrote.
Giving good presentations had become an end in itself, he said,
suggesting "random motion, ad hoc processes and an in-depth knowledge
of Army minutia and acronyms are also key characteristics of a
successful staff officer."
Actual progress in the war had become "optional", he believed.
The cornerstone of HQ life, the commander's update, was delivered to
"semi-comatose" audience of one and two-star generals where each
briefer has "1 or 2 minutes to impart either information or
"Usually they don't do either. Fortunately, none of the information
provided makes an indelible impact on any of the generals."
Col Sellin said the joint command was to grow even more because "an
officer, who is currently without one, needs a staff of 35 people to
create a big splash before his promotion board".
Soldiers have long complained of the growing reliance on slide shows
to brief people and the time dedicated to writing the presentations.
A spokesman for the Nato joint command said Col Sellin had been sacked
because he had failed to clear his comments with public affairs
Colonel Hans Bush, chief of public affairs said: "His comments do not
reflect the reality of the work done every day at [joint command].
"His insights are his own, however, his duty position and
responsibilities did not offer him the situational awareness needed to
validate his postings to the media."
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