Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fogs a mirror (Pt 2)

In April of this year, I noted that the Army was deliberately destroying their internal human resources quality management program due to retention problems. Traditionally junior officers who are competent, motivated and attached to the army and willing to make it a career are leaving at very high rates pretty much as soon as their minimum service obligations expire. The combination of strategically pointless missions, massive operations tempo and declining recruiting standards makes the job a whole lot harder to see as a vocation.
According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year -- 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty....The figures mark the lowest retention rate of graduates after the completion of their mandatory duty since at least 1977,
the Army will be facing a mid-level officer crisis for the next six to ten years as its internal quality management metrics are falling apart. The Army is promoting anyone who has a pulse and time in grade, but the bulk of the officers who typically would have been promoted are leaving. The officers who are remaining are either the extremely competent and highly dedicated/motivated individuals who the US Army would have promoted anyways....OR the officers who do not have too many good options in the civilian world and normally would be bounced from the promotion stream far earlier than they will now.
The Washington Monthly has more evidence of this trend as it tracks the career path of one of West Point's best cadets who was on a fast track military career with multiple combat deployments until he opted out and went to law school.
For years, Congress required the Army to promote only 70 to 80 percent of eligible officers. Under that law, the rank of major served as a useful funnel by which the Army separated out the bottom quarter of the senior officer corps. On September 14, 2001, President Bush suspended that requirement. Today, more than 98 percent of eligible captains are promoted to major. "If you breathe, you make lieutenant colonel these days," one retired colonel grumbled to me. [emphasis mine]
The replacement streams are not coming from traditional sources; instead there is a short term fix by increasing junior officer numbers by dramatically increasing the diversion of high quality enlisted personel to the OCS system. An army is only as good as its NCO's and this step has the high risk of diluting the NCO pool in quality and size.
Those new officers, however, are not coming from the traditional sources of West Point and ROTC programs, which supply recruits fresh from college. Instead, they are coming from the Army's Officer Candidate School—mostly attended by soldiers plucked from the enlisted ranks, who probably entered the military straight from high school. The number of OCS graduates has more than tripled since the late 1990s, from about 400 a year to more than 1,500 a year. These soldiers may turn out to be good commissioned officers. But they are also needed in the noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps....Yet the Army is already several thousand sergeants short and has been reducing NCO promotion times in order to fill the gaps.
The quest to push the problems off until January 20, 2009 and to cement the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad as a sign of progress will have long term costs that are becoming apparant now and a crisis in five years.

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