Leadership: June 18, 2001


: Military organizations have always had a problem with too many officers, and too few officers who were any good. One solution to this problem has been practiced by the United States for the last 50 years. Officers and NCOs must either be promoted, or leave the service. The system is set up so that everyone can serve at least twenty years. But after that, it's truly up or out. Only the most senior officers and NCOs can serve the maximum thirty years. This worked for a while, but over the last few decades it has become obvious that the many new specialties don't provide sufficient room for promotion. For example, the air force promotes some 90 percent of captains major, but only 45 percent of those captains make it to colonel, and only two percent to brigadier general. Those who don't make it to colonel have usually hit the twenty year mark and retire on half pay. But many new technical specialties (computers, networks, electronic warfare) have critical shortages of qualified people inside and outside the military. Yet because of the "up or out" policy, the military is forcing trained technical experts to retire because their specialty does not have enough senior slots. What really bothers the military is that these guys promptly get hired by a technical consulting firm at twice what the military was paying them. Then the military, short on techies, goes to these consulting outfits and hires needed experts at much more than they were paying the people they forced to retire. It's been noticed that many nations, like Britain, allow qualified officers to stay in the same job (without promotion, but some pay raises for seniority) for decades. The U.S. army has long adopted a similar program by creating a special class of officers (Warrant Officers) who can work their specialty for decades. But not everyone wants to be a Warrant Officer (who are not supposed to command troops). So the promotion system is up for modification, to allow "career majors" and such. The air force has already been moving in that direction to solve it's worsening pilot shortage. Pilots are offered longer periods in cockpits, but fewer opportunities for promotion. Most pilots find this a most agreeable arrangement. 



ad Help Keep Us Online!

Help Keep Us Afloat! Go to other sites on the World Wide Web and they look like the a mad marketer has gained control of them. Lots of ads and little content! Ad revenues are down for everyone! We don’t want to follow the crowd. But here is the deal we cannot keep our site relative ad free without your support. Each month we need your subscriptions or contributions plus what meager ad revenue we do receive to stay in business. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close