Attrition: Cash Compulsion For Captains


September 26, 2007: The U.S. military has been having a hard time keeping junior officers in uniform, after their current four or more year obligations (for active duty) have expired. We're talking mostly about captains here, officers who have demonstrated ability and been promoted to captain (O-3) within five years. Captains have the hardest job, as they have lots ofresponsibility (usually commanding a hundred or more troops), and spend a lot of time outside the wire (and exposed to enemy fire). Moreover, captains tend to be in their late 20s, married and with young kids. Getting a higher paying civilian job, and spending more time at home is very tempting.

In response, the army is doing what works (for the military and civilian firms), offering bonuses to captains it most wants to hold on to for at least another four years. The army, navy and air force are targeting nearly 20,000 O-3s they want to keep. The different bonuses offered to each job category are interesting. The highest bonus ($40,000) is being offered to navy O-3s in intelligence. Next ($35,000) come army captains in aviation, transportation, infantry, artillery, and intelligence. Note that transportation units run those daily supply convoys, the ones that take a lot of the roadside bombs. Bonuses of $30,000 are offered lawyers and those in armor, chemical warfare, military police and ordnance (handling ammo and repairing weapons). Bonuses of $25,000 are offered captains in air defense, engineers, finance, signal, quartermaster (handling supplies), nurses and certain medical service specialties.Lower bonuses are being offered for other specialties.

While these bonuses work, they do not address the problems many captains have with the way the military handles leadership and management. It's quite different out in the civilian world, and many captains don't understand why their are differences. Many civilians don't either. But most captains recognize that the military, and particularly a combat zone, create unique environments, where familiar civilian practices don't work.


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