Peace Time: May 23, 2003

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The armed forces are having more problems hanging on to highly skilled, and costly to train, technical experts. Two categories in particular are a major headache; computer networking and software engineers,  and linguists. One solution being tossed around is to offer troops in these categories the opportunity to get promoted to warrant officer rank. For generations, warrant officers have been a way to retain highly skilled specialists in engineering, maintenance, aviation and administration. The warrants have five pay grades, which correspond, in terms of money and benefits, to the first five commissioned ranks (Second Lieutenant through Lieutenant Colonel.) Warrants are not used as troops commanders, but just take care of their technical jobs. The system has worked quite well. In most job areas, experienced NCOs are promoted to warrant rank. One major exception is Army helicopter pilots, who get promoted to warrant as soon as they successfully complete flight school. Warrants, of course, get paid more than lower ranking enlisted men doing similar work. But when you spend a million or more dollars to train someone, who does not stay in uniform after their first four years, it becomes cheaper to make them warrants. Other proposals, like offering large re-enlistment bonuses, are nearly as costly, but often don't work because the soldier still does not have the rank, and thus "respect", they feel their hard earned technical skills deserve. Making them warrants solves the problem, partly because warrants are not addressed by their rank ("Warrant Officer Jones"), but as "Mister (or Ms.) Jones". A minor point, but important, to warrants. 

 


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