Is there anyone more clueless than Donald "You go to war with the army you have" Rumsfeld? Army's Rising Promotion Rate Called Ominous - Los Angeles Times
Yet the increase in promotions is partly due to the large number of Army officers choosing to leave the service. Army officers are getting out of the military at the highest rate since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, shrinking the pool of officers eligible for promotion.
According to Army data, the portion of junior officers (lieutenants and captains) choosing to depart for civilian life rose last year to 8.6%, up from 6.3% in 2004. The attrition rate for majors rose to 7% last year, up from 6.4% in 2005. And the rate for lieutenant colonels was 13.7%, the highest in more than a decade.
"The most precious thing in the military is our talent and not our technology," said retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan last year to assess the state of the U.S. military missions in the countries. "What we don't want to do is come out of [these wars] and lose what we lost after Vietnam."
The departure of Army officers in those years created what many military historians have called a "hollow force."
Last year, the Army exceeded by 8% its overall goal for retaining active-duty enlisted troops, a figure President Bush cited last week as a sign of the service's health.
Also last week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed recent reports — including one commissioned by the Pentagon — that the Army was facing a looming personnel crisis, and said the "battle-hardened" military was as strong as ever.
Yet many senior officers and outside experts worry that rising attrition rates for officers could be an ominous sign of an eventual exodus from the service's leadership ranks.
They say that with many officers in line for a third yearlong combat tour in Iraq, it is inevitable that a growing number would choose to leave the military to relieve strain on their family lives.
The exodus "will be among officers whose families say, 'Look, there are 300 million people in this country; let somebody else take their turn,' " McCaffrey said.
The Pentagon-commissioned report, released publicly last week, agreed.
"The demands for Army ground-force deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq are not likely to decline substantially any time soon," said the report by retired Army Lt. Col. Andrew F. Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The service "risks having many of its soldiers decide that a military career is too arduous or too risky an occupation for them and their families to pursue."
Hilferty, the Army spokesman, said there was only "anecdotal evidence" that the strains of war were pushing officers out of the Army.