Officer Shortage Looming In Army




 
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Officer Shortage Looming In Army
 
March 12th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Officer Shortage Looming In Army


Officer Shortage Looming In Army
USA Today
March 12, 2007
Pg. 1

Likely to persist for 'several years'
By Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today
WEST POINT, N.Y. The Army, forced by five years of war to expand its ranks, faces a critical shortage of midlevel officers, interviews and military records show.
Those officers majors and lieutenant colonels manage troops at war. The Army estimates it has about 13,900 majors and 8,750 lieutenant colonels this year. It expects to have an annual shortage of 3,000 such officers through 2013 as it increases its ranks by 40,000 soldiers.
Beyond the shortage of midlevel officers looms an impending shortage of entry-level officers lieutenants from the U.S. Military Academy and university Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs. Last year, 846 cadets graduated from West Point; the goal was 900. There were 25,100 enrolled in ROTC out of a goal of 31,000, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative agency.
Only an increase in soldiers put through the Army's Officer Candidate School allowed the service to meet its goal for lieutenants, the report said. The school is a 14-week course that obligates graduates to two years in the Army. It is expected to reach capacity this year, the GAO said.
"They're going to have problems with field-grade officers big shortages," says Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. "They're going to have to limp through."
The shortage of midlevel officers stems from Pentagon decisions 10 years ago to reduce the number of officers commissioned after the Cold War, the GAO said.
Officers are staying in the Army at historically high rates, says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. The Army just needs more to feed its growing ranks. "We are short about 3,000 midgrade officers, particularly majors, and we will be for the next several years," he says.
The GAO report says officer retention has been a problem for the Army, in part because it "continues to remain heavily involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." In 2005, 62% of West Point graduates stayed beyond their five-year active-duty commitment. That's as much as 30 percentage points lower than the rates for graduates of the Navy and Air Force academies.
Expanding educational incentives could help the Army keep younger officers. For example, the Army offers to pay for graduate school for midlevel officers.
Navy and Air Force graduates often remain in service longer because of flight training programs that require longer active-duty commitments than the Army, said Col. Kelly Kruger, director of West Point's office of policy, plans and analysis.
West Point graduates are also attractive to the private sector, Kruger says. "They're highly sought-after. It's also a tough life for young officers."
Cadets know about "five and fly," the practice in which officers leave the Army after their five-year commitment, says cadet Liz Verardo, 21. She says she is considering an Army career as a helicopter pilot.
Jon Nielsen, West Point's highest-ranking cadet, says cadets know the toll that war is taking, but that hasn't deterred them. Nielsen, 25, says he had to announce the deaths of about 10 academy graduates to cadets in the span of a couple of weeks. Despite that, "You didn't have a flood of people heading to the gate to get out."
 


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