Modernizing Officer Career Management
Jan 19, 2021
This report addresses the issues of promotions, tenure, and other aspects of officer career management that lend themselves to modernization. The authors identify statutory, policy, cultural, and fiscal constraints on the military departments' flexibilities to make changes; they gather service perspectives on these constraints; and they offer potential mitigation strategies.
Additional Steps Toward Modernization
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With military departments becoming increasingly interested in modernizing officer career management, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) requested a study concerning legislative, policy, fiscal, and financial limits on various reforms. These reforms fall into three broad categories: promotions, tenure, and other issues. Promotions involve such issues as alternatives for technical-track career paths, possibilities for different competitive categories to have different promotion rates and frequency, policies to ensure that officers who opt out of promotion consideration are not adversely affected at future statutory boards, the pros and cons of a return to permanent and temporary promotions, and guidance regarding deployability. Tenure issues concern stagnant officers, removal of age limits for accessions, and contractual arrangements for officers. Other issues include providing for a continuum of service among active and reserve personnel, the use of warrant officers and limited duty officers in all the services, and the selective use of "officers without rank." In all cases, another important consideration concerns limits on the scale and timing of reforms to ensure that desired outcomes, measures of effectiveness, and results of the changes can be clearly identified, documented, and leveraged over time. In general, the authors find that an incremental approach that scales the reforms to small populations (at least initially) and avoids implementation of more than one reform at a time could eventually add considerable flexibility to the officer career management structure.
"Muddling Through": The Revolutionary Potential of Evolutionary Officer Management Reform
Conclusions and Way Forward
This research was sponsored by the OSD and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).
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