An appreciable number of the Quartermaster officers
selected for promotion to captain in 2000 are not still on
active duty. Multiple deployments to support the Global War
on Terrorism and an increased operating tempo are primarily
responsible for this attrition. The Quartermaster Corps is
providing on-the-job training and experience for officers
who, after completing their initial service obligation, will
leave the Army to become future managers and executives for
Thirty percent of the cadets who graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York, between 1970 and 1980
left the military after 6 years of service, and 48 percent
left after 10 years. Well-paying positions in the private
sector provide incentive and opportunity for this exodus,
which is not limited to the Quartermaster Corps.
Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) should reexamine
the Army’s officer accession policies. I believe that
no one should be allowed to become an officer without first
completing a minimum of 3 years of enlisted service. However,
senior military leaders and lawmakers would oppose any attempt
to institute this requirement.
The most viable option is to change the current policy to
allow mature, experienced enlisted personnel the opportunity
to become officers. The benefits are obvious. These Soldiers
already have demonstrated leadership ability; they understand
the Army and see career potential. Therefore, they would be
more likely to remain on active duty until retirement.
Currently, an incoming USMA cadet must be 22 years old or
younger as of 1 July of the year he enters the Academy. I
believe that Congress and DOD should increase the age limit
to 27 years old for enlisted personnel on active duty. This
would allow older, experienced individuals to attend and complete
the USMA Preparatory School (if necessary) and enroll at the
USMA with a wealth of military knowledge and leadership skills.
One-third of each incoming USMA class should come from the
enlisted ranks. Installation commanders can conduct the initial
oral interview boards, physical tests, and written examination,
and corps commanders can conduct subsequent boards and submit
recommendations of selected candidates to the USMA.
The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Green-to-Gold
Program (active duty option) is a 2-year
program that provides an opportunity for enlisted Soldiers
to complete a bachelor’s degree and earn a commission.
The applicant must be under 31 years old on 31 December of
the year of commissioning. The age limitation for this program
should remain unchanged. This enables service members to serve
a sufficient number of years as commissioned officers before
retirement for the Army to recoup its investment.
The age limitation for completing Officer Candidate School—no
more than 29 years old at the time of enrollment—is
adequate. However, some graduates will lack a bachelor’s
degree. A college degree, regardless of major, is regarded
as a “union card” for entrance and retention in
the officer corps. Career officers also are encouraged to
obtain advanced degrees in addition to required military education
such as the Army Command and General Staff College and the
Army War College.
I am unaware of any studies that show a direct correlation
between the level of education and the ability to lead people
and make sound decisions under extreme pressure with limited
information available. Lacking a bachelor’s degree should
not be a deterrent for commissioning a Soldier who has demonstrated
outstanding leadership ability. These Soldiers, if commissioned,
should be afforded the opportunity to take college-level courses
that will enhance their performance as leaders, such as English
composition, economics, accounting, statistics, and principles
of management. The lack of a bachelor’s degree should
not be a major discriminator in the officer corps retention
and promotion process.
The best way to stem the current exodus of officers is to
afford outstanding enlisted Soldiers the opportunity to obtain
commissions. Remember: “Every Soldier carries a field
marshal’s baton in
James T. Delisi works part time for a nonprofit organization.
He retired from Federal Civil Service as a management analyst
with the Army Forces Command. He also retired as a lieutenant
colonel in the Army Reserve, where he served more than 10
years as an enlisted Soldier before receiving a direct commission
as a first lieutenant. He has a B.A. degree in political science
from Duquesne University and an M.A. degree in business management
from Central Michigan University.