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Shek
04-02-2009, 01:40 AM
http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=912


Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps Strategy for Success: A Proposed Human Capital Model Focused upon Talent

Authored by Colonel Casey Wardynski, Major David S. Lyle, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Michael J. Colarusso.
Apr 2009

SUMMARY
Throughout America's history, U.S. Army officers have played an integral role in the formulation and execution of its national security policy. However, the intersection of multiple factors such as technological advancements, globalization, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a protracted conflict waged with an undersized, all-volunteer Army, and the increased demand in the civilian sector for the skills that junior officers possess, suggest that future national security challenges will be markedly different from those which were met so successfully in the past.

We find compelling evidence that the U.S. Army's Officer Corps will be unequal to future demands unless substantive management changes are made. Perhaps the most obvious risk indicator is the Army's persistent and substantial gap in mid-career officers. Much of this gap stems from low officer continuations on active duty beyond the initial service obligation, particularly among ROTC scholarship and West Point officers. The Army has also radically shifted its sources of commission from those that extensively screen, vet, and cull for talent such as ROTC and West Point, to those with minimal talent filters. For example, Officer Candidate School accessions have increased from a historical annual average of 10 percent to more than 40 percent of active duty commissions. At the same time, promotion rates have skyrocketed so that virtually all officers choosing to remain on active duty can reasonably expect continued advancement and eventual promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Some senior Army leaders, analysts in think tanks, and others in government believe that the demands of the Global War on Terror and the Army's modular transformation combined to create these troubling symptoms. However, strong evidence reveals that the root causes of these problems precede the war and modularity, and are instead grounded in the Army's failure to understand and appropriately respond to a changing talent market. In short, the Army has relied on draft-era practices to manage an all-volunteer Army. More specifically, the Army has lacked a cohesive strategy to guide its officer manpower efforts. Actions taken to remedy the problems outlined above have actually reduced the likelihood that the Officer Corps will be equal to the challenges that lie ahead.

In this monograph, the authors argue that those challenges demand a comprehensive Officer Corps strategy recognizing the interdependency of accessing, developing, retaining, and employing talented people, officers with high learning and problem solving aptitudes and whose mental acuity and intellectual agility allows them to master the diverse competencies demanded now and in the future. Such a strategy will position the Army to compete with the civilian market for talent. It will translate directly into better officer development and retention through increased job satisfaction, and it will move the Army beyond personnel management to talent management.

An officer talent management strategy will also create the institutional agility required to facilitate job matching, allowing the Army to achieve the right breadth and depth of officer competencies to meet evolving requirements--"the right talent in the right job at the right time." To realize this vision, however, the Army must develop a strategy that commits ample resources, incorporates appropriate policy, and reevaluates existing organizational designs. Failure to do so may result in a U.S. Army unequal to its share of the security challenges confronting the United States and its allies.

Introduction.
Throughout its history, military officers have been integral to the formulation and execution of U.S. national security policy. From George Washington, Ulys- ses Grant, and George Marshall to Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, and David Petraeus, the United States has repeatedly called upon its most talented Army officers to execute missions successfully across a wide spectrum, from peacetime military engagement to major combat operations. Several factors, however, may make future challenges markedly different from those met so successfully in the past.

First, the United States and its allies are confronted by an increasing number of actors who are willing to use violence to achieve their ends, unconstrained by the moral convictions or legal restrictions within which traditional military forces operate. The intersection of several factors has created this ever more dynamic and demanding security environment, including the accelerating creation and diffusion of technology, urbanization, globalization, resource competition, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the absence of the rule of law in a growing number of failed states.

Moreover, while its current generation of officers has been able to count upon American economic and technological preeminence as unrivaled sources of power, the U.S. Army's future officers may be unable to do so. Instead, they will likely be confronted by several nations possessing large, relatively young and well-educated populations, with greater access to capital and technology drawn from rapidly expanding domestic economies. Against this backdrop of competing nation-states, Army leaders will also be challenged by nonstate actors who operate in and around urban centers, rely upon the safe havens provided by a growing number of failed states, and adapt technologies to create asymmetric threats. As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevailing against such foes is landpower-intensive. As a result, the U.S. Army's particular competencies are in great demand and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Second, the United States and its armed forces are waging this protracted conflict with an all-volunteer military force. Unlike previous wars, there is little "lateral entry" of specialized talent via conscription, nor is there any significant popular or political U.S. support for returning to a draft. America's Army, therefore, must wage war with the volunteer officers it accesses and retains. Now more than ever, these men and women must be extremely talented.

Yet, despite the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) entering its 8th year, there is compelling evidence that the Army has continued to rely upon legacy officer management practices, practices that were increasingly outmoded even before the war began. In fact, that evidence suggests that the United States has been assuming significant risk in its Army Officer Corps for over a decade. Consequently, the Army requires an officer corps strategy to meet the unique challenges outlined above.

Conclusion
More than ever before, the U.S. Army requires an Officer Corps strategy that recognizes and leverages the interdependence between accessing, developing, retaining, and employing talent. Beyond attainment of the right number of officers at each career level, the Army increasingly needs talented officers, those with pronounced aptitudes for learning and problem solving, and whose mental acuity and intellectual agility allows them to master the diverse competencies demanded by the times. The Army's officer human capital model, which necessarily limits lateral entry at middle and senior levels, makes screening, vetting, and culling for such talent critical.

So, too, the U.S. Army must develop the institutional adaptability to employ the right talent in the right job at the right time. In so doing, it will finally move beyond assignment management to a genuine talent management system. We believe that such a system, based upon the principles articulated in this monograph, must be the centerpiece of an Officer Strategy -- it is the single best way to eliminate the problems which have challenged the Army's Officer Corps for the last decade, while simultaneously posturing it for future success. A talent management system will position the Army to compete with the civilian market for officer talent. It will translate directly into better officer development and retention through increased job satisfaction. Talent management will also facilitate job matching, which will allow the Army to achieve the right breadth and depth of officer competencies to meet evolving requirements. The Army must commit ample resources, develop appropriate policy, and reevaluate existing organizational designs to this end.

Failure to do so may lead to a future in which the U.S. Army is unequal to its share of the security challenges confronting both the United States and its allies.

More at the link at the top.

Ken White
04-02-2009, 03:25 AM
They missed two really important points:

The OCS guys stay past eight years in greater numbers because they like what they're doing. The USMA and ROTC grads leave in greater numbers because they do not like what they're doing -- and I submit that a lot of Staff jobs aid them in making that determination. The OCS person will endure the staff because the Army is more important to him than the petty foolishness -- or his wife. OTOH, the bright young thing will not stay because his wife is more important than the Army and the 18-20 year old who is calculating enough to opt for a scholarship probably had other things in mind down the pike in any event... :wry:

The solution, therefor, is to reduce the number of ROTC scholarships AND Staff positions. As the US Army is significantly over-officered with respect to the Officer to EM ratio, that should not be a problem. As they note, the Officer Corps is currently authorized at about 20% of enlisted strength -- about twice what it should be.

I realize that over strength is to cope with situations such as the current shortfalls -- but the situation is not that bad. Over strength is also designed as a mobilization hedge. That is certainly needed but there are other ways to do that...

Those are minor quibbles; they say:
the Army should develop the institutional adaptability to place the right officers in the right jobs at the right time.Couldn't agree more though HRC will object, I'm sure -- which means the authors are on the right track.

They ought to also look at doing away with the Warrant Officer program. I know a lot of WOs like it (what's not to like ;) ) but I think the Army would be better served by making those guys commissioned officers. If they have enough talent to be WOs, they probably have enough to be commissioned -- particularly if we realize that 'up or out' is a lousy way to do business. There's a lot of talent in the Army and the Army does a poor job of tapping it -- I will note that a lot of that talent does not want to be commissioned for various reasons; responsibility, conformity, socialization and a lot of hard days probably being the top four things they wish to avoid. A couple of those are fixable and we wouldn't want those who'd be excessively concerned about the first and last in any event.

Oh -- and tell the Air Force to go pound sand and make the average Helicopter Pilot a NCO instead of a Warrant. :D

Eden
04-02-2009, 01:35 PM
...I like that. When I was a battalion commander, my best company commanders ended up getting out, while the drudges remained. There were a lot of reasons for that, but the virtual impossibility of getting ahead of the pack during a typical career was certainly one of them. Two examples can illustrate:

I had several lieutenants who would have made better commanders than some of the captains I was forced to give command of companies. On at least one occasion I was forced to give a company to a man I knew, and my boss knew, was incompetent. Why? It was his turn. He commanded for 365 days and left with a bad OER, but he still ran the company into the ground. I assigned one of the best lieutenants as his XO in an attempt to alleviate some of the damage; this worked, but that lieutenant left the Army a year or two later, partly as a result of that experience.

In Afghanistan, I met several majors in the planning cell who were far more talented, innovative, and energetic than the lieutenant colonel who ran the cell. He was a drone and a negative influence: he quashed good ideas because he was afraid to run them by the boss, offered nothing in the way of inspiration, and couldn't even effectively manage the workload. Yet he stayed on, because the slot called for a lieutenant colonel. Everyone, including the commander and chief of staff simply worked around him, which was dysfunctional and wasted energy.

Until you reach general officer level, it is simply impossible to rise significantly faster than your peers. Even double-below-the-zone selectees only gain two years, and usually by getting [I][B]less[B][I] time in 'good' jobs as they are rushed through the BQ hoops. No budding Napoleon, Marshall, or Alexander gets any more time leading troops than someone who barely makes the command-cut.

Until you have some mechanism for accelerating promotion and less concern for 'fairness' or 'equity' in your officer personnel system, you will have a great deal of difficulty in either discerning, retaining, or managing talent.

William F. Owen
04-02-2009, 01:58 PM
Until you have some mechanism for accelerating promotion and less concern for 'fairness' or 'equity' in your officer personnel system, you will have a great deal of difficulty in either discerning, retaining, or managing talent.

I think a lot of this comes down to how you recruit your officers, and what criteria you use to select them. Armies that require all officers to have succeeded as NCOs first or rather to have risen well above the ranks historically produce highly motivated men.

A lot also depends on how do you detect talent. The bad officers getting promoted or staying in slots have all proved adept at working the system. There are ways for measuring who is generally smart, professional and adaptable, but very few armies seem to use them.

Ken White
04-02-2009, 03:56 PM
Initial selection is key -- I've long contended that I'd rather have two motivated dummies than all unmotivated smart guys you can give me. I can train the dummies; I cannot motivate the unmotivated (and the 'good leadership is required' crock is just that, a crock).

I would also in a Company or on a big staff rather be ten people short than two people over strength. Over strength breeds complacency and goofing off...

I will also echo Eden, who very correctly said:
"Until you have some mechanism for accelerating promotion and less concern for 'fairness' or 'equity' in your officer personnel system, you will have a great deal of difficulty in either discerning, retaining, or managing talent."

