16 August 2008

The Army's Deficit of Majors

The story that is loosely based on my MMAS thesis has been published by the Washington Post. It missed the mark, but not by much.

In this military school of higher learning, the combined education and experience of the officers in our staff group often produces some powerful discussions. The collective knowledge generated by these conversations is unfortunately left behind at the end of the day; nothing captured, nothing passed along. How many hours have we spent working on papers, only to file it away after being graded – can there be a better use of our time in support of our military that is at war and facing major shortages? Why not make better use of our time here by not only providing an education, but also give back to the collective knowledge of the military? Many of the support commands, (ie Training and Doctrinal Command) are understaffed and I expect would welcome the opportunity to tap into this resource.

I did not wait for this to happen, I took it on myself to research and push out information on the shortage of officers in year groups '91-97. We have had this discussion dozen of times with our peers, now perhaps it will generate some open/public discussion on the issue and maybe some action... at worst, nothing is done and we spend the rest of our career watching the situation deteriorate.
What are your thoughts?



Anonymous said...

Hi CGSC Majors,

I just read a notice about a topic-related event that you might find of interest. Do your CGSC instructors encourage you to attend events such as this? Being a former KU student, I would have loved the chance to get to talk to "real" Soldiers in the audience, and hear their views, not just Army top-level speakers.

Dole Institute’s fall schedule to begin with Iraq war update
By Mark Vierthaler
Lawrence Journal-World
August 19, 2008

An update on the Iraq war will kick off the Dole Institute of Politics’ fall schedule, the institute announced Tuesday.

The discussion, titled “Iraq: What Went Wrong/What’s Next?” will feature three experts on the war:

• Don Wright, author of “On Point II,” the Army’s official history of the war in Iraq.

• Retired Army Col. Kevin Benson, who planned the Iraqi invasion and provided the Dole Institute’s first Iraq update in 2004.

• Adrian Lewis, professor of history and KU’s Fort Leavenworth liaison.

Dole Institute director Bill Lacy said in a statement that while the fall semester will focus heavily on this year’s elections, the institute wanted to begin with an update on Iraq.

The event will be at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Dole Institute. There is no charge to attend.

Jonathan Earle, associate director of programing for the institute, said the discussion, which is usually at 7 p.m., was moved up to accommodate an expected larger-than-usual student turnout.

George said...

Thank you for the invitation... but with the homerun hitters at the front of the room, I think the conversation will be interesting enough.

Ron said...


I read your summary, the article from the CMU grad student, WP articles and a couple of other posts to blogs/websites about this subject. I pretty much agree with your position. The Army needs to change and create policies that will facilitate the retention of good field grade officers past the 20-year mark.
As you rightly point out this is a complex issue that is probably not getting the attention it deserves. Or it is getting a substantial amount of attention from our senior leadership that we are not aware of. Either way I commend you for taking on this issue.

My two cents on this are:

1. I agree that there should be substantial incentives to retain officers past the 20-year mark. Whatever program initiated must be a very comprehensive, not something that is cobbled together for a quick fix.

Also, we want to retain the “best and brightest”. We don’t want to retain “air pirates” that are not going to be a productive part of the team. Such a program would need to have a nuanced approach to compensating this population of officers. I think the model used to provide bonuses to enlisted Soldiers would probably fit. It is a sliding scale of payment based on critical shortages. In addition to simple monetary compensation I would favor some of the other methods of compensation as well:

a. Expanding Training with Industry. Good way for officers to get corporate experience.
b. Guaranteed educational benefits that are transferable to family members.
c. Preference for children to enter one of the military academies.
d. Waiver the age requirement for acceptance into Federal Law Enforcement for those military members that serve 20 and are qualified.
e. For those military members that serve 20 or more years provide a fast track for being accepted into the GS system. Specifically in the agencies that are critically short.

2. The Army needs to revisit the idea of having so many MAJ positions. This in itself would help to size the O4 population properly. Right now we have O4 positions everywhere. There are O4 LNOs, Special Projects officers, Battle CPTs and on and on that are probably not needed. Many of these positions seem to provide very little utility to a command structure. Senior NCOs or junior officers can easily fill some of these positions. You want MAJs in positions that require critical thought not jobs in which they spend most of their time searching for the end of the Internet.

3. I am not sure that I agree with offering 25% retirement at 10 years. I like the idea, however I don’t think it is going to provide the type of stimulus that we are looking for. I suspect that more than a few people will take the 25% and leave the service. At that point in your military service you are trying to decide whether to stay or go. That 25% will help tilt that decision to the “go” side. Instead of setting a 25% baseline it should be more like 10 to 15%. A possible way to improve this idea is to link the percentage of retirement pay earned at 10 years to time in combat, time in divisions, time in command or special skills/education. The idea would be that if you spent time in combat, command or in a special mission unit you would receive a higher percentage of retirement benefits at 10 years.

4. The one years worth of military compensation used as bonus is a good idea. But it would have to be awarded on a couple conditions. 1) It should be tax-free. 2) Lump sum means lump sum. No prorated pay. 3) Should encompass the total amount of money made by the Soldier to include BAH and the other entitlements. 4) Should be tied to specific amount of time over 20 years that we would need that person to spend on active duty. 5) Finally, there should be a baseline benefit for those who want to stay past 20. Then there should be a board that determines the award of a premium package of benefits to those folks that are determined to extraordinary skills that are rare.

Just a couple of thoughts.