Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Comment of the day: Why we should move military retirement to 30 years

Here’s a sane comment from "Hungry Joe" that ran near the end of that draft/national service discussion that brought out all the crazies a week or so ago. Joe is one of those lurking readers who surfaces about once a year with a really thoughtful contribution: As a mid-level officer (going on 12 years in ...

history.navy.mil
history.navy.mil
history.navy.mil

Here's a sane comment from "Hungry Joe" that ran near the end of that draft/national service discussion that brought out all the crazies a week or so ago. Joe is one of those lurking readers who surfaces about once a year with a really thoughtful contribution:

As a mid-level officer (going on 12 years in now) I definitely feel like some of your ideas have merit. Particularly a 30 year retirement. For quite some time it has made no sense to me why we give major incentive for our personnel to get out when they should be at the most productive phase of their careers.

You would need to revamp the promotion system, making it slower overall. You would also allow more flexibility in assignments, affording a more diverse experience base through additional opportunities through joint tours, sabbaticals, and education (education tours are something my branch in particular, the Navy, does not do very well).

Here’s a sane comment from "Hungry Joe" that ran near the end of that draft/national service discussion that brought out all the crazies a week or so ago. Joe is one of those lurking readers who surfaces about once a year with a really thoughtful contribution:

As a mid-level officer (going on 12 years in now) I definitely feel like some of your ideas have merit. Particularly a 30 year retirement. For quite some time it has made no sense to me why we give major incentive for our personnel to get out when they should be at the most productive phase of their careers.

You would need to revamp the promotion system, making it slower overall. You would also allow more flexibility in assignments, affording a more diverse experience base through additional opportunities through joint tours, sabbaticals, and education (education tours are something my branch in particular, the Navy, does not do very well).

This system would also allow flexibility for servicemembers, and officers in particular, to stay in assignments for a longer duration. Too many billets in the Navy allot only two years (or less!) before rotation. In my experience, it takes at least six months to learn the ropes of an organization before you are effective. From this view, a two year rotation system is very inefficient.

Furthermore, operational tour length could be extended providing more bang for the training buck. Consider the example of a typical Naval Aviator. After graduating from 2 to 3 years of training, an officer will spend 36 months flying operationally in his first sea tour. He will then go on to other assignments, returning about 5 years later to an operational squadron as a department head for 24 to 30 months. After that some more time spent in other tours. Then if he is competent and very lucky he will come back for a combined XO/CO tour of 24 months. So out of an entire flying career, he will at best spend 7.5 years in operational tours actually performing the mission. If he fails to screen for command (and the vast majority won’t) it drops down to only 5.5 years. Considering the millions of dollars it takes to train an aviator and the $1 to 2 million or so the taxpayers will pay to support him in retirement (considering all benefits), extending careers to 30 years and providing for additional or extended operational tours provides for better return on investment. Not to mention the benefit of having more experienced aviators in the aircraft.

Thomas 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 ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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