Note he rightly leads with "discerning" or identifying. You cannot get there if that step is omitted on the basis that 'anyone with the right credentials' can do it. They can't.

Some in Congress will fight that contention -- that battle needs to be fought; we do not have the luxury of a Draft to compensate for the terrible and glaring shortfall in that 'logic.'

Old Eagle
04-02-2009, 04:13 PM
This piece is nothing short of excellent as far as the analysis goes. OEMA has an excellent reputation for high quality work. In contrast to other think pieces based on anecdotal evidence, this monograph presents facts and figures that are pretty amazing and deserve our attention. They also dispel, or attempt to, the HQ saw that what we are experiencing in the form of officer personnel challenges is primarily a result of the wars.

Having said that, Iím not sure all the conclusions follow directly from the evidence presented. Maybe we can discuss details in later posts.

More importantly however, how specifically, not generally or theoretically, do we proceed?

Is the current OER system a reflection of talent? If not, what is? What can be?

Is there a statistically sound qualitative breakout of what talent is leaving the Army?

Has anyone developed a mechanism to assess talent, especially among adolescents we want to recruit?

There are many ancillary issues raised by this study. Let the discussions begin.

Shek
04-02-2009, 04:50 PM
The OCS guys stay past eight years in greater numbers because they like what they're doing. The USMA and ROTC grads leave in greater numbers because they do not like what they're doing -- and I submit that a lot of Staff jobs aid them in making that determination. The OCS person will endure the staff because the Army is more important to him than the petty foolishness -- or his wife. OTOH, the bright young thing will not stay because his wife is more important than the Army and the 18-20 year old who is calculating enough to opt for a scholarship probably had other things in mind down the pike in any event...

Ken,

There's certainly some truth in that, but the question is broader than just those eight years. OCS officers will also experience higher continuation rates in those eight years because they are closer to hitting the 20yr mark (and compared to ROTC/USMA graduates, have fewer years to make up for the lost value of that retirement pay). Thus, the question also becomes one of continuation beyond 20 years of service (including enlisted service). They don't present this in the piece, but if memory serves me correct, you see a large attrition in OCS commissionees at that point. The authors don't cite specific evidence but do address this:


Accordingly, many of these OCS-IS officers will be eligible for retirement before reaching the rank of major, which does little to help fill the Army’s shortages at the rank of major and lieutenant colonel.


I think a lot of this comes down to how you recruit your officers, and what criteria you use to select them. Armies that require all officers to have succeeded as NCOs first or rather to have risen well above the ranks historically produce highly motivated men.

Wilf,

You're going to have to school me on some of the historical examples, but in looking at your comment, one Army that currently comes to mind as a model of this is the IDF (http://www.amazon.com/Knives-Tanks-Missiles-Security-Revolution/dp/0944029728). However, that is a very imprecise analogy because their mandatory service keeps the pool of potential OCS candidates almost as large as the population. However, given the All-Volunteer Army in the United States, your ability to grow the enlisted pool large enough to support an officer corps with the attributes the authors describe is simply not sustainable (additionally, in terms of cost, OCS-IS is the most expensive form of commissioning in the US). Also, given the IDF's propensity towards the tactical spectrum (after all, the potential breadth of their mission set is not the same as the US), I'm not sure if they're the correct example to look at even if we were to ignore the mandatory conscription (although the # of waivers has increased over the years). However, I'm sure that there are other examples that I'm missing due to my own ignorance.


I've long contended that I'd rather have two motivated dummies than all unmotivated smart guys you can give me. I can train the dummies; I cannot motivate the unmotivated

You can train dummies to function only up to a certain level of responsibility. At some point, training is not enough and it requires education, education that may be beyond the capability of the dummies. Nonetheless, I would hope that our pre-commissioning sources are able to cull out the unmotivated with the rare exception.


Is the current OER system a reflection of talent? If not, what is? What can be?

OE,

Fundamentally, I think the OER has decent enough blocks to capture different forms of talent. Raters can write about special skills that could be of use to the Army. However, unless these skills are sufficiently incentivized (consideration by promotion boards, actually use by branch managers to make assignment decisions as proposed by the authors, etc.), then it will remain underutilized.

In terms of rentention, the masking of CPT OERs was a mistake in my opinion. Every single briefing I got as a LT/CPT by HRC folks spoke of how important company command OERs were (both in terms of ACOM and # of months in command) to battalion command selection boards. While it didn't affect my year group, if I were in a subsequent year group and had an ACOM profile that previously made me competitive but was now masked, my incentive to stick around was reduced. I think that on average, your more talented officers will have risen by the time they hit the 7/8 year point in commissioned service and so the masking now incentivizes less talented individuals to stick around while those who did shine above their peers may now decide to get out.

Schmedlap
04-02-2009, 05:35 PM
Has anyone developed a mechanism to assess talent, especially among adolescents we want to recruit?
When I was a Lieutenant, we LT's generally knew who among us were the top performers and who were the bottom of the barrel. Ditto when I was a Captain. The Soldiers also had a pretty good idea of who they were comfortable following into combat.

As for those whom we want to recruit, I would have to say that the same was true in ROTC. We knew who the top performers were and those individuals went on to be very good officers. The guys whom we knew were sub-par went on to be sub-par officers.

Regarding the assessment of talent prior to ROTC/USMA/OCS - not sure. Anyone can get someone to write them a good letter of recommendation. And grades/APFT scores are certainly not a reliable indicator from what I've seen.

Old Eagle
04-02-2009, 06:42 PM
Go back to pg 15

"Talent goes beyond attitude or desire, beyond will and skill, beyond tolerance, compassion, values and character...Talent, however, adds the critical dimensions of intelligence, of aptitudes for rapid learning and adaptation..."

How do we measure that for either the assession or retention phase?

Most of us have survived several, if not numerous, permutations of the OER system. As I recall, even those forms that made attempts to address varied attributes soon morphed into "bricks". If any officer was less than 100% in any of the specified areas, s/he was a dirtbag. All -- or nothing.

Ken White
04-02-2009, 06:46 PM
All are, IMO, totally correct. The first one bears some thought -- some will dismiss it. I suggest that would be a mistake because that's really what it's all about -- or is supposed to be...

Shek provided this quote from the Paper:
Accordingly, many of these OCS-IS officers will be eligible for retirement before reaching the rank of major, which does little to help fill the Armyís shortages at the rank of major and lieutenant colonel.True -- and a function of NOT identifying enlisted talent early on but letting it self select. That's a function of many things, not least the that system we call the Army is stifling to an extent and it takes some guys a few years to develop the self confidence to give a commission a try. One cannot say the Army discourages OCS but it certainly does little in peace time to encourage it. Nor is the Army very good about offering direct commissions to outstanding NCOs (other than when forced by war time crunches), insisting that they go through the hassle that is OCS. It also says something about the way those folks know their background is looked upon by the senior officer selection boards...

Short comment: the processes can be significantly improved IF the Army wishes to do so...

Cav Guy once made the statement that he saw very little difference at the Captain level with regard to source of commission. I agree and would add that pretty well holds true up to LTC in my experience. Since everyone cannot be a General in any event...

Old Eagle as always raises some great questions:
Is the current OER system a reflection of talent? If not, what is? What can be?As an only infrequent and long departed participant in the process, I can only say that in 1995 it absolutely did not -- it identified occasional water walkers and tons of excellent Officers plus an occasional miscreant. "What is?" Far more difficult. I'm inclined to trust the subjective judgment of seniors (I trust), peers (I trust) and even subordinates (I trust). Hmmm. I seem to have a problem...

As to what can be, the OER isn't that bad, the process has just gotten corrupted. Some years ago the Chief of OPD proposed a new OER -- just like the old OER except that the name and signatures of the Rater and Senior Rater were moved to the back page and the intent was that would not be shown Promotion Boards. The Board would see the rating but would not know who the Raters were. That idea got rave reviews as it was staffed -- until it hit the first General Officer in DCSPER. It was immediately killed. Still a good idea, though... :D
Is there a statistically sound qualitative breakout of what talent is leaving the Army?Not to be Clintonian but 'define talent.' My suspicion is that to get an agreement on what constitutes 'talent' will be exceedingly difficult. I'd want a guy or gal who wasn't afraid to take chances, think odd thoughts or to speak out -- others would want academic prowess, still others social conformity and risk avoidance...
Has anyone developed a mechanism to assess talent, especially among adolescents we want to recruit?That's the crux of it. The Paper has some good points -- but they need to better define 'talent' and then determine a mechanism to identify it.

Shek also said:
...However, given the All-Volunteer Army in the United States, your ability to grow the enlisted pool large enough to support an officer corps with the attributes the authors describe is simply not sustainable (additionally, in terms of cost, OCS-IS is the most expensive form of commissioning in the US).The Officer corps the authors describe is an ideal state in their view -- others may have differing ideas. For example, they seem to imply that all should be capable of obtaining advanced degrees. While I do not question the need for some -- even many such -- I do strongly question whether all should have them. I also suggest that a look at Command tracks and Staff tracks has merit, that 'up or out' unnecessarily discards a lot of competence and ask if a Company Commander is really in need of an advanced degree. Long way of saying I do not agree with the statement that the enlisted pool will not have enough talent but acknowledge that the definition of talent is key.

I'd also ask on what basis OCS becomes the most expensive commissioning process?
You can train dummies to function only up to a certain level of responsibility. At some point, training is not enough and it requires education, education that may be beyond the capability of the dummies...Easily solved -- don't pick dummies that cannot be educated to the necessary degree (note I did not state the currently preferred degrees. Pun intentional). I'll also apologize for using the word 'dummies' -- gave a connotation that begged to be exploited. Perhaps I should've said 'untertiarily educated,' 'unwashed' or something along that line. :wry:
Nonetheless, I would hope that our pre-commissioning sources are able to cull out the unmotivated with the rare exception.Can't speak for today, I'm not around the system that often -- but I can speak for the period 1949-1995 and can assure you that IMO the success rate was never more than about 60-70%. Some of those had other motivations aside from just being good soldiers and officers -- and every officer is first and foremost a soldier (or should be), add those to the 30+% who weren't motivated along that line at all but had other, usually personal situation improvement related, motivations and you get about a 50+% net success rate.

In defense of my position I offer, Shek again:
I think that on average, your more talented officers will have risen by the time they hit the 7/8 year point in commissioned service and so the masking now incentivizes less talented individuals to stick around while those who did shine above their peers may now decide to get out.Does that statement, if true, not raise the questions of "How motivated were they?" or "What were their real motivations in seeking a commission?"

It also highlights the Author's real issue -- talent as opposed to numbers; talent as opposed to better assignments. Thus my comments about selecting truly motivated folks and shortfalls being preferable to overages.

Further, that last quote from Shek illustrates what I (and lots of others) have long contended -- the system is entirely too competitive. It should not be based on competitiveness but rather on competence. It is not

Ken White
04-02-2009, 06:48 PM
How do we measure that for either the assession or retention phase?But I will defer to others for a while...

