U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Walter
Statistically, the Navy does not have an officer retention problem. Yet everyone knows in reality, many of the best people are leaving. Despite the high volumes of officers who voluntarily resign their commissions as lieutenants, competition is still tight to make lieutenant commander. Aviation and surface warfare easily makes all the department heads that it needs to — although many would argue that this is in part because the Navy brings in even more people than it needs to. Some units have new officers who are given fake jobs at their first assignment because rather than try to retain the people it already has, the Navy just made more ensigns. Even Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Admiral Bill Moran expressed awareness and concern in 2015 that the Navy is losing people it should retain, despite maintaining the numbers it needs to.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton
In part one, I discussed the proposition advanced by David Barno and Nora Bensahel that a rigid and anachronistic personnel system is inhibiting our ability to retain our most talented officers. I took issue with their apparent remedy: to give more perks and benefits to individuals who already enjoy substantial perks and benefits. Their analysis of the issue was logically inconsistent in that it identified requirements, but lamented those requirements when implemented. Their analysis was incomplete in that it did not consider opportunities to serve in our civilian workforce, did not consider whether talented officers whom we are losing are actually the most talented among their peers, and it ignored the reality that problems concerning family life, stability, and predictability are improving as deployments have become less frequent.