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High-speed drawdown: Army ramps up force-outs

Oct. 21, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Soldiers of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watch as their unit is inactivated Oct. 17.
Soldiers of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watch as their unit is inactivated Oct. 17. (Army)
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NCO Careers

NCO PROMOTION SELECT RATESQ. How will the drawdown affect the overall promotion selection rates for senior NCOs for fiscal 2014? Over the past five years, those rates have averaged 11.85 percent for sergeant major, 11.24 percent for master sergeant and 21.31 percent for sergeant first class.
A. Selection rates for upcoming boards are expected to be lower, remembering that the 2014 boards will select against 2015 promotion requirements. The demand for NCOs will be less (as the Army gets smaller) and promotion requirements will decrease.
Looking back at the drawdown of the 1990s, each NCO grade experienced a single year with significantly reduced selection rates. It’s possible that may happen again, but the Army is making every effort to preserve promotion opportunities as it considers that critical in sustaining an all-volunteer force.
RETENTION CONTROL POINT CHANGESQ. Is the Army reducing retention control points for promotable specialists and corporals and promotable sergeants from 12 to eight years and 15 to 14 years, respectively, in 2014?
A. The proposed changes are being staffed through the Army leadership with a target effective date of Jan. 1, 2014.
Q. Why the change?
A. The change synchronizes retention control points (with the other grades), and supports (the new) leader development timelines, allowing the Army to develop and retain the quality soldiers who have the greatest potential for continued service.
Q. The Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve master sergeant boards will convene Oct. 22. Has the Army leadership approved a policy that will allow certain documents in the “restricted” section of an NCO’s personnel file to be included in the sergeant first class Qualitative Service Program retention screenings that will be conducted by these boards?
A. Effective with the Oct. 22 boards, all QSP boards will be provided with within-grade information that is accurate, relevant and complete from the restricted folder in the Army Military Human Resources Record. The new policy will allow boards to identify soldiers for continued service who have the greatest potential for future contributions to the Army.
Items in the restricted folder that will now be provided boards include Article 15 or other Uniform Code of Military Justice actions that have not been set aside; Department of the Army Suitability Board filings of unfavorable information; and punitive or administrative letters of reprimand, admonition or censure.
Q. Is the Army considering a policy that would allow soldiers to submit voluntary retirement applications 24 months in advance of the requested retirement date? Once approved, the soldier would then be stabilized at his or her current station to finish out their career.
A. No, the Army is not considering changing the submission of retirement applications.
Q. Will a new Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Report be fielded in 2015?
A. Yes, tentatively. The forms are pre-decisional and are being staffed.
Officer Careers

Q. Is the new Officer Evaluation Report on schedule for fielding in December? Has design work on the strategic leaders form been completed?
A. Human Resources Command will implement the new OER by April 1, 2014. Recent changes in the Strategic Grade Forms for colonel and brigadier general reports are done and implementation delayed from Dec. 1, 2013, to April 1, 2014.
Q. Is a Selective Early Retirement Board planned in fiscal 2014 for field-grade officers?
A. As in fiscal 2013, SERBs and enhanced SERBS likely will meet until the Army’s inventory is in line with requirements.
Q. Will a reduction in force, or RIF, be conducted for captains and majors?
A. Beginning in fiscal 2014, the Army will convene Officer Selection Separation Boards and to separate up to 30 percent of captains and majors from certain year groups.
Q. Are any retention screenings planned for warrant officers?
A. As with field-grade officers, there is a potential.
Q. Promotion select rates for officers appear to be returning to levels before 9/11. Will they be stabilized at those levels through the drawdown?
A. Promotion rates will lower in pace with the drawdown. Once the inventory is in line with future authorizations, promotion rates should return to historical norms.
Q. What are the average promotion pin-on points now for captain through colonel of the Army Competitive Category?
A. The average pin-on point now for captains is three years and seven months (of active federal commissioned service). Over the next 12 months, four years will become average..
The average pin-on point for major is nine years and eight months of service, shifting to 11 years.
The average for lieutenant colonel is 16 years and six months, and for colonel 22 years, one month. Both are likely to be stable.

The Army will use a full menu of involuntary separation programs, beginning immediately, to reach an end strength of 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2015, according to Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg.

The Army will use a full menu of involuntary separation programs, beginning immediately, to reach an end strength of 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2015, according to Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg.