Schmedlap
04-02-2009, 08:48 PM
I don't think that the goal should be measuring aptitude, selecting candidates, and screening out people for the job during the recruitment phase. That seems unrealistic to me and carries too much risk of losing people who might be good leaders but whose traits, for whatever reason, do not register in the screening process.

I think one positive change would be to use commissioning sources as a weeding out process for the bottom performers. Remember peer evaluations in Ranger School? Garbage, in my opinion. Anybody can shine while the spotlight is on them for a little while. But to use peer evaluations in a setting where people live, work, study, hang out together for long periods of time - like in military school - that is a great place to use peer evaluations. You know everyone, you know what motivates them, you know if they are ethical, trustworthy, et cetera. Peer evaluations have long been used in OBC, ROTC, et cetera, but they have largely been tools to give students feedback. I think ROTC/USMA students should have peer evaluations within their schools. If, in your last semester prior to commissioning, you are ranked bottom of the barrel by the vast majority of your peers, then you may want to seek out a different career path.

Ditto Captains coming up for command. If you've been in the Brigade for long enough to get your turn in the command queue, I think any Captain, Major, or LTC who has been around you for a year or more should have some say in whether they think you're ready to command. If they give you low marks, then you shouldn't take command unless the battalion commander really, for some reason, wants to put you in command of one of his companies. I've never seen a Captain whom everyone thought was a dud go on to successfully command. He either gets relieved or he's a headache for the unit until he reaches the one-year mark and he then gets hussled along to a new job.

ODB
04-03-2009, 01:42 AM
However, that is a very imprecise analogy because their mandatory service keeps the pool of potential OCS candidates almost as large as the population. However, given the All-Volunteer Army in the United States, your ability to grow the enlisted pool large enough to support an officer corps with the attributes the authors describe is simply not sustainable (additionally, in terms of cost, OCS-IS is the most expensive form of commissioning in the US). Also, given the IDF's propensity towards the tactical spectrum (after all, the potential breadth of their mission set is not the same as the US), I'm not sure if they're the correct example to look at even if we were to ignore the mandatory conscription (although the # of waivers has increased over the years). However, I'm sure that there are other examples that I'm missing due to my own ignorance.

Why is it so costly? Is it due to the fact that one must at some point do degree completion? If this is the case why not do away with that requirement? Or if the Army wants to keep this program then one does it while assigned to USMA or any number of other assignments. Another option to fufill this requirement would be online courses, the options are out there. If the officer ranks are hurting so, why not go back to direct commissioning? There is always more effcient ways, it's just a matter if we choose to adopt them.

Now, ready, aim, fire, let me have it......

patmc
04-03-2009, 01:53 AM
The report states the OCS-IS is the most costly because it robs peter to pay paul, taking usually senior NCOs out of units, and directing them to officer corps. It also takes them out of the Warrant pool, which pulls from senior NCO's. The report claims that OCS takes a NCO with 5-10+ years experience, takes him away from Soldiers, platoons, companies, etc... and puts him/her into OCS. After completion, they will serve as a 2LT, but then have to go to degree completion. Once back, many will be close to 20 year retirement, and many are eligible to retire before they make MAJ, which does not fill the mid-career officer shortage.

Years of service + OCS + branch training + degree = most costly. That's their metric.

ODB
04-03-2009, 02:07 AM
The report states the OCS-IS is the most costly because it robs peter to pay paul, taking usually senior NCOs out of units, and directing them to officer corps. It also takes them out of the Warrant pool, which pulls from senior NCO's. The report claims that OCS takes a NCO with 5-10+ years experience, takes him away from Soldiers, platoons, companies, etc... and puts him/her into OCS. After completion, they will serve as a 2LT, but then have to go to degree completion. Once back, many will be close to 20 year retirement, and many are eligible to retire before they make MAJ, which does not fill the mid-career officer shortage.

Years of service + OCS + branch training + degree = most costly. That's their metric.

But that is where I see no reason it cannot be streamlined. If I stay in the same branch, say Infantry to Infantry, what branch qualification would I need? I guess to put this into perspective one would have to talk about at what rank of soldier we are talking about. Do we not always rob Peter to pay Paul? The bottomline is, which in the end would have the bigger overall impact? Soldier staying NCO or Soldier becoming an Officer? Ultimately what is the biggest bang for our buck?

I can't buy the losing NCO bit. That is always the arguement when it comes to OCS, SF, Ranger BN, etc...... If that was the case the only NCOs left in units would be the ones who didn't make the cut or undesireables if you want to say.

I understand the system, just not one to fall into the system is always right. I tend to look at how the system could be improved and question the system a lot.

Ken White
04-03-2009, 02:45 AM
The report states the OCS-IS is the most costly because it robs peter to pay paul, taking usually senior NCOs out of units...Rarely, most OCS types are SSG or below, mostly below.
and directing them to officer corps.Who has more value?
It also takes them out of the Warrant pool, which pulls from senior NCO's.In many specialties -- but Warrants could be commissioned and NCOs could do Warrant jobs. If the response to that is increased pay, I suggest that we really need a system to reward good performance with a pay increase and NOT a rank increase. I have never seen a motor sergeant who wasn't the best mechanic in his platoon -- and most of 'em would rather be Mechanics than Platoon Sergeants. I've seen some Warrant Crypto and other types -- they didn't do much. The Marine make Marine Gunners Platoon Leaders -- why not just commisioon them and let 'em know they may make Captain but higher isn't likely.
The report claims that OCS takes a NCO with 5-10+ years experience, takes him away from Soldiers, platoons, companies, etc... and puts him/her into OCS. After completion, they will serve as a 2LT, but then have to go to degree completion. Once back, many will be close to 20 year retirement, and many are eligible to retire before they make MAJ, which does not fill the mid-career officer shortage.I can think of several responses to that but do not believe that's any where near the norm. I KNOW it was not 15 years and more ago. Regardless, the bulk of that complaint hinges on regulatory requirements. Regs can be changed.

I'll also again state that the Army is over officered and much of that excess is on Staffs that are far too large. I once serve in a large headquarters with over 100 Field Grades. The vast majority of whom would far rather have been elsewhere and many of whom were terribly underemployed.

Years of service + OCS + branch training + degree = most costly. That's their metric.Specious. The service was bought and paid for in the Enlisted account and he presumably did something to earn his pay.

OCS is a cost.

Branch training is an invalid charge as all Officers regardless of commission source attend.

The degree is a cost (though I'd argue the real necessity in some cases) but is probably cheaper then some ROTC scholarships and I'll also point out that's another regulatory requirement...

I understand their point and I understand much opposition to OCS and direct commissions in the Army. I acknowledge the hidden cost which they cite but would argue that they're skewing the metric to make a point...

People do that with metrics quite often... ;)

Thanks for the info -- the above BTW is an attack on their justification process, not you.

Schmedlap
04-03-2009, 02:53 AM
If the degree completion and time necessary to do it are considered too costly for an officer who will not likely progress beyond MAJ, then it seems we could make the degree completion waiverable if the OCS candidate has 10 years or more prior service. The reason for the degree is that it is considered an educational foundation for a professional officer. If the individual is not going to progress beyond MAJ, then I doubt there is a whole lot of heavy, big-picture stuff that he will need an advanced degree to wrap his brain around. Most staff work can be done by moderately-trained simians and the leadership work is all small unit stuff that stresses creativity, intellect, and interpersonal skills, not education, test-taking, and pontificating.

Uboat509
04-03-2009, 03:57 AM
If the degree completion and time necessary to do it are considered too costly for an officer who will not likely progress beyond MAJ, then it seems we could make the degree completion waiverable if the OCS candidate has 10 years or more prior service. The reason for the degree is that it is considered an educational foundation for a professional officer. If the individual is not going to progress beyond MAJ, then I doubt there is a whole lot of heavy, big-picture stuff that he will need an advanced degree to wrap his brain around. Most staff work can be done by moderately-trained simians and the leadership work is all small unit stuff that stresses creativity, intellect, and interpersonal skills, not education, test-taking, and pontificating.

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this what the Navy Limited Duty Officer program is all about?

SFC W

William F. Owen
04-03-2009, 07:25 AM
Wilf,

You're going to have to school me on some of the historical examples, but in looking at your comment, one Army that currently comes to mind as a model of this is the IDF (http://www.amazon.com/Knives-Tanks-Missiles-Security-Revolution/dp/0944029728). However, that is a very imprecise analogy because their mandatory service keeps the pool of potential OCS candidates almost as large as the population.

I would not presume to school you! :D

Sure the IDF is one and the German Army is the other. Sweden has a similar system but I am not sure of the detail.

The IDF uses Kaba system (כבא) to assess a candidates suitability, and also has a psychology branch who's opinions are taken very seriously. Point is, given anyone you can use modern psychology to assess their potential and then track that against performance.

To me the biggest advantage of the IDF system is that men generally respect officers far more than in the US or UK army, because they KNOW that the officers are the best of their intake. It could very easily be applied to other armies.

Shek
04-03-2009, 11:57 AM
Years of service + OCS + branch training + degree = most costly. That's their metric.

Pat,

Close. Branch training is a cost for every officer, so that's a wash. The degree will almost always be cheaper for OCS-IS, but chances are that many of those degrees were paid for with tuition assistance, so while it's a cost advantage to OCS-IS, it's not free. I also suspect that the overhead for OCS isn't a factor, as much of that infrastructure has to exist to allow OCS to be a viable source of high throughput expansion in the event of a major war that requires the # of commissions to skyrocket.

Instead, the opportunity cost is that for every OCS-IS commissionee, you have to recruit and bring in the pyramid of guys to get that OCS-IS candidate. Here is the pertinent quote from page 9:


At the same time, the U.S. Army has increasingly drawn senior NCOs into OCS. In 1997, only 15 percent of OCS-IS candidates had more than 10 years of enlisted service. By 2007 that percentage had tripled to 45 percent, and a full quarter of these were Sergeants First Class.

To create these E-6s and E-7s, you had to bring in several privates. Some left after their first term as E-4s (or lower if they were chaptered). Some spent a second term and made E-5 or possibly E-6. Then some of these stuck around for another enlistment and became career, and then the Army accepted them into OCS-IS. Thus, the cost of developing this NCO is the cost of pyramid of folks that we had to enlist and screen and weed out or simply got out. Given the reality that we are drawing nearly half of our OCS-IS candidates from the E-6 and E-7 ranks, this cost is great. Now, I'd agree that you have to discount this some because the Army is getting a service from these other potential future E-6/E-7s, but you simply cannot just dismiss these costs. Also, if you want to use this model, you have to over-acess to allow your E-6/E-7 ranks to be overstrength, or else you would also have to account for the cost of decreasing the quality of your E-6/E-7 ranks by having your better performers go to OCS.

