- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Like the Atlantic article said, the best officers may indeed be leaving the military services, report two graduate students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In their survey of "nearly 250 former junior military officers," 80 percent of respondents said the best officers were bailing out.
Even more interesting is why they are leaving.
The report, based on found that the two top reasons for leaving were "limited ability to control their own careers" and "frustration with military bureaucracy." High operating tempo and compensation were not real drivers. (Tom: I’ve long thought that optempo kicks in as a problem more with officers likely to have more than one child, and especially multiple adolescents — that is, majors and above.)
The former officers overwhelmingly believed that the Army did not reward talent with faster promotions, and did not do a good job of matching talent to jobs. As the authors of this paper noted, an exodus of talented young officers is not just a problem in itself, but also "a symptom of larger underlying institutional challenges."