Towards a U.S. Army Officer Corps Strategy for Success: Retaining Talent
ARMY WAR COLL STRATEGIC STUDIES INST CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The U.S. Army has made significant investments in its future, especially in its leadership. In particular, the Army has devoted billions of dollars to officer undergraduate-level education, world-class training, and developmental experiences. Since the late 1980s, however, prospects for the Officer Corps future have been darkened by an ever-diminishing return on this investment, as evidenced by plummeting company grade officer retention rates. Significantly, this leakage includes a large share of high-performing officers, many of them developed via a fully funded undergraduate education. In the last few years, the Army has responded to this challenge with unprecedented retention incentives, to include broadly offered cash payments. The objective has been to retain as many junior officers on active duty as possible. However, such quantity-focused incentive programs run counter to a talent-focused Officer Corps strategy. The objective should not be merely to retain all officers, but to retain talented officers while simultaneously culling out those lacking distributions of skills, knowledge, and behaviors in demand across the force. Retaining sufficient rather than optimally performing officers may have dire consequences for the Armys future. New officer cohorts of high-potential talent may be driven away by the prospects of serving under lackluster leadership, while those continuing their service may experience stunted development due to a dearth of talented mentors. Low junior-officer retention also strips away the Armys ability to screen, vet, and cull for talent, forcing it instead to over-access, increase promotion rates, and compress promotion timing. It degrades the developmental experiences of junior officers and undercuts the Armys ability to discern which officers possess the talent it needs. Left unchecked, such developments could significantly undermine the Officer Corps performance levels, taking perhaps a generation to rectify.
- Personnel Management and Labor Relations
- Military Forces and Organizations