Of course, this cost decreases if you select them earlier in their enlisted careers, but then you would see decreasing continuation rates compared to now by OCS-IS.

Shek
04-03-2009, 12:11 PM
I can't buy the losing NCO bit. That is always the arguement when it comes to OCS, SF, Ranger BN, etc...... If that was the case the only NCOs left in units would be the ones who didn't make the cut or undesireables if you want to say.

Not every solid NCO wants to go do something else, but for each one that does, you have to replace him/her. Sometimes the backfill was ready for the responsibility and the platoon is no worse off or maybe even better off (win-win), and sometimes they simply weren't ready and the platoon suffers from it (win-lose).

It's the same argument that pops everytime that you have mandatory promotions - "they're a good soldier, but they're not ready to be a sergeant" - when you start thinning the ranks to make officers, then you're simply putting more people in the position to where they're given more responsibility than they are ready for.

Ken White
04-03-2009, 03:56 PM
...Now, I'd agree that you have to discount this some because the Army is getting a service from these other potential future E-6/E-7s, but you simply cannot just dismiss these costs. Also, if you want to use this model, you have to over-acess to allow your E-6/E-7 ranks to be overstrength, or else you would also have to account for the cost of decreasing the quality of your E-6/E-7 ranks by having your better performers go to OCS.Three points:

- I spent over six years as a PSG -- over three of them as a brand new SSG. Rank is not the issue, competence is -- and competence is absolutely and positively not totally experience or time dependent. It is also noteworthy that was during a time (early 60s) of Officer shortages Army - wide when many rifle Companies in the 82d had only two or three Officers. I had one or another of six platoon leaders for a total of less than two of those almost seven years. That includes six months running a Recon Platoon in Viet Nam. That, incidentally, in an Abn Inf Bn that was less than about 60% strength on Officers. At one point, almost half the Platoons in the Bn had NCOs as acting Platoon leaders and not all of them were PSG E7 types. We also had a 105 By in the Bde with an E5 First Sergeant...

- Any overstrength should be avoided as it leads to make work and underemployment (and thus morale destroying) problems.

- In my observation over many years, those NCOs who elected to go to OCS were not the better performers in most cases -- a few certainly were but the majority were only average or even below average performers. Most NCOs were driven to opt for OCS for one of three reasons -- Ambition; Officers live better / increased social status; A true desire to be able to do more and better for the troops (in that order). Obviously there were and are other factors but those were the big three. Many really good and intelligent NCOs did not opt for OCS due to the social issue and the conformity required of officers. Many offered direct commissions turned them down for those reasons and due to the fact they knew they'd most likely get only three years commissioned and that would be it. As an aside, change the rule on 10 years commissioned service and retirement and see what that does. ;)

As I said, IMO the issue is sheer competence, not competiveness. As Schmedlap said, there's a distinct and obvious need for some high intellectual power and education for some (and I'd add definitely for higher rank) but most Officers are significantly over qualified for the jobs they do. Think about it...

That may have a lot to do with departures at eight years...

Ken White
04-03-2009, 04:27 PM
...when you start thinning the ranks to make officers, then you're simply putting more people in the position to where they're given more responsibility than they are ready for. LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shalikashvili).

LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Vessey,_Jr.).

I can give you a fairly long list of Colonels including this one LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Howard)

Not to mention the smartest and best Major, bar none, that I ever worked for LINK (http://www.medalofhonor.com/ErnestChilders.htm).

Yes, those are exceptions but if your statement is correct -- "you're simply putting more people in the position to where they're given more responsibility than they are ready for." -- then your system is flawed.

Fortunately, in my experience, your statement is far from correct in most cases.

Shek
04-03-2009, 04:34 PM
LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shalikashvili).

LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Vessey,_Jr.).

I can give you a fairly long list of Colonels including this one LINK (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_L._Howard)

Not to mention the smartest and best Major, bar none, that I ever worked for LINK (http://www.medalofhonor.com/ErnestChilders.htm).

Yes, those are exceptions but if your statement is correct -- "you're simply putting more people in the position to where they're given more responsibility than they are ready for." -- then your system is flawed.

Fortunately, in my experience, your statement is far from correct in most cases.

Ken,

Misfire! Here's the preceeding paragraph:


Not every solid NCO wants to go do something else, but for each one that does, you have to replace him/her. Sometimes the backfill was ready for the responsibility and the platoon is no worse off or maybe even better off (win-win), and sometimes they simply weren't ready and the platoon suffers from it (win-lose).

I was still speaking about the backfills in the snippet your cut, some of whom are ready and it's a win-win and some of whom aren't ready and then the platoon is worse for the departure.

Ken White
04-03-2009, 04:54 PM
Especially by moi...;)


I was still speaking about the backfills in the snippet your cut, some of whom are ready and it's a win-win and some of whom aren't ready and then the platoon is worse for the departure.I addressed that reality with my first bullet. All platoons go in cycles, they get really good folks and are well trained then they have bad weeks or months due to our total Army totally screwed up personnel system.

That first bullet mentioned the fact that competence is not totally experience derived and is not time dependent -- yet the SYSTEM says those are the criteria...

I did mention that Shalikasvili et.al. were exceptions and they are. I realized you were addressing the NCO backfill. I applied those Links to counter your earlier point that the intellectual capacity might not be present as well as to make the point that they and others not as exceptional, just good average Officers, left units, generally in far worse conditions for the units and the Army than we are now experiencing -- and the units survived...

That intellectual capacity it is available but we will have to change the way we do business. Backfill is always available and my first bullet above also made that point -- we do okay when we fill and operate at less than design optimum -- but it takes an 'emergency' to allow (deliberately chosen word) us to do so. That, too, argues for changes...

Eden
04-03-2009, 05:00 PM
I personally wouldn't worry that much about how we generate officers, or what the exact ratio of enlisted-NCO-Officer should be. Those all need fixing, but I would say there is already plenty of talent in both the NCO and officer corps. The problem is we don't do a very good job (as an institution) of identifying various talents, of retaining those talents, and of matching those talents to the proper job. Our current system matches experience to jobs; that is, we assume if an officer has had certain schools and assignments, he is a good match for particular jobs. On the other hand, we assume that lacking certain prerequisites, an officer cannot be successful in a given job. For instance, if he hasn't been to the branch Advanced Course, he can't be a company commander no matter how talented. As another example, a superb captain, a peerless leader of men, with advanced degrees in Arabic and two tours under his belt in Iraq, could not be made commander of a PRT in, say, Iraq, because that is a liuetenant colonel's slot.

So tinkering with sources of commission and degree requirements is just working around the edges until the institution learns how to employ the considerable pool of talent it already possesses.

Stevely
04-03-2009, 07:32 PM
Perhaps there is too much centralization and credentialism in the current officer management system? It seems too much is taken away from commanders for placing their officers where they need them in favor of a faceless, complex Army-wide officer management system. Maybe the Army needs to find a way to decentralize career management for officers up to maybe O5 or so. This way not only does a commander get the most out of his officers, but it could be advantageous to the "managed" as well - good commanders could stay commanders where they best belong, good staff officers could stay on staff where they are most effective, etc.

jmm99
04-03-2009, 08:30 PM
I'm learning a lot from this discussion. I have some questions about Fig. 2 in the article (attached below).

1. The ROTC retentions (no scholarship highest, 4 yr scholarship lowest) caused me to think that the differentiating factor between the ROTC types is motivation - some of the scholarship folks are gaming the system (more $ offered, the less motivation involved). Since the respective spread in ROTC retention rates is relatively small, the money factor probably is not as substantial as whatever other factors enter in (my perception from the graph).

2. The high OTC-IS retention also seems motivation-based. These folks are lifer oriented - a good thing generally (again, my perception). The article says that OTC-EO retention is the lowest of all, though not graphing it. I expect the reasons for this can be readily found.

3. The USMA retention raised my eyebrows big time. What is going on there ? Maybe that is not surprising if it has always been that way. Are there historical charts from say the 50s to date showing USMA attrition ?

I found USMA retention to be troubling.

Shek
04-03-2009, 11:54 PM
I'm learning a lot from this discussion. I have some questions about Fig. 2 in the article (attached below).

1. The ROTC retentions (no scholarship highest, 4 yr scholarship lowest) caused me to think that the differentiating factor between the ROTC types is motivation - some of the scholarship folks are gaming the system (more $ offered, the less motivation involved). Since the respective spread in ROTC retention rates is relatively small, the money factor probably is not as substantial as whatever other factors enter in (my perception from the graph).

2. The high OTC-IS retention also seems motivation-based. These folks are lifer oriented - a good thing generally (again, my perception). The article says that OTC-EO retention is the lowest of all, though not graphing it. I expect the reasons for this can be readily found.

3. The USMA retention raised my eyebrows big time. What is going on there ? Maybe that is not surprising if it has always been that way. Are there historical charts from say the 50s to date showing USMA attrition ?

I found USMA retention to be troubling.

JMM,

As a statistic in that graph (USMA '96), I can frame for you the decision that USMA graduates faced as whether to stay in or leave. Because of the one-year ADSO from a PCS from the advanced course, the decision point to stay behind essentially came at 48 months in deciding whether or not to leave your first unit and go to your advanced course - June 2000.

The economy is booming and so it's not a matter of whether or not you'll get a job, but rather choosing from among your different high paying job offers. You started the application process to West Point only a few months after the conclusion of ODS, but instead of a chance to see combat, the future appears to hold only peacekeeping. Because of the over-accession of officers and higher attrition rates of the year groups before you, you spent 12 months as a line platoon leader if you are lucky and more than likely, you're finishing your tour in your first unit as the S-1, the S-4, or potentially as the least of the A/S-3 positions in the S-3 shop. As you look forward, you see the reports coming out of Fort Leavenworth from your future S-3s/XOs and learn that the same bureaucratic processes that you faced as a LT will probably only get worse as you move forward (for more about the CPT attrition problem at this time, see the links in this post: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=20046&postcount=211). If you want to go to graduate school, you can expect to have the opportunity only if you opt out of the operations career field based on what PERSCOM is briefing.

As to my particular decision, upon some advice from some mentors while I was at USMA, I had pretty much committed myself to sticking around until at least company command and then do azimuth checks after that periodicly to make sure I was still having fun. I was fortunate enough to be in a good unit with a good command climate, and so I never seriously contemplated leaving at 5. I did have several classmates who had their paperwork in to move from active duty to the IRR and yanked it on Sep 12.

As you think about the differences between the different commission sources/scholarships, while I can't parse out the exact impact, I think it's important to think about the opportunity cost of remaining in the Army (i.e., what are the opportunities outside the Army that the officer is giving up if they remain on active duty) and how they differ across the different sources. On average, I think it's a fair argument that the more attractive one expects to be in the labor market, the higher the price that the Army will have to pay to get them to enter a commissioning program (there will certainly be exceptions, but the exceptions don't prove the rule). So, while some of the difference in continuation rates may reflect various levels of motivation to commit to the Army, some of it will simply reflect the "cost" of staying.

