The Army is preparing to launch in March a five-year, nearly 50,000-soldier drawdown, using a combination of accession cuts and voluntary and involuntary separations, similar to the post-Cold War drawdown of the 1990s, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, service personnel chief.
Bostick, the Army G-1, said the pending drawdown initially will focus on the temporary 22,000-soldier increase launched three years ago to support the Afghanistan troop surge.
These soldiers can be removed from the force primarily through offsets in accessions and retention, sources say.
The second phase of the drawdown involves 27,000 soldier spaces that were added to end strength during the Grow the Army program, leaving the service with 520,400 active-duty soldiers on Sept. 30, 2016.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the service’s new chief of staff, said in early September that the Army probably will be cut beyond the 520,000-soldier level now planned.
Bostick said “it’s not so important what the end number will be, but what will the ramp be to get to the final total? We don’t want a steep drop off.
“We can do this, and we will manage it just as we have done in the past,” said Bostick, who is pending Senate confirmation to become the chief of engineers.
“We feel that with the demand going down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and given the time to conduct a reasonable drawdown, we can manage (the force reduction) just as we have managed drawdowns in the past.”
Information provided by Bostick’s staff indicates the Army is considering all options for reducing end strength, including:
• Voluntary and involuntary separations
Officials note that statutory authority for some of the separation incentives used in the 1990s, such as the Special Separation Bonus, have expired. The Army has asked Congress to extend or reinstate a range of force-shaping authorities, officials said.
Those Cold War-era incentives included:
• Financial incentives.
• Temporary reductions in the service obligation incurred for promotion to the senior field-grades.
• Authority to conduct selective early retirement boards.
“We are currently reviewing the lessons drawn from the 1990s as captured in reports by the Army, Congressional Budget Office and the other services to ensure that we retain as much experience as possible from the ongoing conflicts (in Iraq and Afghanistan),” said a member of Bostick’s staff.
“As in the 1990s, the Army may need to conduct involuntary separations to meet mandated end-strength, but we will do everything we can to shape the force through competitive promotions, reclassifications and voluntary separations before we take harsher measures,” the official said.
Some force-shaping tools added to Army policy over the past two years include new, and stricter, retention control points for enlisted soldiers, a Qualitative Management Program to separate retirement-eligible senior noncommissioned officers who do not measure up to Army standards of behavior and performance, and the elimination of selective continuation for certain categories of officers who are twice passed over for promotion.
After several years of growth, promotions to the ranks of sergeant through sergeant major stalled two years ago at about 45,000 annually when Army end strength leveled off, and are unlikely to return to the record levels of 50,000 to 55,000 seen during Grow the Army.
Selection rates to drop
G-1 officials said with significant reductions to end strength scheduled through fiscal 2016, officers can expect to see adverse effects on promotion pin-on-points and selection opportunity.
“The Army will continue to promote its most qualified and experienced officers based on potential and performance, but selection rates almost certainly will decrease across all grades as end-strength requirements are reduced,” said a G-1 official.
“For example, our captain inventory is slightly above authorized strength so we will begin to reduce promotion opportunity rates to captain with the fiscal 2012 board (that convenes Nov. 30),” the official said.
The pin-on-point for advancement to captain also will increase, so that officers, on average, will spend 42 months as a lieutenant, rather than 38.
G-1 officials expect that pin-on-points for the field-grade ranks will remain consistent with the past few years, which have been slightly ahead of the promotion point goals of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act, the law governing the accession, promotion, separation and retirement of officers.
“The Army is committed to retaining as much of the hard-won experience our officer corps has gained over the past decade of conflict,” said an official.
“We will bring our selection rates back toward DOPMA goals as smoothly as possible, however promotion selection will become more competitive for all Army officers in the coming years,” said the official.
Under DOPMA, the selection opportunity goals are 90 percent for advancement to captain, 80 percent for major, 70 percent for lieutenant colonel and 50 percent for colonel.