Attrition: Bringing Back Brevets


January31, 2007: A booming economy not only makes it more difficult for military recruiters, it's also a headache for senior commanders, trying to hang on to key subordinates. So now the Department of Defense has introduced (or re-introduced) temporary, or, as they were called during the American Civil War, "brevet" promotions. This is intended to encourage these officers to stick around, while also recognizing the fact that they are doing the job of a higher ranking officers.

The problem is that officers with 5-10 years service, who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, often find attractive opportunities outside. You need twenty years service to get the half-pay pension, and many young officers are willing to get off the "lifer track" (twenty years or more of service) and start a new, civilian, career. Civilian firms are eager to have these hotshots, and give them jobs that pay a lot more money, require much less time away from home, and usually do not involve getting shot at.

A typical use of these temporary promotions is in the U.S. Navy SEAL commandos. Officers there are in big demand by private security firms. Thus there is a shortage of unit commanders. So fourteen lieutenants (equivalent to army captains), who are serving in jobs normally done by lieutenant commanders (equivalent to army majors), will be temporarily given the pay and privileges of lieutenant commanders. If they are not permanently promoted (in the usual fashion) before their tour as a task unit commander is up, they will revert back to their actual rank of lieutenant. There are several hundred similar situations like this, and the Department of Defense is hoping that most of these temporary promotions become permanent, and that the officers stick around.


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