Conversely, we can look at the cost of getting out. For the ROTC scholarship and USMA commissionees, they are still 16 and 15 years away from retirement, which to a 26 year old is still a long ways off. For an OCS-IS commissionee, retirement may only be 6-12 years off, which to someone nearly 30 or older than 30, doesn't seem that long to go. Additionally, because of their time invested towards that 20, it's a lot more costly to get out. So, for the OCS-IS commissionees, some of that motivation to be a lifer may reflect more a desire to simply get to 20 and retire. Once again, I can't parse out the effect, so it's up to others to decide in both cases which is more influential.

Lastly, I don't know how representative YG96 is and how these continuation profiles have changed both in absolute terms and relative terms. I do know that I believe the USMA Class of 2002 had a higher attrition rate, probably a culmination of joining during a period when the expectation was peacekeeping (less important) combined with 2-3 deployments in their first five years with no relief in sight (probably much more of a factor) and an economy in 2007 that looked very attractive to young, bright leaders. Whether this reflects a broader trend in officer attrition (probably) or simply a spike in USMA attrition, I don't know.

Schmedlap
04-03-2009, 11:59 PM
some of the scholarship folks are gaming the system (more $ offered, the less motivation involved)
If the difference is that great, according to the size of the scholarship, then that is probably a good indicator that they were never all that motivated about being Army Officers in the first place. Why did we offer up that much money as an incentive to people who were so uninterested? It makes me wonder if the cash and resources involved were a high-payoff - or even worthwhile - investment.

On the other hand, I'm hesitant to give undue weight to motivation, rather than disappointment, disillusionment, boredom, frustration, et cetera. Lots of Officers come into the Army with high hopes of accomplishing things, improving the organization, and challenging themselves. Many of them find themselves in a branch that they did not want, or doing work that is not intellectually stimulating, often intellectually insulting, or find themselves encumbered by a lousy chain of command, or otherwise just having their time and talents wasted and the opportunity to do anything worthwhile quashed. I've seen some very good Officers beaten into submission by the bureaucracy and stupidity. You can only take so much abuse from a crappy CO, see yourself surrounded by far less capable Officers who often outrank you, and do so many mind-numbing staff jobs until you throw up your hands and say screw it. I am not speaking of myself in that regard. I've seen some Captains whom I thought had far more potential than I did, who stuck it out for longer than I did, and they eventually just threw in the towel, wondering why they spend 18 out of every 24 months away from the families and wondering why they voluntarily suppress their earning power just to have their time, talent, and motivation squandered.

With some of that in mind, I'd like to see the breakdown for the following...
- Retention by branch
- Retention among those who got their branch of choice versus those who got their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.
- Retention among ECP versus non-ECP, including a breakdown by scholarship type
- Retention according to first duty station and last duty station

Shek
04-04-2009, 12:30 AM
I applied those Links to counter your earlier point that the intellectual capacity might not be present

Once again I think you're misapplying what I said. There's certainly plenty of talented, intelligent, and intellectual OCS officers out there - some of them are even my friends ;)

I was speaking to using an OCS only model as per Wilf's allusion to the IDF, Germany, and Sweden. In increasing the percentage of OCS commissioned officers from 15% to 45% of all officers, we have increased the number of below CAT II commissioned officers.


As a result, the share of OCS-IS candidates with a U.S. Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) score below Category II has increased from 15 percent in 1997 to 35 percent in 2007 (see Figure 5). This is significant because the AFQT score is used to determine basic qualification for enlistment, and to help predict future academic and occupational success in the Armed Forces.

If we were to increase OCS accessions even further, then you'd expect that the increase would have to dig deeper. If we screened harder and encouraged more OCS amongst the enlisted and NCO, then we could be more selective and I'm sure you could reverse this trend to some degree, but at the cost of your NCO corps. The authors make this exact point.


6. NCOs are sergeants. Similar to those found increasingly in professional armies, the U.S. Armyís NCO Corps consists of seasoned enlisted soldiers with increasing levels of rank, responsibility and authority. While subordinate to commissioned officers and not commissioned themselves, they are invaluable to the leadership of troop formations. Their direct leadership of
soldiers and their focus upon building and sustaining individual proficiencies allows commissioned officers to focus upon collective training, as well as the organizational and strategic levels of leadership. Importantly, NCOs are critical not just to the development of soldiers but to the development of junior officers as well, with whom they team in the effective leadership of
formations. Any improvements to an armyís officer corps gained at the expense of its NCO corps will likely have a deleterious effect upon that army.

Shek
04-04-2009, 01:22 AM
If the difference is that great, according to the size of the scholarship, then that is probably a good indicator that they were never all that motivated about being Army Officers in the first place. Why did we offer up that much money as an incentive to people who were so uninterested? It makes me wonder if the cash and resources involved were a high-payoff - or even worthwhile - investment.

On the other hand, I'm hesitant to give undue weight to motivation, rather than disappointment, disillusionment, boredom, frustration, et cetera. Lots of Officers come into the Army with high hopes of accomplishing things, improving the organization, and challenging themselves. Many of them find themselves in a branch that they did not want, or doing work that is not intellectually stimulating, often intellectually insulting, or find themselves encumbered by a lousy chain of command, or otherwise just having their time and talents wasted and the opportunity to do anything worthwhile quashed. I've seen some very good Officers beaten into submission by the bureaucracy and stupidity. You can only take so much abuse from a crappy CO, see yourself surrounded by far less capable Officers who often outrank you, and do so many mind-numbing staff jobs until you throw up your hands and say screw it. I am not speaking of myself in that regard. I've seen some Captains whom I thought had far more potential than I did, who stuck it out for longer than I did, and they eventually just threw in the towel, wondering why they spend 18 out of every 24 months away from the families and wondering why they voluntarily suppress their earning power just to have their time, talent, and motivation squandered.

With some of that in mind, I'd like to see the breakdown for the following...
- Retention by branch
- Retention among those who got their branch of choice versus those who got their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.
- Retention among ECP versus non-ECP, including a breakdown by scholarship type
- Retention according to first duty station and last duty station

Schmedlap,

A decent number of cadets at USMA right now turned down an opportunity to go to an Ivy League school, and I don't believe money was a factor in their decision to come to USMA. Additionally, almost all of the cadets I know are excited to be platoon leaders and looking forward to it (maybe some of that is simply the exciting of finishing and leaving West Point, but I don't run into any that are dreading their time in the Army - the four and five year commitments that following from USMA and ROTC scholarship is simply too steep for those that aren't genuinely interested in giving the Army a shot IMO). I think your second half of your post is where the answer is.

A person who's frustrated at their first duty station because of a lackluster chain of command often won't do the career course and PCS to another unit where the odds are that they'll have a more positive experience. Add into that options that dangle in front of them for higher paying jobs and spouses that more than not today also want to have a chance at their own career, I think it's hard to question the motivation of those who have chosen to serve, even if only for their initial commitment.

Shek
04-04-2009, 02:29 AM
In defense of my position I offer, Shek again:Does that statement, if true, not raise the questions of "How motivated were they?" or "What were their real motivations in seeking a commission?"

It also highlights the Author's real issue -- talent as opposed to numbers; talent as opposed to better assignments. Thus my comments about selecting truly motivated folks and shortfalls being preferable to overages.

Further, that last quote from Shek illustrates what I (and lots of others) have long contended -- the system is entirely too competitive. It should not be based on competitiveness but rather on competence. It is not

Ken,

I think that Schmedlap hit the nail on the head with his comments about the reality of the Army experience for many, and those who were excited about the Army are often turned off. In terms of my comments about masking, this is also a product of the way the Army has defined itself - command is everything, and staff is the penance you pay for the opportunity. If this is the culture your propagate, when you have those who are told that you must pass a gate (ACOMs in command) and then the reward is taken away (the knowledge that you remain competitive for battalion command) through masking, then we shouldn't be surprised when people get upset and lose faith when the rules of the game are changed.

I think we need to change the definition of a successful career such that command isn't the only thing celebrated, which I think is the same thing you're getting at. However, I'm not sure how you mean exactly between competitiveness and competence.

jmm99
04-04-2009, 04:22 AM
What is the USMC experience in retention for Annapolis grads who enter the Corps ? And for that matter, Marine officer retention from their other sources.

Still trying to learn.

--------------------------
BTW - Shek, read Wong and Lewis on Boomers & Gen X; so now we have Gen Y LTs & CPTs. Are they different ?

My Gen is the one before the Boomers (by a hair), whatever it is called. My social life (pool league and the neighborhood watering trough - now rebuilt after it burned down last Fall) includes more Gen X types. Probably because that is my pool league's composition for the most part + some Gen Y. The generational stuff has some validity (Gen Xers, e.g., my son, are very peer oriented - my perception); but there is too much voodoo in it. I get along fine with Gen X - no respect for elders, but I can still play them straight up.

Ken White
04-04-2009, 04:30 AM
Once again I think you're misapplying what I said. There's certainly plenty of talented, intelligent, and intellectual OCS officers out there - some of them are even my friends ;) I didn't misapply in the last case, though my attempt at finesse was fairly clumsy. In this case, I'm not sure I'm misapplying you -- or the authors of the paper -- but
I was speaking to using an OCS only model as per Wilf's allusion to the IDF, Germany, and Sweden. In increasing the percentage of OCS commissioned officers from 15% to 45% of all officers, we have increased the number of below CAT II commissioned officers.this statement could lead one to believe that intellectual capability is being questioned. With regard to that specific question, do recall that the AFQT categories generally show nominal learning capacity. They are NOT precise indicators. The issue, though, is really how much intellectual capacity is needed at what level.

I have no question that a number of really bright Officers with advanced degrees in many disciplines are needed in the Army. I also am firmly convinced that the probable number of those is the 20-25% of all Officers range and that such capability (and the degrees) are not required for most. The system that specifies that everyone must have a fair shot is at fault because it forces the Army to act as though all Officers will attend the War College and serve in positions determining national policy and / or strategies in a variety of fields of Army interest.

Patently absurd because all Officers do not have a prayer of doing that. My contention is that the Army cannot make a determination of an Officers potential until he's a fairly senior Captain (or has at least five years of service. Not to worry, that won't happen...:wry:

However, we are spending vast amounts of money producing people that are effectively over qualified for what they do most of the time in most assignment. They know this (as you and Scmedlap say) and so do all the civilian job headhunters.
...The authors make this exact point.Yes they do and I've heard that tale for years. It is no more accurate now, I believe, than it was all the time I served or was a DAC. This statement which you highlighted is particularly misleading:
"Importantly, NCOs are critical not just to the development of soldiers but to the development of junior officers as well, with whom they team in the effective leadership of formations. Any improvements to an armyís officer corps gained at the expense of its NCO corps will likely have a deleterious effect upon that army."Specious. While true to an extent it is as hyperbolic as my linking to John Vesey -- who did not get sent to get a degree until he was a 41 year old LTC --There are two glaring problems with it.

