Priorities of work. That’s a military term used in the Infantry to denote those things that have to take place in a certain order because, left to their own devices, the individual soldier may not see the real priorities as priorities.
Basically, once you’ve seized the objective or occupied the patrol base there are certain things that must and should be done first and certain things done last. In some units, there may be nuanced versions but they all follow a general theme. Candidly assess all of the who, what, why, when and where in light of the mission, enemy, time, terrain, troops available, and weather. Proceed then to post security, sectors of fire, command and control, redistribute ammo, all of which is needed to be ready for the next fight.
Once that’s done designate the positions of key assets like crew-served weapons, final protective fires, casualty collection points, and reinforce positions to the extent needed. Then, and only then, set up a plan for rest and food.
The Infantry’s priorities of work are necessary because let’s be honest, left to their own devices the average 19-year-old Private First Class Joe Snuffy is going to go for rest and food first and leave his sector of the perimeter untended and unprepared.
Priorities of work are something that requires a measure of self-discipline, a measure of training, and a large measure of leadership. Priorities of work ensure that you are ready to fight for another day. Priorities of work indicate a well-trained and disciplined fighting force.
And honestly, it’s not just a military thing. Priorities of work can be used in so many more aspects of life than just on the field of battle.
Think about it: whatever your job is, blue-collar or white-collar, once you understand how to do your job you know that there are certain things that get done before others. If your part comes before someone else’s then you know that you have to do your part in a quick and timely manner to ensure that you don’t impede the flow for the next person.
Priorities of work as a standard operating procedure is too often lost on people as a deliberate and intentional way of conducting good business. When someone doesn’t operate with a mindset toward priorities of work it can create confusion, disarray, inefficiency, and at the very worse it can create the loss of life, limb or property.
When politicians lose sight of their priorities of work, we all get to pay the price for it - which is where we find ourselves right now in Montgomery.
At a time when world events, both foreign and domestic, are stacked upon each other in a way that impinges on our usual way of life, you have to know that those in charge of the decision-making processes have their priorities in order. Political leaders must recognize what is needed and necessary versus what is fluff and unnecessary. Some of that is subjective and certainly a matter of opinion, but sometimes a mere glance can indicate that priorities are just out of whack.
Let me take you through some examples:
Have you seen the price at the gas pump in the last few days? Road trips are expensive now with the price of oil reaching $110 per barrel and the price of the average gallon of unleaded in Alabama pushing its way toward $4 per gallon. The State Legislature is in session and they know this as well as you and me. But 10 cents on every gallon we pay at the pump is because of them. The Legislature thought it would be a great idea to raise your gas taxes a couple of years ago. They did it right after the last election and Governor Ivey pushed for it and signed it into law. They thought you would forget before the next election. They didn’t have their priorities in the right order and now we have world events forcing our gas prices higher and higher. But here’s the rub: they have the ability to pass some relief – right now - while they are still in session. The Legislature has the means and authority to repeal, replace, or freeze that gas tax. But it does not appear to be a priority in their work to provide relief over something they themselves enacted.
What about your wallet? Unless you’re a state employee, you’re really not seeing any return right now on the massive surplus of funds that they’ve collected in Montgomery. As a state, we have epic windfalls in revenue and federal relief dollars. The Attorney General of Alabama fought the federal government in court and won the right for the state of Alabama to provide tax relief if the legislature and the Governor so desire. But they won’t because it does not fit into their priorities of work. Instead, they have been very proud to announce how much they are spending on new and existing government initiatives and raises for state employees. Yet not a whiff of tax relief that the average citizen can ever feel or benefit from. Returning excess revenues to the taxpayer just isn’t a priority.
What about education? We are poised to spend more on education this year than ever before in the history of, well, ever. Over nine billion dollars in state spending, but meanwhile the State of Alabama remains last in the nation in education standings while multiple states spend less than we do per student and rank higher in quality. Education in Alabama is an epic failure and yet you don’t hear of any perceivable measures to innovate our education processes. School choice is not at all a priority for this legislature. Never mind that Alabama’s kids are still largely stuck in their assigned zip codes for school. In essence, our education tax dollars fund failure and truly fixing education is not a priority.
But then, just when you think the priorities cannot be more skewed or out of place, in comes the gambling bill. Governor Ivey and certain members of the legislature believe that what you really want them to debate is whether or not we should give a monopoly to those same sorry bad actors and tax cheats who have been breaking Alabama’s gambling laws for years. The usual gambling suspects kept their lawyers and lobbyists paid long enough to earn their way into a bill that, if ever passed, would actually put their sorry names in our State Constitution. Alabama would have casinos every 50 - 100 miles. Casino bosses would not be prohibited from buying the next Sheriff or District Attorney’s race with massive campaign contributions. Is this what is needed for such a time as this? Why would the legislature think that what our state needs is a casino bill in the midst of massive stagflation, on the heels of a pandemic, and while Europe looks at war? It’s the clearest evidence of a skewed set of priorities seen to date.
Priorities of work are important to win the next fight. But to do so as a state we need self-discipline in Montgomery. We need some training in Montgomery. We need actual leadership in Montgomery. We need to restore the priorities of work in our public policy.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com. All rights reserved to Rightside Media LLC.