Monday, June 22, 2015


Is the "Up-or-Out" policy on the way out?  I for one hope so.

 In place officially* since at least 1980, this policy has wreaked havoc and caused a deleterious effect on leadership.  Many officers became strictly risk averse, worried that any mistake no matter how small would end their career. 

Or as put it: <i>"The current system is like the game of musical chairs in which large numbers of officers are forced out every few years as fellow officers shove them aside.  This produces a paranoid officer corps skilled at avoiding blame and evading problems as they focus their attention on the limited number chairs for when the music stops and selection board convenes."</i>

And that I believe is why we have ended up lately with some poor performing generals and admirals.

* note: Official policy in 1980 when the DOPMA (Defense Officer Personnel Management Act) standardized it.  But the practice was used during the late 70s before that by some commands.  And it was in use for both officers and enlisted.


  1. For a while, as a "manpower management tool", the Army had a category of selection used by promotion boards called, "Selection for Retention in Grade". This removed the "up or out" effect of passovers, and handled some of the one size fits all aspects of the personnel management system

  2. Al -

    Could that be determined by promotion boards? Didn't you have to go before some type of "Continuation Board"?

    PS - waiting to hear your next post on Greece, especially as the current situation affects Greek military forces and their relationship to NATO.

  3. It's also not really workable in a small professional force where the higher ranking slots become exponentially smaller. In a force where there are three O-3(P) for every O-4 slot two of the captains are going to have to go somewhere.

    But the alternative is the post-Civil War army, where you had 40-year old lieutenants and 60-year-old majors. Not sure that's workable today, either.

    Which is a fancy way of saying "not sure if I know how I'd solve this..."

    And the Grisis appears to be upon us; it will be interesting to see if the Greek people vote to allow the Troika to destroy their own government, or to leap alongside Syriza into the (potential!) abyss of post-euro-dom...

  4. Off-topic (but hopefully one of the bar-staff is interested in tackling it) here's Fred Kaplan putting all this IS hysteria in perspective:

    But I think he ends his essay a paragraph too soon. He concludes: It'ss not so much that war breeds terror. It’s that these modern wars, especially those in the Middle East, stem in large measure from the crumbling of the colonial order that was laid down at the end of World War I. These wars, many of them civil wars that spill across borders, are challenges to the legitimacy of that order, of those borders, and of the regimes whose power is wrapped up in those borders and that order. It’s the unwinding of authority, and the violent carving-out of separate (often sectarian or millenarian) enclaves, that breed terror. And, though the State Department report doesn’t say so, this terror will continue rising, and perhaps expanding, until—for better, worse, or probably a bit of both—a new order slouches toward the region to be born."You'll note my emphasis on the history. Almost all of the places that these rebellions and insurrections - which is really what a hell of a lot of this is; Sunni Arabs rebelling in the Mesopotamian heartland, northern Muslims rebelling in Nigeria, tribal rebellions in Libya and Somalia and Afghanistan - can be traced directly either to pre-colonial tribal rivalries or pre-colonial divisions that were exacerbated by colonial mismanagement and short-term "fixes" that left the places ripe for this sort of meltdown.

    Which, in turn, brings us back to the "War on Terror". Which, it appears, is starting to look like a "War on History", something that is infinitely more difficult to win regardless of how much blood and treasure you put into it.

    Anyway, just a thought for the next topic.

  5. I would not be able to do it justice. But it sounds like a topic right down your alley Chief!

  6. mike, Selection for Retention in Grade was a promotion board category, along with Selection for Promotion and Passover. The boards were given a max number for this, based on manpower needs. Allowed retaining personnel in the grade of Captain and Major when there was a glut of same and limited opening for promotion. Took place after the post Viet Nam reduction in force, which played havoc with the officer corps.

    The first two RIFs were "quantitative" and only tossed out Reserve Officers. The result was that there were a significant number of Regulars with performance records worse than Reservists being RIFed. The Army asked for and received special legislation to "qualitatively" RIF, to include Regulars, rather than wait for two passovers to cull the herd. I remember one list for promotion to Major that was released just before the RIFs that took 2 1/2 to exhaust before the next board could convene. The end result was all kinds of imbalances and Retention in Grade was used for a couple of years to smooth things out, particularly while waiting for serving mediocre Majors and Lt Cols who had met the 18 year "lock in" to be mandatorily retired at 20 years.

  7. Thanks Al - I knew a few Mustang officers that had elected to stay in at their highest enlisted grade instead of being RIFed post Korea. Imagine my surprise at a retirement parade and ceremony for a Master Sergeant in my outfit when he showed up wearing LtCol Oak Leaves.

  8. The Corps temporarily commissioned selected numbers of exceptional staff NOCs during Korea and Viet Nam, and they had something to return to with the drawdowns, reverting to their permanent enlisted rank, often with a promotion via "advance with peer group" policies. During Viet Nam, the Army simply increased their accessions to commissioned officer grades, and thus there was no place for the excess officers to go when RIFed but out, or try to enlist, which would put them in the lower ranks, as they had surrendered their enlisted status. But then, the Army had a much more massive number of Lieutenant billets to fill, and a personnel system for enlisted that really couldn't cull out the best for temporary commissioning. Thus, a Staff Sergeant would apply for OCS, or receive a direct commission (rare), graduate, be discharged from EM status and immediately be commissioned as a Reserve Officer on active duty. The temporary Marine officer remained under his enlistment and was concurrently commissioned a temporary reserve officer on active duty. Significant regulatory and legal differences.

    NEW SUBJECT- Was on the road until Monday. Obviously, we returned to a whole new ballgame. Folks are at the polls today. Cannot honorably prognosticate the outcome, either of the referendum nor lender response, but once the polls close I will start a thread of observations over the past week.