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Thread: Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps Strategy for Success

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ODB View Post
    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.

  2. #22
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default There are opportunity costs in eveything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    ...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...
    Last edited by Ken White; 04-03-2009 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Typos

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Do these guys know that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    ...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.

    LINK.

    I can give you a fairly long list of Colonels including this one LINK

    Not to mention the smartest and best Major, bar none, that I ever worked for LINK.

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    LINK.

    LINK.

    I can give you a fairly long list of Colonels including this one LINK

    Not to mention the smartest and best Major, bar none, that I ever worked for LINK.

    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.

  5. #25
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I know. Hyperbole is sometimes used to reinforce a point

    Especially by moi...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    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...

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    Default Forget the system...

    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.

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    Default The Evils of Centralization

    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.
    He cloaked himself in a veil of impenetrable terminology.

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    Default Questions re: graph

    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    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/...&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.
    Last edited by Shek; 04-04-2009 at 12:57 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    In defense of my position I offer, Shek againoes 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.

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    Default Comp studies for USMC ?

    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.

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    Default Thanks for the response.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    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...

    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."

  16. #36
    Council Member 82redleg's Avatar
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    Default Not more, but less

    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".

  17. #37
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    ... 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.

  18. #38
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Lest anyone say that 82Redleg's suggestions

    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...

  19. #39
    Registered User drschmidt's Avatar
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    Default Officers Retained!

    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!

  20. #40
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    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.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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