Attrition: Convincing Captains to Stick Around


May 22, 2007: The U.S. Army is having trouble hanging on to middle management, and is now offering $20,000 bonuses to 7,000 captains, to get them to stick around. Captains (rank O-3 of ten officer ranks) have been leaving the service at higher than wanted rates for nearly a decade now. There are several reasons for this. First, there are better opportunities in the booming civilian economy. These captains have been in the army less than ten years, and are far enough away from the 20 year mark (when they are eligible for a half-pay pension), to be able to leave without feeling much fiscal pain.

Then there's the war, and the constant trips overseas. Captains usually have families, with young children, and wives who are overwhelmed when left alone with the kids. The kids are only young once, and even with Internet access, there's a lot you miss if you're away.

There's still a generation gap between the junior officers (the captains are the most senior of that lot) and the generals. The younger officers have had it with the "zero tolerance" and political correctness crap. Actually, a lot of that has been ditched because of the wartime conditions. But there's still the feeling that your boss will hang you out to dry if the media makes a fuss about something you didn't do, but someone thinks you did.

The $20,000 will keep some captains in, and if it doesn't appeal to enough captains, the army will probably sweeten the pot. It takes at least six years of service for someone to become a captain, and that's if you take a sergeant and put them through Officer Candidate School. Most officers come from West Point or ROTC, in which case it takes about ten years. That's not just a lot of time, but a lot of money. It's cheaper to offer big bonuses to keep these junior officers in uniform.




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