First, If SFC Pfugabosky goes off to OCS or gets a direct commission, SSG Heebly will become the PSG -- and he could just as likely be a far better NCO than was the guy he replaced. So the mentoring up process ALWAYS continues. As I also mentioned earlier, it has been my observation that all the NCOs that go to OCS are not the best and the brightest; some are, some are not.

Secondly -- it is a sad indictment of our very flawed initial entry training. If we better trained new officers, there would not be a presumed need for the NCO up-mentor effort.

As an aside, I'd say in my observation over the years that about half the new LTs didn't need it anyway and some who did (and some who did not) had pathetic people who should not have been NCOs much less PSGs. Can't learn much from that kind...
I think that Schmedlap hit the nail on the head with his comments about the reality of the Army experience for many, and those who were excited about the Army are often turned off. In terms of my comments about masking, this is also a product of the way the Army has defined itself - command is everything, and staff is the penance you pay for the opportunity. If this is the culture your propagate, when you have those who are told that you must pass a gate (ACOMs in command) and then the reward is taken away (the knowledge that you remain competitive for battalion command) through masking, then we shouldn't be surprised when people get upset and lose faith when the rules of the game are changed.I agree that Schmedlap has very valid points and that turn-off is BIG problem -- and that is the Army's fault and part of it is the designed and desired over strength in Officers as compared to the number of EM. If you have more people than you can productively employ, those not so employed will get bored and get in trouble -- or they will leave. I'm totally unsure why the Army cannot figure that out -- or perhaps they have but don't care, as long as funds are adequate, Congressionally dictated stuff will get done...
I think we need to change the definition of a successful career such that command isn't the only thing celebrated, which I think is the same thing you're getting at...Not really. It will not happen but I strongly believe that fewer officers overall; a command track and a staff track would provide far greater capability. It won't happen because Congress will insist on 'fairness' -- foolishly, it is not attainable; people differ in their desires and capabilities and both those factors impact which officers do what and how well they do those things. Plus, Congress does NOT want an Army that is too good; fear of the standing Army is deeply embedded in their little psyches.

However what can and should happen is that the Army should pursue all sources of commissioning equally -- and treat all sources the same up through MAJ or perhaps even LTC; it should reduce Officer strength to get to a figure less than 10% of enlisted strength. Lacking separate Cmd and Staff tracks, I'd agree that command should be removed as a defining qualification. It would, however, be helpful if the Army would acknowledge 'that everyone a generalist' is a bad idea. Everyone simply cannot do everything well. The square pegs in round holes bit.
However, I'm not sure how you mean exactly between competitiveness and competence.Competence is simply the book definition of the word. Competence in not IMO the goal of the promotion system, competitiveness is. You don't really have to do a great job (in most units, most of the time -- there are a few -- very few -- exceptions), you just have to have more Attaboys than your peers and you have to have done all the right things to remain competitive. You also must not have outshone your peers too badly -- or hacked them off -- because then they will insure, some how, some way, you are not seen as competitive.

As I said earlier, time and experience are not guarantors of good performance or capability, much less competence -- nor is education for most Army things. Nor is having all the blocks checked whereby one is graded on what one has done (or not done) and only rarely on how well one has done that thing. Yet those are the criteria for promotion. Not a test, not demonstrated competence. Certainly not tactical competence. All generally speaking, there are a few -- very few -- exceptions, probably more now than ten years ago but still not enough.

Eden said it well above:
"For instance, if he hasn't been to the branch Advanced Course, he can't be a company commander no matter how talented. As another example, a superb captain, a peerless leader of men, with advanced degrees in Arabic and two tours under his belt in Iraq, could not be made commander of a PRT in, say, Iraq, because that is a liuetenant colonel's slot."

82redleg
04-04-2009, 11:27 AM
I don't think that we need to create "more" of anything in the officer corps- the officer corps is just too big as it is.

We have too many staff positions, and not enough command positions for traditional commissioned officers (yes, I know WOs are commissioned at CW2)- to me, these officers exist to command, or be 2ICs (ready to step in to command). If they aren't doing that, they shouldn't be there.

My solution, and I haven't worked out exactly how to do this, is with SNCOs, WOs or LDOs (I haven't worked out exactly the rank and pay yet). This will cut down on the number of commissioned officers sitting on staffs waiting for command.

For example, a BN staff should consist of only 2 CPTs- the operations officer and the logistics officer (who is a logistician). The personnel officer, intel officer, commo officer and motor officer would be better filled with SNCOs or WOs, anyway. The multitude of 1LTs/CPTs that fill up S3 shops would also be better filled with SNCOs or WOs (does it really take a CPT to be the night battle captain in a BN TOC?- I think a strong SSG is a better choice). This would severly cut the competition to be a CO CDR, allowing us to assess the strongest LTs for promotion, and then let the stronger CPTs command longer. For instance, in a BCT there are at least 9 FA CPTs waiting on staff for the 3 BC jobs. MI is even worse (I think its 8 staff CPTs for 1 CDR). SIG is as bad, and AG and CHEM don't even have a command, unless they are selected to take an HHC.

Someone mentioned a BN that was 60% strength on officers, that functioned just fine. I'm sure it did. 2 of every 3 PLTs should be led by SNCOs (or WOs, or heck, make them LDOs and pay them LT pay if that is more). Only 1 PL / CO, plus the XO is bucking for CO CMD. Only 1 staff CPT (the ops guy) waiting on CMD. Only 1 MAJ / BN (the 2IC- I think he should be called Deputy CDR, not XO). So, a BN has only 3 officers (plus a logistician) in the HQ, plus 3 officers per CO (HHC, with specialty PLTs, may have more, with both PLTS led by officers), but that still leaves a 4 line CO BN (most maneuver BNs these days) with 18 officers, plus a logistics officer- a far cry from the 45 or so authorized now.

Same thing can be done at the BCT level. The army recognizes 6 WFFs, which information and leadership tie together to create combat power. The BCT CDR should be a BG (the name implies it), with a COL Deputy. The CoS (or XO) is a LTC, and those three should take care of the leadership element of combat power. 7 MAJs should represent each of the WFFs, plus the integrating function of information. All other specialties, which perform a single function, only rate a CPT. If you can't plan and supervise the execution of your specialty as a CPT, you shouldn't have made CPT. So, one "Sustainment" MAJ integrates the sustainment WFF, with CPTs/WOs/SNCOs that work personnel, trans, supply/services, maint, medical, etc. A "Protection" MAJ integrates the CPTs that supervise ADA, MP, EN, etc. Again, this results in drastic cuts, an allows LTs and CPTs to remain PLs and CO CDRs much longer. Why does the BCT CHOPs need to be a MAJ who is waiting for the jobs that "really count"? Why can't the OPNS SGM perform the duties of CHOPS- he definitely has the experience, and probably more "wasta".

Schmedlap
04-04-2009, 02:23 PM
... almost all of the cadets I know are excited to be platoon leaders and looking forward to it (maybe some of that is simply the exciting of finishing and leaving West Point, but I don't run into any that are dreading their time in the Army - the four and five year commitments that following from USMA and ROTC scholarship is simply too steep for those that aren't genuinely interested in giving the Army a shot IMO). I think your second half of your post is where the answer is.
I, too, think the second half of my previous post has more validity than the first. But, in regard to the money factor, I was speaking more to the differences in scholarships, not so much to USMA. The decision to spend one's college years in a military school, rather than a binge-drinking fraternity house, suggests a high level of commitment. I would add in other military schools as well, like VMI, Citadel, etc. Recognizing that those folks get scholarships, as well, I'd be curious to see the retention breakdown according to commissioning source for the scholarship awardees. My suspicion is that it will be higher for the military schools - not because they produce Officers of any significant difference in quality, but because they recruit individuals with a higher level of commitment to make a career out of the Army.

What I was curious about with the 4-year scholarships (specifically, cadets attending regular universities who have 4-year scholarships) is whether the people who accept them put a lot of thought into the commitment afterwards. This is, after all, the United States. People are not conditioned to think about the future. They run up their credit cards, live beyond their means, indulge in the moment and then complain about the costs later on. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of university students realize that they need to choose between school expenses and beer money, discover that they're eligible for a scholarship because of their grades (why do we base it on grades?), and then take it, not fully considering the commitment that they are obligating themselves to.

Alternatively, I also wonder if it is difficult stay excited about the military when you are immersed in a civilian world that is devoid of personal responsibility or any ethic of service to others. I lived in DC and attended a large university there last year. I am now roommates with two guys who are fresh out of college (one who went to college in DC, the other in NYC). The world that they were just in - no job, no responsibility, no focus on anything but themselves, growing ever more confident by the day that they've got things figured out - it doesn't seem conducive to fostering any kind of desire to serve. If there ever was a desire, it seems likely that it was significantly eroded.

Ken White
04-04-2009, 02:47 PM
will not work -- in both Korea and Viet Nam, what he suggests was effectively the case. Officer priority went to command, staff jobs frequently were filled by NCOs. Operations sergeants (mostly SFCs, MSGs by design but they were not always available -- too many on large, high level staffs. Today you have SGMs...) and their assistants routinely ran Bn and even Bde TOCs constantly and by design. Staff ranks were all one or two grades lower than today I know one Bde in Viet Nam that had a MSG as the S4 for several months and a couple of Companies led by their 1SG for more than a day or two. LTs were often staff Os at Bn, CPTs at Bde. I also knew an Artillery Battery that had a SGT (E5) First Sergeant for several months. Probably not surprisingly, Division staffs were almost always overstrength...

His ideas will work. Whether anyone has the audacity or sense to apply them is another story...

I realize we're a Superpower and a big Army and all but someone should take a look at Swedish military ranks. Before you laugh, consider the fact that they spent many years prepared to face off the USSR, that they buy and use some pretty innovative, very sensible and capable equipment (much of it better than ours) and that their admittedly small bodies of troops recently deployed here and there -- to include Bosnia / Kosovo and Afghanistan -- get good comments on their competence. We do not have all the right answers. Indeed, I often think we don't even ask the right questions... :wry:

drschmidt
04-15-2009, 08:39 AM
I have been following the topic of officer retention ever since my ROTC instuctor mentioned what he called the "Captain Crunch" back in 1998.

I have found some common themes throughout this thread. The posters are:

- uncomfortable with the Army's assignment methodology (i.e. simply matching faces to spaces regardless of skills or talent)
- sighting a couple of examples where JO are placed in positions in order to compensate for a poor commander climate.
- mention that there may be too many officer positions slotted in the Army to begin with.
- general disappointment among JO during their first duty assignment.

Please let me know if you think these are common themes throughout this thread. Also, if you feel there are others, please mention them.

