Murphy's Law: Scrambling For Slots


November 20, 2007: The creation of the U.S. Navy's Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) resulted in many officers who had been "passed over" for promotion, to add a few years to their careers. The Navy – and all the other services as well – "slims" down the number of officers from grade to grade (those not promoted after a certain number of years are retired or discharged). This gets pretty rough after a while, as there are fewer and fewer available jobs as one moves upwards. For example, about half of all O-3s (lieutenants in Navy usage) make it to O-4 (lieutenant commander), but hardly one in ten O-6s make it to O-7 (rear admiral). Competition at the highest levels means that even excellent officers can find their careers coming to an end because there's no slots for them. The navy has also been going through a downsizing, which further hurts promotion prospects.

So when the NECC was formed, a surprising number of officers, who had been passed over for promotion, transferred, to fill administrative slots in the new command. After all, an aviator with experience as an S-1 (Personnel) is perfectly qualified to perform those same duties in the NECC. This has given a number of officers a few extra years of active service, which means higher retirement pay. And apparently in a few instances, the officers in question found that they were suddenly eligible for promotion again.


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