The Longer-Term View: Junior Officers
Let's take a look at the effect of the war and the recruiting situation on our military's first-level leaders of troops: junior officers (Lieutenants and Captains, followed by Majors). On the one hand, a higher proportion than usual are leaving after completing their service obligations (four or five years). Since the total commitment is eight years, in the remaining period the former officer is subject to call-up from the Individual Ready Reserve. This doesn't help our military to retain good, experienced personnel for the longer term.
The ongoing exodus of experienced combat leaders does not bode well for our military in the future, especially given the larger proportion of Category IV recruits enlisted in October and November 2005. [It was 12% in October; it was in the "double digits" in November but the Pentagon won't say exactly how much. The annual maximum is 4%, recently doubled from 2%. Here's the math.]
Those who remain are being promoted at a much higher rate than before. This is particularly true for new Majors; 97% of all Captains are being promoted to Major, compared to around 80% in years past. The comparable figure for First Lieutenant to Captain is not provided, but is likely to be high. [Note: The ideal percentage is probably higher than 80%, but is it really as high as 97%? This is even more important for promotable First Lieutenants.]
Promoting less than 100% maintains the quality of the officer corps as the lowest-performing 100-x% must leave. With all due respect to promotable Captains, is that really what our country and our military need?