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The Army will use a full menu of involuntary separation programs, beginning immediately, to reach an end strength of 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2015, according to Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg.

The service had planned to reach 490,000 by the end of 2017, but the accelerated strategy is designed to help the service prepare for any additional manpower cuts generated by sequestration and other budgetary matters.

The new plan requires the Army to reduce the active force by nearly 42,000 soldiers by Sept. 30, 2015.

While the first years of the drawdown saw the separation of some 10,000 soldiers who had been backlogged in the disability evaluation system, and the involuntary separation of thousands more for misconduct and failure to comply with standards for fitness, weight control and grooming, the coming years increasingly will focus on balancing the grade and specialty content of a reconfigured force.

This means many soldiers who have good records, and who are fully qualified for continued service, will have to leave active duty because of the drawdown numbers game.

Since the Army began reducing end strength two years ago, 33,828 soldiers have come off the active-duty rolls. In total, the ongoing drawdown will reduce the active component by 75,000 soldiers.

Pentagon officials estimate 5,000 officers and 20,000 enlisted soldiers will be forced to leave active duty, through involuntary separation or early retirement, as a result of the force reduction.

“This does not mean we are going to have to do a bunch of things differently,” Bromberg said of the plan to accelerate the drawdown by two years. “We are on a pretty good glide path now, and the things we will have to do [to achieve 490,000 by 2015] are around the edges.

“I don’t have to put new programs in place, or greatly increase the numbers we are going after,” he added. “I am going to look at accessions first, because this could help us get at some of that [additional end strength reduction].”

The Army recruited 69,000 people for the active component in fiscal 2013. While the Army has not yet announced the recruiting mission for 2014, Bromberg said it likely will be smaller than 2013.

Steeper cuts forecast

Although 490,000 has been the objective manning goal since 2011, it now appears the drawdown could go much deeper, with cuts of up to 70,000 more soldiers targeted between 2018 and 2023.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno recently told the House Armed Services Committee that if the Army is to rebalance readiness and modernize, end strength should not drop below 420,000 in the active component, 315,000 in the Army National Guard and 185,000 in the Army Reserve.

Pentagon officials said if steeper cuts are ordered, the Army will use the same strategies and programs now in place to achieve additional reductions. Officials do not foresee the need to offer buyouts, which were key in the 1990s drawdown.

“These are different times now, and we have to really look at how we resize and reshape the Army to meet the operational requirements of the future,” Bromberg said. “We think the involuntary measures we have identified are a better way to shape for the future in terms of retaining soldiers in the right skills and abilities,” he said.

During the past two years, the Army introduced some drawdown management programs that involved retention screenings that focused on a soldier’s grade and specialty affiliation, such as the Qualitative Service Program for senior noncommissioned officers, and the Selective Early Retirement Board process for colonels and lieutenant colonels.

Those procedures have been retained and will be used in 2014 and beyond.

The QSP process, which involves retention screenings for Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve soldiers, is designed to align military occupational specialties that are overstrength and have limited promotion opportunity.

In a change of policy that applies to the master sergeant boards that convene Oct. 22, and other boards that convene in the future, QSP panels will be provided access to officially documented derogatory information that is in the restricted folder of a soldier’s personnel file. Previously, these boards did not have access to such information.

While the Army has yet to announce the zones of consideration, it appears likely that SERBs and Enhanced SERBs will meet in 2014 and beyond, to align the Army’s inventory of field-grade officers, and possibly warrant officers, with projected requirements for the redesigned force.

RIFs for officers

For the first time since the 1970s, the Army will convene reduction-in-force boards for captains and majors in overstrength year groups. Bromberg said the Army is seeking approval for this initiative from the Pentagon “and we expect to convene Officer Selection Separation Boards for multiple year groups of captains and majors beginning in the spring of 2014.”

Pending Defense Department approval, Bromberg said the zone of consideration and other details for the officer boards will be available this fall.

The Army on Jan. 1 will launch a new leader development strategy that tightens the linkage between completion of NCO education courses and promotions. In support of that strategy, the Army leadership is considering a proposal that would deny continued service to staff sergeants and sergeants first class who fail to complete requirements for continued promotion eligibility.

Under this proposal, staff sergeants who fail to complete the Advanced Leaders Course and sergeants first class in the Senior Leaders Course after 48 months in grade as E-6s and E-7s would be subject to a retention screening under the Qualitative Management Program.

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