Attrition: Bonus Time and the Bean Counters


March 9, 2007: The U.S. Army has again adjusted the bonuses it will pay to recruits, or existing troops who have finished their enlistment. The money goes to those qualified for hard-to-fill jobs. These include Petroleum Supply Specialist (a dangerous job in Iraq), cooks, and if you can speak certain foreign languages, there's a five figure bonus waiting for you. About 30 percent of army jobs (MOSs, or Military Occupational Specialties) qualify for a cash bonus. Infantrymen can qualify for bonuses of $5,000- $14,000, depending on their rank, and how long they will reenlist for (up to six years.) Most of the bonuses go to technical specialists, often those who have skills also in great demand in the civilian world. But many of the skills in demand are purely military. These include a lot of analyst type jobs, like photo analyst, signals (electronic transmissions) analyst, and intelligence analyst. Actually, even military people in these jobs can transfer their skills to civilian work (police, corporate intelligence, or urban planning and raw materials exploration). Bonuses are being dropped for some jobs, usually in fields that are becoming highly automated (some communications systems jobs, and some clerical specialties.

The army uses recruiting analysts to calculate where the bonus money will do the most good. Similar systems are used in the civilian world, to calculate the most effective pay rates. This kind of analysis is largely invisible to most people, but increasingly drives decision making. Using analysis likes this was pioneered during World War II, and was referred to as Operations Analysis (OR). Anti-submarine and aerial warfare were revolutionized by OR, a problem solving technique (think of it as lots of math, and a little common sense) that only appeared in the 1930s. OR has since spawned many more types of analysis. You can see even see OR techniques playing a major role in television shows (like Numb3rs, and the CSI series). The army not only uses lots of math for fine tuning recruiting, but on the battlefield as well. But that's another story.


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