Cent-sible solutions for the Army’s major-retention dilemma

January 6, 2009

This is the opening paragraph of a Commentary piece (A major problem: Cent-sible solutions for the Army’s major-retention dilemma) I wrote for the Armed Forces Journal (December 2008):

Majors — the Army’s future senior leaders — are exiting the service at increasing rates during a period of military growth. A recent article in The Washington Post indicated the Army is about 15 percent short of its goal of 15,700 majors. Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Retention of battle-tested majors should be the Army’s highest personnel priority. These are the future Pattons, Powells and Petraeuses who will lead soldiers into combat over the next two decades.”

Cost-effective solutions are available. These include financial incentives, leveraging Web 2.0 to enhance mentoring and the personnel assignment process, and uniform vouchers. All could be adopted almost immediately to shore up the ranks.

It generated limited discussion among officers.  Some supported my ideas specifically, or at least the concept that something must be done.  Others disagree with my solutions and assertions; I can only surmise that they don’t think shortage of majors as a problem worth addressing.  Either way, talking about problems is the first step to solving them.

Do you think more money should be allocated towards retaining the future senior leaders of the Army?  How does your corporation retain managers?  What type of incentives have you seen that were successful to keep employees with talent?  If your employer gave you a $500 bonus would you accept it?  Would you make good use of the money?

You can read more about military personnel in the Building the Military for the 21st Century report.