I have read the SSI study and found it to be an interesting read. It partially seeks to dispel the myth that the Army's officer retention woes are due to repeated deployments, family life, and the other factors that are, surprise!, external to the Army's control. If you have not read the entire study please do so. It represents hope that the Army is waking up to the fact that it must look inward to solve its officer retention issues.

That said, I would propose these changes to how the Army manages its junior officers. This is pretty radical stuff I'm about to say but since I'm just a lowly Captain please bare with me:

1. Junior officers have exclusive control over their assignments. They interview with the local chain of command and the junior officer determines if the position jives with their officer development aspirations. Junior officers will become solely responsible for their career management.
2. The Army creates a few slots for Officer Career Counselors at the post or division level in order to work with these JO find a position when they PCS to their first duty assignment. The counselors will continue to work with them for the duration of thier time as a JO. The key here is that the counselors are physically located at the post and are actual, radical concept, real military officers. Senior Captains would be perfect for this.
3. Eliminate most of the CSS platoon leader positions. Expand the role of the CSS Company XO. The Army assigns way too much importance to the CSS PL position. In the absence of option 1 above, a new 2LT would gain needed logistical experience as a Support Operations staff officer working hand in hand with the SPO (MAJ) and the SPO Staff NCOIC(MSG). Also, the administrative and logistical experience at the BN level can be cultivated before the 2LT takes over the XO position in a CSS company. I know this is a little specialized for this thread but a common question that pops up is does the Army have too many slots for officers or is the Army just short on officers. I believe it's the former of the two.
4. The advanced course should go from a PCS move to a series of 2 week TDY instruction modules via the internet and in-person training on site at the branch school. The JO will have up to 5 years to complete the advanced course, integrate training with deployment schedules, have more time at home with the family, and rapidly apply knowledge to their organization. Also, if the new CPT is a bright upstart with a future he or she can take command in anticipation of their completion of this composite program.
5. Create a special developmental program for JOs with engineering and science degrees. If doctors and laywers have this why not engineers and scientist. The SSI paper mentions that one of the reasons why JO exit the service is because their educational skills start lacking behind their civilian counterpart from the day the Army branches them for example HR when they majored in Chemistry. Come on people! We all know somebody like this!

The SSI paper is painfully lacking on what the Army should do to retain and maximize the potential of its Junior Officers. Please let me know what you think of these ideas and please suggest your own. Thanks!:cool:

Cavguy
04-15-2009, 03:33 PM
I'm learning a lot from this discussion. I have some questions about Fig. 2 in the article (attached below).

1. The ROTC retentions (no scholarship highest, 4 yr scholarship lowest) caused me to think that the differentiating factor between the ROTC types is motivation - some of the scholarship folks are gaming the system (more $ offered, the less motivation involved). Since the respective spread in ROTC retention rates is relatively small, the money factor probably is not as substantial as whatever other factors enter in (my perception from the graph).

2. The high OTC-IS retention also seems motivation-based. These folks are lifer oriented - a good thing generally (again, my perception). The article says that OTC-EO retention is the lowest of all, though not graphing it. I expect the reasons for this can be readily found.

3. The USMA retention raised my eyebrows big time. What is going on there ? Maybe that is not surprising if it has always been that way. Are there historical charts from say the 50s to date showing USMA attrition ?

I found USMA retention to be troubling.

Alternate reasons:

USMA and ROTC 4-year scholarships tend to be top-10/top 20 percent of class type individuals. The shorter scholarships tend to be "easier" to receive, but 4-year scholarships are harder. One reason often given by those exiting are the opportunities outside. USMA has a large network of alums who hire other alums. Rarely is a USMA grad unemployed.

ROTC 4-year types I would imagine also have lucrative post-army options.

OCS stays because the 20 year retirement system is usually just around the bend - if you put in for OCS you essentially have decided to "stay in" because you already had at least 4 years enlisted time, and know whether you and the army "get along".

Anecdotally, I was a 2-year ROTC scholarship guy, and almost all of my 4 year scholarship peers got out (or moved to reserves). My private theory is that I had less pre-formed expectations of the Army, and thus wasn't as disappointed when the Army in practice failed to live up to my ideal of it. The most gung-ho/motivated guy in my ROTC, who never wanted to do anything but the Army for life, was the first to get out. He was basically frustrated that the Army wasn't the institution he thought it was.

Just some non-data supported observations. There was also a good MMAS on retention done last year with surprising data on retention by branch. Generally, combat arms officer retention was 2-3x that of combat support/logistics specialties.

Uboat509
04-15-2009, 04:24 PM
Anecdotally, I was a 2-year ROTC scholarship guy, and almost all of my 4 year scholarship peers got out (or moved to reserves). My private theory is that I had less pre-formed expectations of the Army, and thus wasn't as disappointed when the Army in practice failed to live up to my ideal of it. The most gung-ho/motivated guy in my ROTC, who never wanted to do anything but the Army for life, was the first to get out. He was basically frustrated that the Army wasn't the institution he thought it was.

They are having a similar problem with the 18X program. They pull these guys off the street and put them through the course. The ones that make it tend to be pretty good operators but they often find that SF is not what they thought it was when they joined. As a result, a lot of the ones I have known became frustrated and got out.

SFC W

Ken White
04-15-2009, 04:33 PM
...There was also a good MMAS on retention done last year with surprising data on retention by branch. Generally, combat arms officer retention was 2-3x that of combat support/logistics specialties.Enlisted retention.

I think there's a rather powerful message in that...

Schmedlap
04-15-2009, 09:14 PM
Anecdotally, I was a 2-year ROTC scholarship guy, and almost all of my 4 year scholarship peers got out (or moved to reserves). My private theory is that I had less pre-formed expectations of the Army, and thus wasn't as disappointed when the Army in practice failed to live up to my ideal of it. The most gung-ho/motivated guy in my ROTC, who never wanted to do anything but the Army for life, was the first to get out. He was basically frustrated that the Army wasn't the institution he thought it was.
I'm not knocking that theory at all - especially since mine is also anecdotal - but my experience was the opposite. I and many of my peers were 2-year scholarship folks. But, kind of piggy-backing upon my earlier comment, I suspect that cadets who get 2-year scholarships or no scholarships at all are more likely to stay in. They're clearly joining for some reason other than the money. Most of us, in spite of our lesser scholarships, were determined to serve. The amount of the scholarship didn't factor in at all. Many of us didn't even care about college. We just wanted the commissions. I stuck with ROTC specifically because of my "pre-formed expectations" and "my ideal of it." I was convinced that once I finished ROTC and got into the "real Army" that I would be serving in the company of Schwarzeneggers and Stallones. I wanted to be pushed beyond any reasonable physical threshold and took personal offense at the Army commissioning anyone who was not a physical specimen on par with a cyborg and not a "field Soldier" who always wished, even in the rainiest, coldest, muddiest situation, for things to "suck even more."

But, while my impression of what type of motivation correllated with what type of scholarship is different, I agree with the observation of "gung-ho" types feeling incredibly let down. We had ourselves convinced that we were joining an Army that is as elite as it sounds. Upon discovering that the Army was imperfect, many of us felt betrayed and angry and took personal offense. Unrealistic expectations. I and many of my peers started out fairly cynical as 2LTs because of the baffling array of seemingly limitless, very dumb rules. Most rules of the dumb variety are borne by necessity: someone does something incredibly stupid and instead of just punishing that clown, we thrust some new idiotic rule upon everyone. I eventually grew up and stopped being bothered by such foolishness. Unfortunately, several of my peers did not. When you're young and surrounded by so much stuff that makes so little sense and you know that it all exists in order to mitigate the incompetence of so many around you, it is sometimes difficult to see anything positive in the organization. It sounds dumb, but I think a lot of guys were driven out primarily by frustration with the Army's apparent tolerance for mediocrity. This was compounded because the tolerance for mediocrity pertained to important things, like tactical competence, but there co-existed a zero-defect mentality for unimportant things, like environmental regulations and draconian safety rules. Maybe separating as a result of such frustration was a sign of immaturity and it was good to lose those Officers? Maybe. Or maybe they would have grown up and made great Officers. We'll never know.

I know guys who dropped out of college in the last semester of their senior year because they found out that they were going to be branched something other than Infantry. Some of them were scholarship winners. They paid back their scholarships rather than serve as CSS Officers. Now there is a lose-lose.

I know guys who were branch detailed to Infantry or Armor and did everything that they could to stretch out their time prior to the career course and then ETS, so as to avoid serving any amount of time in the branch that they were slotted for after their initial Infantry or Armor tenure. That's a little better than the lose-lose above, but still a loss. Those guys were more than happy to remain in the Infantry or Armor. The Army said, "no, you're going to be an MI Officer." Now they're gone and contributing nothing to the Army.


Just some non-data supported observations. There was also a good MMAS on retention done last year with surprising data on retention by branch. Generally, combat arms officer retention was 2-3x that of combat support/logistics specialties.
That computes in my brain. My rationale is - how many people join the Army with the intent of becoming a logistician? Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that and we need logisticians, but I doubt that a significant number are drawn to the Army for that reason. It seems as though one could be a logistician in the civilian world with significantly less BS to put up with and less service commitment. My former Supply Sergeant is now a Logistics Officer - a branch that he enthusiastically chose - but I'm not aware of many folks who got out of high school and went into ROTC to be logisticians.

Lots of guys who wanted to branch combat arms, but ended up in combat support or CSS, went into their careers with a crappy attitude and then left at the first opportunity. On the other hand, the majority of officers whom I knew in the Infantry and Armor wanted to serve in those branches. Thus, they were off to a good start and still had a good attitude when it came time to choose between career course or career change.


... One reason often given by those exiting are the opportunities outside. USMA has a large network of alums who hire other alums. Rarely is a USMA grad unemployed.

ROTC 4-year types I would imagine also have lucrative post-army options.
I know the data may contradict me, but I just don't buy it. The majority of individuals whom I served with in the Army knew that they could get out and make a lot more money, have more time with their families, and live far less stressful lives. Most of them chose to remain in. I'm nearing completion of an MBA and JD which, with my service as an Infantry Officer with numerous deployments and glowing OERs, make me highly employable. In all likelihood, I'm taking my fancy degrees back to the Army. The only explanation for the decision that I am making, and similar decisions that other have made (either to remain or return), imo, is that job satisfaction is part of the compensation package. If guys claim that they're getting out because they can get paid more, then it's because they weren't getting enough job satisfaction to compensate for the salary difference. Assume, arguendo, that I dislike my current job and it pays $70K, but I can get another job that I equally dislike and it pays $100K. I'm switching for the money. But the root cause of me leaving is the dissatisfaction. Take that away and, in most cases, I suspect that you will retain the Officer.

