General Paul E. Funk II served as the commanding general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. His prior posts included 60th Commanding General of III Corps and Commanding General, Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve. As the commander of TRADOC, Gen. Funk was directly responsible for helping recruit and develop the next generation of Army soldiers.

Question: What do you think are the key factors that motivate younger generations to excel in their careers? (In your experience, how can organizations create a motivating work environment for younger employees)

Funk: First off, I would say it’s important for all those involved to get educated on this generation’s perspective by looking into the book called Zconomy by Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa. The book really looks at how to understand and help explore how we can best work together and learn from one another. I had Jason come speak to us at Army Training and Doctrine Command because the younger generation is who we are recruiting within the civilian sector as well as the military side. A key point to note regarding how to create a motivating work environment for younger employees would be utilizing internship programs as a primary tool to bring in young professionals for an earlier start. I also want to highlight a key factor in retention being; recognizing those individuals as “serving” alongside their uniformed counterparts. You don’t only have to wear a uniform to serve. I think we need to emphasize what service to our country means and be able to extend that recognition across the aisles to both our civilian force and our contracting teams. Catching people doing what is right matters and it is important we focus on that. We are good at catching people doing what is wrong, we don’t always necessarily celebrate those who are doing things right.

Question: What skills and qualities do you believe are essential for success in a DoD career?

Funk: Patience, a sense of humor, and a tenacious work ethic. To quote Coach Jim Valvano, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” I think we need to take the approach of taking things less seriously and allowing space for mistakes to be made. You must have fun at work, you need to take time and laugh and share an amusing story with one another. It’s so important to know your people to be successful. The US Army has a… Be, Know and Do, strategy. Be the leader you want to be led by, Know the people around you, and Do things the right way, especially when no one is looking.

Question: What advice would you give to government employees and defense contractors when working with their military counterparts on making a mission successful?

Funk: I think the two most important things we must remember…1-Reduce risk to the mission and 2- reduce risk to the force. If you consider (when making decisions) how it improves our mission and how does it protect our force, it’s incredibly hard to argue that level of contribution. For me, when information gets presented in that format it’s an easy way to make decisions to ensure we make the mission a success. Let’s get rid of the complications and hyperbole and allow supporting organizations to mirror contributions by reducing risk to the mission and reduce risk for the force.

Question: What have you seen regarding challenges with remote work for both DoD leaders and their workforce? Caveat- You mentioned a “sense of humor” as a quality for success. Have you noticed a drop in comradery with that in mind when looking at remote work challenges?

Funk: Remote work has shown us how valuable water cooler talk is within the defense organization and that certainly is a key element missing. We used to look at remote work as a punishment and now it is a reward. Frankly, I believe we should continue and further adopt a hybrid system of work to promote a healthy work-life balance. It’s important to note that as the military gets smaller and reduces in force, the demands of those skill sets will always continue to rise. An example, work from home periodically is something to be offered when using the mindset of “you enlist soldiers, but you re-enlist families.” And that is the same mindset that is needed when it comes to our civilian workforce and our contracting teams. Recognizing that hybrid work is here to stay and forward think about how to capitalize on that rather than the government being afraid. Remember, however, above all else, war can not be outsourced.

Question: What type of risk would you anticipate the government taking on with adopting more hybrid work? What would you say to those who work in the SCIF and are unable to have the opportunity to remote work?

 Funk: Let’s recognize that the government did not collapse amid Covid. American ingenuity is alive and well and we will overcome obstacles pertaining to risk with work from home. First off, we overclassify just about everything. Secondly, the information environment is so sour right now with the fear of misstepping. Thirdly, we must be able to leave that workload at the office and just walk away. We truly are overworking ourselves to the point that some parts are becoming counterproductive. If you work in a SCIF that does not allow you to have a remote SOW, that is a personal choice you have chosen. Sitting on the sidelines saying “that’s not fair” is another counterproductive element.

Question: Can you talk a bit about the impact of AI on the workforce that you’ve seen regarding work output?

Funk: I think our drive towards data and understanding massive data sets is really where AI is going to shine. Any tool that can aid us in making decisions faster than our adversaries, finding opportunities at a faster rate, I am all for. That really ties nicely with going back to what I said earlier with reducing the risk to the mission and the risk to the force. While war is a human endeavor, I do believe in order to compel a nation, you must own the ground. The only way to do that is to put your people in the mud, which is something AI will never be able to do. I do believe it is a good tool that we are just scratching the surface of.  I also believe we will be able to really change the way we fight by making it more lethal with AI.

Question: How has your perspective on leadership and decision-making evolved since you retired from the military?

Funk: The Army’s Field Manual (FM 6-22), Developing Leaders, I believe is the most important piece of doctrine we have done and frankly, that’s one of our secret sauces. Since retiring, I have looked through the lens of Will Rogers quote, “If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around.” I am taking that humble approach to leadership which goes hand in hand with the Army’s…. Be, Know, and Do.

Question: What would you say to a young professional who made a mistake at work and goes home feeling like their world is going to crash and the mistake cannot be corrected?

Funk: Don’t be afraid. I made hundreds of mistakes as a Lieutenant and beyond, and I truly believe this is the last great meritocracy. If you make a mistake acknowledge it, own it, and move on.  People are going to make their way by how hard they work and what opportunities they will be able to carpe diem (seize the day) from. You can do anything you want to within our military confines on both the civilian and contractor fronts. I worked alongside many interns who soared and are now working in coveted positions. You must search and recognize opportunity and not hold yourself back to seizing those exact opportunities.

Question:  In what ways do you continue to stay involved in supporting and mentoring the next generation of leaders?

Funk: I am now in the business of doing leadership consulting at the senior level for multiple different companies. I have enjoyed it immensely because it’s allowing me to learn more about what is going on in the civilian sector. I believe in the importance of bridging the gap of understanding within communication styles amongst DoD, military, and the civilian sector. There are thousands of programs out there, but no one has really come over the top and given the help needed to bridge that gap. My passion is helping veterans get great jobs after they retire. I am working with Colonel (Retired) Adam Rocke from Hiring Our Heroes and Larry Smith, Chairman of Tokoy Electron US, to find great jobs for our veterans. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Misty Cook is another excellent resource for our senior military personnel transitioning to the civilian sector.  There are a thousand organizations like this, and that’s one of the things I want to do in this next stage of my career. There are a ton of companies who want the attributes of a veteran with good values and strong work ethics. I am enjoying finding my role within that space.


I have had the distinct honor of interviewing several senior officials previously. General Funk’s perspectives caught me off guard in a novel way. His discussion of personality attributes leading to successful careers within corporate America is insightful. One of the many on-point suggestions I hope you can take from his decades’ worth of experience is not to overcomplicate the workload and not to take everything so seriously. “Having a sense of humor” is widely applicable. While it seems trivial to think such a skill can be so impactful, it makes perfect sense that it is a necessity when climbing the ranks of either a civilian or military career.

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NJ has over 10 years inside the DoD working for various organizations and cleared defense contractors. With an ear to the ground on all things OPSEC, cyber, machine learning & mental health, she is an untapped keg of open source information.