Strength Maintenance: A Risk Management Approach

By Taylor, Teresa Z. | Military Review, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Strength Maintenance: A Risk Management Approach


Taylor, Teresa Z., Military Review


THE U.S. ARMY MUST accomplish many evolving missions, encompassing everything from disaster relief to prosecuting the Global War on Terrorism. An all-volunteer multi-component force performs these missions. As Operation Iraqi Freedom intensifies and deployments lengthen, Army organizations are experiencing recruitment problems, and concerns are being voiced about soldier retention.

Until recently, all Army components have been successful in achieving recruiting goals. (1) In 2004, the Active Army and the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) met their recruiting mission. However, the U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) did not: it fell 5,000 short of its recruiting goal for the year. (2) To help meet its 2005 recruiting objectives, the Army's recruiting command has lowered some standards for recruits. (3) Some have also raised the issue of reinstating the draft. While that might be an option, most Americans still support an all-volunteer Army.

Strength-Maintenance Management Model

The Army's strength-maintenance program is designed to recruit quality soldiers, retain military occupation specialty (MOS)qualified soldiers, and reduce first-term soldier losses. (4) The strength-maintenance management model offers a balanced approach to the development of initiatives aimed at recruiting quality soldiers. Its programs are designed to retain the maximum number of trained soldiers. Figure 1 shows the essential elements of the strength-maintenance program.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Equally important to strength maintenance are programs that would reduce attrition while enhancing retention of trained soldiers. Attrition rates vary between Army components. A recent General Accounting Office (GAO) analysis of Active Army attrition rates found a first-term attrition rate of 39 percent for enlistees entering the service in 1995. (5) In fiscal year (FY) 2003, the Department of Defense (DOD) met its Reserve Component (RC) attrition goals, in the aggregate, with an overall attrition rate of 18.4 percent--the lowest since 1991. This lower rate is attributed to the Reserve Component's support of the Global War on Terrorism and the post-11 September 2001 implementation of stop-loss programs that minimize attrition in certain military positions. (6) However, as the Army struggles to meet all the demands placed on it, concerns are being raised about the percentage of soldiers who might leave the military rather than face further deployments. (7)

Operation Iraqi Freedom adds additional pressure to Army leaders who were already reexamining their terms of service to the Army. In 2001, the Army completed its Training and Leader Development Panel (ATLDP) study that identified concerns about elevated attrition rates for commissioned, noncommissioned, and warrant officers. (8) The ATLDP study identified that Army downsizing, with the concurrent shift and increase in mission requirements, contributed to a zero-defects, micromanagement climate. (9) Some specific findings of the study that have affected retention rates include--

* High operational tempo (OPTEMPO).

* The officer assignment process. The process focuses on personnel management rather than quality professional development.

* Attrition of captains. Because junior officers are rushed through developmental leadership positions to fill personnel shortages, their ability to master tactical and leadership skills is affected negatively.

* Junior officer job satisfaction. Junior officers are concerned about their duties and the imbalance between the Army's needs and their family's needs.

While each component participates in recruitment, Army leaders are responsible for implementing retention and attrition programs in their units. Because attrition management is essential to force readiness, retention and attrition programs must be focused, appropriate, and productive. I propose applying the Army's risk-management process to a unit's retention and attrition program to achieve a more measured and consistent approach to the process. …

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