Friday, August 22, 2008

Not Enough Majors? Say it ain't so!!

The headline for this WaPo article focuses on the deployment cycle has led to a decline in Majors in the Army. Fair enough.

When you read the article, though, the point is raised that many majors are choosing to retire right at the 20 year mark (presumably to avoid further deployments), and this is presented as one of the most significant reasons for the current dearth. To that I say--maybe.***

Remember a couple years ago (and this year, even) when all sorts of fuss was being made about the lack of CAPTAINS in the Army? Well, what happens when you take a Captain, add water, and wait 4-6 years? You get a Major, that's what.

So even if the reduction in Captains hasn't propagated through to the Major ranks yet, it will soon. The Class of 2000 at West Point famously fled the Army in 2005. Assuming we take those folks as representative of Army officers, that particular "year group" will, even with soaring promotion rates to Major, have trouble filling all the spots that need filling. Those officers got their first look at Major this year (which, scarily enough, means I get my first look NEXT YEAR!!1!)

What about the Majors retiring at 20? Well, the only Majors who can do that are those that served in the enlisted ranks prior to being commissioned as officers. When the group of Majors starting to retire went through OCS 10-15 years back, OCS represented a relatively small portion of officers commissioned in a given year. The Army has, of course, stepped up efforts in recent years to commission sergeants into officers (to boost it's sagging number of Captains, of course) but again, this is a recent phenomenon.

Wow, lots of wonky ranting to suck down in this post...sorry 'bout that. The point of all of this is that I don't completely buy the anecdotal evidence being presented in this article. I'd really love to see the numbers the Army's Human Resource Command (no stranger to the 2.0) is looking at as they attempt to manage officer strength.

***Another key reason cited in the article is that the Army is growing itself in absolute terms, which of course means they need more officers to man the force. This fact indisputably affects the shortfall.


Stan68ar said...

Interesting analysis - one point bears correction

What about the Majors retiring at 20? Well, the only Majors who can do that are those that served in the enlisted ranks prior to being commissioned as officers. - Actually Majors retiring at 20 Years of service is a fairly common phenomenom - They get considered for LTC promotion at about 16-18 Years of service. If they are twice non-selected for promotion they can stay until 20 years and 1 month which is their Mandatory release date.

These may not be your leaders of the Army, but they do represent a capable (if not A Team) group of performers for Staff and Support positions within the Service. Our up or out policies in the Army may need to be relooked with respect to retaining those officers that desire to stay, but have not progressed to the next level of rank.

Exnicios said...

Thanks very much for the comment, stan68ar! Thing is, I think that we're not seeing too many such Majors anymore. When I was a kid, and my dad's generation of officers was going through the process, promotion to LTC was competitive. I don't know of the exact stats nowadays, but the number I've seen over and over is 89%--nearly 9 out of 10 MAJs got selected for promotion. That number might not be entirely accurate, but it seems feasible given what I've gathered anecdotally.

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