Kriegs
05-14-2010, 11:32 AM
I'm not knocking that theory at all - especially since mine is also anecdotal - but my experience was the opposite. I and many of my peers were 2-year scholarship folks. But, kind of piggy-backing upon my earlier comment, I suspect that cadets who get 2-year scholarships or no scholarships at all are more likely to stay in. They're clearly joining for some reason other than the money. Most of us, in spite of our lesser scholarships, were determined to serve. The amount of the scholarship didn't factor in at all. Many of us didn't even care about college. We just wanted the commissions. I stuck with ROTC specifically because of my "pre-formed expectations" and "my ideal of it." I was convinced that once I finished ROTC and got into the "real Army" that I would be serving in the company of Schwarzeneggers and Stallones. I wanted to be pushed beyond any reasonable physical threshold and took personal offense at the Army commissioning anyone who was not a physical specimen on par with a cyborg and not a "field Soldier" who always wished, even in the rainiest, coldest, muddiest situation, for things to "suck even more."

But, while my impression of what type of motivation correllated with what type of scholarship is different, I agree with the observation of "gung-ho" types feeling incredibly let down. We had ourselves convinced that we were joining an Army that is as elite as it sounds. Upon discovering that the Army was imperfect, many of us felt betrayed and angry and took personal offense. Unrealistic expectations. I and many of my peers started out fairly cynical as 2LTs because of the baffling array of seemingly limitless, very dumb rules. Most rules of the dumb variety are borne by necessity: someone does something incredibly stupid and instead of just punishing that clown, we thrust some new idiotic rule upon everyone. I eventually grew up and stopped being bothered by such foolishness. Unfortunately, several of my peers did not. When you're young and surrounded by so much stuff that makes so little sense and you know that it all exists in order to mitigate the incompetence of so many around you, it is sometimes difficult to see anything positive in the organization. It sounds dumb, but I think a lot of guys were driven out primarily by frustration with the Army's apparent tolerance for mediocrity. This was compounded because the tolerance for mediocrity pertained to important things, like tactical competence, but there co-existed a zero-defect mentality for unimportant things, like environmental regulations and draconian safety rules. Maybe separating as a result of such frustration was a sign of immaturity and it was good to lose those Officers? Maybe. Or maybe they would have grown up and made great Officers. We'll never know.

I know guys who dropped out of college in the last semester of their senior year because they found out that they were going to be branched something other than Infantry. Some of them were scholarship winners. They paid back their scholarships rather than serve as CSS Officers. Now there is a lose-lose.

I know guys who were branch detailed to Infantry or Armor and did everything that they could to stretch out their time prior to the career course and then ETS, so as to avoid serving any amount of time in the branch that they were slotted for after their initial Infantry or Armor tenure. That's a little better than the lose-lose above, but still a loss. Those guys were more than happy to remain in the Infantry or Armor. The Army said, "no, you're going to be an MI Officer." Now they're gone and contributing nothing to the Army.


That computes in my brain. My rationale is - how many people join the Army with the intent of becoming a logistician? Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that and we need logisticians, but I doubt that a significant number are drawn to the Army for that reason. It seems as though one could be a logistician in the civilian world with significantly less BS to put up with and less service commitment. My former Supply Sergeant is now a Logistics Officer - a branch that he enthusiastically chose - but I'm not aware of many folks who got out of high school and went into ROTC to be logisticians.

Lots of guys who wanted to branch combat arms, but ended up in combat support or CSS, went into their careers with a crappy attitude and then left at the first opportunity. On the other hand, the majority of officers whom I knew in the Infantry and Armor wanted to serve in those branches. Thus, they were off to a good start and still had a good attitude when it came time to choose between career course or career change.


I know the data may contradict me, but I just don't buy it. The majority of individuals whom I served with in the Army knew that they could get out and make a lot more money, have more time with their families, and live far less stressful lives. Most of them chose to remain in. I'm nearing completion of an MBA and JD which, with my service as an Infantry Officer with numerous deployments and glowing OERs, make me highly employable. In all likelihood, I'm taking my fancy degrees back to the Army. The only explanation for the decision that I am making, and similar decisions that other have made (either to remain or return), imo, is that job satisfaction is part of the compensation package. If guys claim that they're getting out because they can get paid more, then it's because they weren't getting enough job satisfaction to compensate for the salary difference. Assume, arguendo, that I dislike my current job and it pays $70K, but I can get another job that I equally dislike and it pays $100K. I'm switching for the money. But the root cause of me leaving is the dissatisfaction. Take that away and, in most cases, I suspect that you will retain the Officer.


It's eery that I agree with every sentence here. I bolded the part that applies to me. Although, I AM bumping a year-old thread, I think the Officer Career Satisfaction Program might make a dent in retaining people who got stuck in a branch they didn't want. The problem with the OCSP is that the best years for being an officer are gone when you can utilize the OCSP (the LT years, where I'm at now).

Does anyone have a link to data that Schmedlap and Cavguy talked about with regards to retention data broken down to duty station, unit, and branch?

KenWats
05-14-2010, 03:27 PM
I pretty much agree with Schmedlap's assessment above. I'm a 4 year scholarship guy who got out (graduated in '96). I was branched Engineers (my branch of choice), got a good duty station (Ft Lewis, not my top choice but I loved it), and went to a combat engineer battalion (which is pretty much what I was hoping for).

The tolerance of mediocrity on things that I felt should "matter" bothered me. I saw folks who did things that I thought were pretty crappy (PL personally stealing parts off of another company's tracks to get yours FMC, etc), were caught, and also happened to be in my (humble) opinion incompetent get the same promotion I got and it ticked me off. I watched an incompetent commander get saved by a very good XO and 1SG who wouldn't allow him to fail and allowed that to bother me too.

In all honesty, I was young and idealistic. My older, more pessimistic self would probably shrug if off and live with it- Life ain't fair. In my youth and idealism, I said "The Army's screwed up" and decided I couldn't change the way things were and it would be best for me to go somewhere else. My life experience has now taught me that emphasizing the positive of where you are is more productive than moving every time you're dissatisfied. I'm sure my attitude would be different now than it was then and I do think my decision to leave was more of an emotional one rather than a rational one. I don't regret it when it's 35 degrees and raining out though :)

There's my two-bit story. Hopefully it added something to the discussion.

sapperfitz82
05-14-2010, 08:20 PM
Since the JO's are sounding off on an old post and still occurring problem, I will too.

I did the active duty green to gold after 6 years of service. Just finished the Infantry commissioning program and have to say that it was terrible conceptually. The men involved tried their best, but the dissolution of the BOLC II atrocity and the complete re-work of IBOLC's POI should say something.

Long way round, I believe that officer retention is a direct reflection of their IET. Consider that ROTC and USMA tracks both spend 5 yrs to get a new cadet trained to the point that he feels comfortable being a squad leader at most. (Anecdotal I know but suffer the point with me)

These LTs are sorely aware that they are under-prepared. They are told that the PSG will square them away when they get to their unit. Where else in the wide world of sports does the leader of 32-50 men get told that you'll get qualified for the job when you get it? The rest of an officer's company grade time is spent trying to catch up.

I believe the answer is to invest a great deal more in the commission source training. Not when they commission, but when the first volunteer as a cadet. They must be challenged and we must get away from the idea that if we hurt them or challenge them they will quit and we'll lose a potential officer. Contact sports take more risks with their athletes in college that the Army will with their "warrior leaders." A shaky foundation at best and one that is bearing its fruit.

As a mysoginistic aside. We used to look for gentlemen as officers and used the four year degree somewhat to screen for that. Ever since "gentlemen" have fallen out of favor (with no suitable replacement) and four year degrees devolved to certifications, we have suffered as an officer corp. Hmmm.

Ken White
05-14-2010, 09:44 PM
...Long way round, I believe that officer retention is a direct reflection of their IET. Consider that ROTC and USMA tracks both spend 5 yrs to get a new cadet trained to the point that he feels comfortable being a squad leader at most...They are told that the PSG will square them away when they get to their unit...I believe the answer is to invest a great deal more in the commission source training.Well said, only thing I'll add is that over 45 plus years, I discovered early and annually reaffirmed that most 'bad' officers (yes, Virginia, they exist...) suffered from having no or a bad PSG.

Early service as a Marine showed me that the then Basic School graduates with 11 months of training and education on top of their pre-commission training were the best prepared LTs I ever met. Culminating service as a DAC rating four LTCs on an oversized and underworked Staff showed me that poor LTs did not make good LTCs... :wry:

sapperfitz82
05-15-2010, 05:25 PM
But the point of having a PMI is to get that expertise early on (Like Plebe/MS I year in my estimation) in the commissioning process, I thought.

Really, most of the mechanics for producing better officers is already in place. I feel that we just need to do the hard training that most feel is too dangerous or "beyond" the comprehension of young cadets. Honestly, if we can send PFC's to Ranger school and they succeed, why can't we expect a sophomore in college to lead a platoon in a tactical environment?

We have very low expectations of our pre-commissioned officers and unfortunately, they are met. Much of this bleeds over to the post-commissioned schools feeling they must start at square one to bring everyone up to speed, basically stating that the previous four years was a total waste.

Strangely, I just got an AKO invitation to a virtual conference on how to fix up the officer basic training program. I wonder if anything left of the blast is being seriously considered?

MikeF
05-16-2010, 03:06 AM
Well said, only thing I'll add is that over 45 plus years, I discovered early and annually reaffirmed that most 'bad' officers (yes, Virginia, they exist...) suffered from having no or a bad PSG.

Ken,

As a PL, I fired my PSG for being incompetent and pissing himself when we actually got into combat. My BN CSM worried over the same thing that you observed.

"LT Few, I'm worried about you. In my experience, every LT with a bad PSG became a bad officer."

I replied, "Sergeant Major, don't worry. He's just a man. I talked to the other PSG's and my own SL's to get to know the NCO corps."

As a commander, I had 4 1SGTs for various reasons mostly due to promotion to SGM. Three were stellar, and I had to fire one for worse abuses.

It is what it is. I judged each man on his own merit.

Unless you're thinking that I'm a bad officer :mad:.

Ken White
05-16-2010, 06:08 AM
Unless you're thinking that I'm a bad officer :mad:.However, they will continue to watch... ;)
As a PL, I fired my PSG for being incompetent and pissing himself when we actually got into combat. My BN CSM worried over the same thing that you observed.Actually, only a Commander can relieve (one reason the Marines call them Platoon Commanders...) but most follow the PLs recommendations. Regardless, if he was that incompetent -- and they exist; even worse examples exist -- he shoulda been gone and good riddance. The pissing is forgivable, anybody can have that happen at inopportune times with the right provocation.
It is what it is. I judged each man on his own merit.As you should. As we all should... :wry:

MikeF
05-16-2010, 06:27 AM
However, they will continue to watch... ;)

Great, now I'm paronoid.

Your spies would be better off judging the success of my subordinates O's and NCO's. The boys are doing well as CO's, 1SGTs, and PSGs. I'm proud of them. Far better than I've done. Of everything that I've done, I feel that their success is my greatest accomplishment.

I realize my experience is not the norm. I only mentioned it b/c I thought it should be said.