18 April 2009

Blog by LTG Cladwell

Reflections by Frontier 6

The Challenge of Retaining Majors in Our Army

A recent article in the Armed Forces Journal by MAJ Myles Caggins, III, discussed possible incentive plans to retain U.S. Army majors. Caggins asserts that qualified enlisted recruits receive up to $40,000; Army captains $35,000; Navy officers $121,000; and a typical Army major – nothing. He offers some creative proposals he believes would help retain more of our field grade officers – you all.

The Global War on Terror has tested our Army’s personnel management systems. The shortage of majors has many causes, not the least of which is junior officer retention rates, the creation of modular brigades, and growth of our Army.

Consider, for example, the “cohort” of Army officers who were commissioned in 1998. They originally numbered 4,155. Those the Army retained have now served 10 years of active duty. Although the Army still requires about 2,200 of these officers, it has only kept about 1,800. Additionally, the ranks of captain through lieutenant colonel are only manned at 80 percent strength.

The Army cannot accept risk in its officer corps, and the consequences of how we act now will have generational impacts. We’re soliciting your help. Please provide feedback on how you think we can retain quality field grade officers. Specifically, what motivates you and your peers to continue to serve? Do you think there should be increased incentives? Should there be changes in assignments, policies or education? What would you recommend?

Would encourage you to read MAJ Caggins’ article and comment on the pros/cons of his argument. We need to get this right and we need your help.

Thank you for helping shape the public debate on this important subject. We will highlight your feedback with leaders at the highest level in our Army as they look for creative solutions to today’s complex personnel management environment. Nothing would send a more powerful message than to have the entire CGSC class sound off and provide input. We look forward to your thoughts and recommendations.

Apr 17 2009, 08:09 AM by LTG Caldwell



Many people misunderstood my research titled “A Pending Major Crisis” as a focus on US Army majors leaving the service before 20 years; very little time was spent looking at majors leaving the service before reaching retirement. The research focused on the issues that will arise if the number of officers that retire immediately after 20 years of total service (including many with prior-service) increases.

The current retirement rate of officers reaching 20-years of service is 20%; a survey conducted for the thesis indicates the rate could soon grow to 60%. This loss rate suggests that by 2014, the US Army may be short 30% lieutenant colonels and 20% majors. The most critical aspect of this potential shortage will be that it is not equally distributed across all the branches. By 2014, indications suggest that many of the US Army officer branches (the branches with the largest current deficiencies) will face shortages greater than 50% of their requirement for lieutenant colonels and majors. As an example, the Transportation Corps is already under 50% (slightly hidden with the merge into the Logistical Corps)

In the thesis I’m only reporting on the extreme obvious. This is not rocket science… this is more like the invention of the paper clip. Anyone can say “I knew that” after the fact. Same as this shortage situation; some at HRC say there is no issue, but I think everyone else can see the situation quite clearly.

I cannot count the times in the Command and General Staff College auditorium that a General Officer stood on stage and lectured us that we can change and improve the Army; in fact, we have a responsibility to do so as the new field grade officers. Yet, after my first draft was sent to HRC, a representative was sent to speak to one of the ILE classes (09-01) to explain there was no issue with the shortage of majors, and that the programs to retain captains would solve all the FG shortage problems… Several senior members of HRC also sent emails to CGSC staff and my MMAS committee contradicting my research (although I noted other professional research in my thesis that has reached the same exact conclusions I did). Afterwards I was asked by one member of my MMAS committee to change my thesis and one faculty member of CGSC asked me not to discuss my findings with the media. Although the greater majority of the faculty of CGSC was, and continues to be incredibly encouraging, I did feel slightly threatened in the last months I spent in ILE.

Since my graduation from ILE, I have continued to received a steady stream of emails from senior lieutenants to GOs – with each and every email linked to the same theme: supportive of my research and frustration with the “Army” for not understanding this crisis. The preponderance of the officers who have written has already decided to leave the service. These officers are not disenfranchised, but they are exhausted, and household six is asking them to drop the paperwork because even when these officers are not deployed, the unpredictable and extended work hours at home station are also having there toll. Why wouldn’t any able officer accept the generous retirement pay at twenty years and find a more stable job when faced to choose between the military and family?

Once the experience and military investment in these officers are gone with retirement… well, they’re gone. Perhaps my research into the extreme obvious will make a difference by bringing this issue (with recommendations) to the forefront before the US Army hits a tipping point of a serious major crisis.

Major George Brown

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