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The Military's Officer Crunch

The Military's Officer Crunch

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The US Army emblem hangs on a wall at West Point. Source: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Source: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Foreign Policy magazine came out with its "US Military Index," one part of which focuses on the challenges of filling the ranks, particularly among young Army officers:

Last year, the Army had a shortage of 3,000 captains and majors, a deficit that is expected to double by 2010. Fifty-eight percent of the West Point class of 2002 left active duty when their obligation to serve expired in 2007. Reversing these and other troubling signs will be critical to improving the health of the U.S. Military.

It's a problem that appears to be accelerating because of long deployments, strains on families, and frustration over how the war in Iraq is being waged. In an article in December's Washington Monthly magazine, Andrew Tilghman explained:

In 2003, around 8 percent of junior officers with between four and nine years of experience left for other careers. Last year, the attrition rate leapt to 13 percent. "A five percent change could potentially be a serious problem," said James Hosek, an expert in military retention at the RAND Corporation. Over the long term, this rate of attrition would halve the number of officers who reach their tenth year in uniform and intend to take senior leadership roles.

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But the concern isn't simply over meeting recruiting goals. "The Army also appears to be losing its most gifted young officers," Tilghman wrote. "In 2005, internal Army memos started to warn of the 'disproportionate loss of high-potential, high-performance junior leaders.'"

We'll have Andrew Tilghman on the show today, and talk with him about what he heard from the former officers he talked with, and why they left the military. We'll also talk with Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, about the challenges the military faces. If you're a current or former military officer, what's your story? Are you thinking of leaving? Did you leave? Why or why not?