A Major concern for the Army

A recent Washington Post article discussed the current shortage of Majors in the Army.  I thought the article was well written and provided good context about the impact of deployments and the expansion of the Army.

Major Insignia

Major Insignia

According to the article:

Majors plan and direct day-to-day military operations for Army battalions, the units primarily responsible for waging the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the Army, majors fill key roles as senior staff members, putting together war plans, managing personnel and coordinating logistics.

I’d say that’s an accurate overview.  Though the shortage hurts, we are still fighting and winning wars across the globe.

In general, those of us who continue to serve understand that we aren’t going to get rich in the military.  However, in many of my private discussions my friends agree that a few minor incentives/signs of appreciation would be welcome.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Provide an annual $1,000 “bonus” for all active duty Majors–incl. mobilized reservists (Total cost to Army…less than the price of 100 Toyota Prius)
  • Extend Tuition Assistance benefits to immediate family members if the Soldier doesn’t want to utilize the benefits due to deployments (Total cost to Army…probably less than the price of a $250K Uparmored HMMWV)
  • Allow officers to select duty station of choice for current -or- future assignment (Total cost to Army…”free” someone’s got to fill the slot)
  • Really encourage Senior Leaders (Generals and Colonels) to mentor Majors…some do this really well, some aren’t as engaging.  I suspect that if there were more instances of Senior Leaders having the “How’s your day Major? Where do you see your career going? blah, blah, blah” conversation than many Major’s would simply “feel better.” (Total cost to Army…”free”)
  • Utilize technology to enhance the assignments process (Think: match. com) e.g…A Major fills out a profile of his “desired assignment type, location, duration, family, etc…” that information goes into a computer with an algorithm that spits out potential assignment options.  Through a Social Networking tool, the Major can now contact the Major who currently fills the potential assignment to ask specific questions “How are the schools? Do you like your boss? When will your unit deploy? What are the recreation options? Do you use X,Y,Z equipment?”  All along the way the assignment officer can monitor the conversation and establish report dates based on what works best for the officers–because they will have real-time information.  (Total cost to Army…undetermined; however, the Social Networking technology already exists…just need the “match” feature)
  • Give Majors a free uniform voucher to replace the Green Class A’s.  This is a win-win for the Army because leaders should be the first in the new uniforms and the Majors would appreciate the vouchers. (Total cost to Army would be less than 100 Smart Fortwo!!!)

Let’s hear your opinions…So what do you think?  Should Army Majors simply serve for pride and commitment to duty?  Are the incentives I discussed feasible?  Why do you think the Army is slower than the Navy to embrace incentives? (I have a college classmate who has received $122,000 in bonuses during his Naval career as a Surface Warfare Officerhe’s never been shot at!)

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6 Responses to A Major concern for the Army

  1. MAJ Mineni says:

    First I’d better indentify myself as “the guy the Army targets… I am the guy who serves for the greater good and the Army has me”. Now that that is out of the way…. I am divided on the issue, on one hand I believe that the collective “we” should serve for more than petty benefits and attractive incentives or bonuses. On the other hand your points are very powerful, especially when considering the cost to the Army is minimal.

    The question that I wrestle with is “do I want the Major who is looking for incentives and benefits or bonuses etc… next to me in a foxhole? or do I want the Major who is looking to be part of something bigger than himself, beside me in the foxhole?”

    Arguably there may be absolutely no correlation between the two – and that is evidenced by the amount of captains that took their $30,000 bonus. I believe that the vast majority (almost all) of Captains that took the bonus, were staying in anyway – so what did the Army gain? I’d be curious to know what it cost the Army to retain those captains who were staying anyway…. I’ll bet its alot more than any of your programs described in your Blog.

  2. The shortage of majors is a direct result of the shortage of captains, lieutenants and cadets. Decisions to come into the military are based in large part on money for school. One day soon every cadet may be on scholarship, eventhough we would like for them to have the propensity to serve. It is difficult to teach propensity, but it is easy to give away money. The ideas presented are in direct alignment with the Army’s shift to “Enterprise Thinking” which takes corporate techniques, tactics and propecedures and embeds them into the military frame work. Reference shortages, do your really need a major to do that work? Could you use an NCO or a captain or in some instances a lieutenant. As a major(bn xo) I had a thousand soldiers. Some positions call for a major and you will find that officer only controls himself/herself. In sum, your suggestions have merit and are being considered at the highest levels in the Army, but we we should take a close look at how we are employing the majors we have.

  3. […] However, it’s estimated to cost between $200-400.  I previously suggested that the Army should give a uniform voucher to Majors to help with […]

  4. Steven Tabat says:

    One of the most intersting disparities in the Army is how mid level NCOs and junior officers are treated compared to how the mid level officers (MAJ) are treated. The Army is so often short sighted when they talk in terms of bonuses or incentives. The Army recognized that they were losing CPTs so they started a program to incentivize service with grad school or cash. That program targeted specific year groups and was purely for CPTs to keep or push them over the ten year mark. The Army has always maintained that once the officer crosses over ten, then the officer is stuck and cannot get out. That whole notion is being blown out of the water with guys walking away at 12 and 13 years. If the Army wants to be treated like a Fortune 500 company, then treat your people like Fortune 500 people. I do not think that uniforms are a reasonable incentive, however, educational benefits, like pushing for GI Bill or College Fund like incentives that allow officers to buy into the program (once their ROTC or West Point obligations are paid back) and then use it to pay for a graduate degree (even after that officer gets out) would be useful. Also, having those funds be transferrable so that an officer, if he choses not to use them, can transfer that money to their kids might be helpful. I agree with one of the previous posts that the Navy recognized this and enacted a series of bonuses and incentives to keep their surface warfare officers because they recognized that they were losing folks and that it would get worse. In the Navy, pilots and submarine officers receive incentive pay on top of sea duty pay, etc…Surface warfare guys started asking “What about me”? As selfish as that may sound, the military must look beyond loyalty and duty and sacrifice. We drank that Kool Aid a long time ago, but at some point, the Services have to compete for the best and the brightest and one of those ways is to offer an incentive in the form of money or duty assignment or educational matching funds, etc…

  5. […] posted about this topic before, however, I conducted a bit more research and was spurred to write because both presidential […]

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