As the Army slowly disengages from Afghanistan, and in the wake of Iraq, the Army is struggling to draw down its force levels, while cutting its budget, and maintaining a high state of readiness, all while trying to form a clear strategy and mission for the future.
In the midst of that, it is also trying to ensure that its best and brightest junior officers don’t seek greener pastures outside the military. One of the problems there is, those very same officers it wishes to retain are both those most likely to successfully transition to outside employment, and most likely to chafe under the restrictions of a peacetime army.
The debate about the Army losing its best junior officers between LTG (R) Barno and LTG Hodges on ForeignPolicy.com has been followed eagerly by many of my current and former (those that have left the service) peers. While both have different views on the issue, both regard retaining the top 10-20% of officers as something important for the Army’s future. As a junior officer who has performed in the top 10% of my peer group and decided to remain in the Army, I’d like to add to this discussion. While I cannot speak for my entire demographic, I can provide insight.
I don’t believe that the majority of officers that make up this demographic expect the Army to put together some sort of bonus package to retain them. I’ve never seen statistics on the bonus payments the Army made a few years ago, but I’ve only met one person who took the money that wasn’t already convinced he would stay in the Army. I believe that most officers that stay in through a captain-level key assignment (generally command positions and primary staff roles) are not motivated by money or tangible benefits. However, these officers want to feel like they are not just cogs in the wheel. They have a level of experience way beyond what their superiors had at similar career points. We are just now seeing battalion commanders who commanded companies in Iraq or Afghanistan. Further, the complexity of their positions is way beyond that of what it is for their superiors in similar positions in the 1990’s. These officers want trust, meaningful education and a voice, they want to be able to rise above their peers who perform below them and they want to see the Army progress not regress.
Read the whole thing.