A little birdie visited the other day, and among its droppings we discovered a very interesting .pptx document: Its title was HUMAN RESOURCES COMMAND: Briefing to to General Odierno, CSA, 10 July 2014.
Yes, the double “to” is in the title, and yes, it was shown to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) that way, and yes, he missed it, too. The country’s in the very best of hands.
We’ve had the document for about a week now, and have shared it with some Army friends, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones. It’s unclassified, but we didn’t want to share it all publicly for one very specific reason: since much of it deals with the officer RIFs, there are some specific slides that are potentially damaging to the reputations and privacy of individual officers selected for separation by several recent boards. One slide in particular uses the DA photos of four individuals selected for termination (three of them combat vets with the CIB or CAB) and demeans them in the process of arguing HRC’s position, which stripped of personnel-wallah cant is basically: these are the slugs we’re getting rid of.
As we’ll see, the HRC definition of a “slug” is somewhat different from ours. (Ours encompasses much of the Human Resources Command, for starters). But our concern is that these four proud officers, and others whose individual selves may be clearly identifiable from elements in the presentation, need not be personally dragged in the mud in public, just because they were privately dragged through the mud — unknowingly — for the edification of the Chief of Staff. Maybe they are slugs, but to have that decision made by a Washington-based personnel drone whose plush bottom has polished his chair smooth is some gross violation of the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury. As in the 1970s RIFs, there seems to be a bias against combat vets and for the combat-shy baked into the system.
The Agenda of the meeting was the following.
Officer Separation Board (OSB) Follow Up
Command Selection List (CSL) Audit Update
CSL Briefing Due Outs (7 Apr 14)
Branch Monitoring Update
Cyber Branch Update
Korea Rotation Business Rules and Manning Timeline
Building NCOs for 2035
Other Key Initiatives
Each item deserves analysis, but we’re going to stick to the Officer Separation Board (OSB) in the interests of brevity and focus. We’re most likely to circle back, in future posts, to the Korea Rotation and Building NCOs bits (2035? Yeah, FY 15 is just around the corner, and career NCOs joining as privates today will be senior NCOs in 2035… if we still have a nation and an Army, and HRC hasn’t mismanaged it into strategic defeat). And the “Branch Monitoring” thing? That’s Affirmative Action quota management in action, especially for combat arms. Surely there’s a post in that. But we need to fixate on the OSB for now.
How Does A Captain or Major Get out of this Chickenshit Army? The OSB!
7,957 Majors, a rank that normally comprises only career, not obligated-service, officers, were considered, and 550 of them were selected .
What was a career killer? Having Officer Evaluation Reports that list you as “Center Of Mass” of your peers (“COM”s). Even if three of your last four were “Above Center Of Mass,” one COM could kill you. Now, commanders can’t give everyone ACOM, and the COMs often go to the new guy who volunteered to fill in on a deployment, etc. In other words, the system has an intrinsic bias against voluntary deployers and independent thinkers, and an intrinsic bias towards toadies and suck-ups. Courtney Massengale, call your office. You didn’t get riffed. There’s also a Below Center Of Mass (BCOM). If you got one of those, you’re history; HRC treated it as one of the four Poison Pills.
An officer of our acquaintance used to mentor cadets thus: “There are only two kinds of OERs, perfect and career-ending. You just don’t know when and how the second kind ends your career.”
The Four Poison Pills were derogatory reports in an officer’s file. Those included a General Officer Memorandum Of Reprimand (for which the Army has two acronyms: GOMOR and GOMAR), Article 15 Nonjudicial Punishment, the above-mentioned BCOM, and something called an NLJ, an acronym that is not in the HRC acronym glossary, and that no one we know could explain.
We believe it to be the existence of a comment on an officer’s OER that indicates Non Leadership Judgment — a severe condemnation from a rater or senior rater, if that’s the case. ETA: NLJ has been explained by many helpful commenters as “Not Left Justified,” meaning an officer has an OER with a check in any box other than the one that says he or she is superior to his or her peers. We’re grateful for the correction and explanation. In any event, one of any of the poison pills was a career killer.
Of the 550 Majors selected for disposal:
||Derogatory information in file (GOMOR, etc). Guys who blotted their copybook. (Or pissed someone important off).
|We believe that to be “non leadership judgment” Basically, a non-max OER; see the comments for a detailed explanation.
||COM OERs. Most of them had ALL COMs (87), some had one ACOM and 4 (the ones pictured in the slide mentioned in the text) had multiple ACOMs, but at least one COM.
||had a BCOM OER. This is essentially a rater’s method of ejecting an officer from the army (albeit a delayed-action method).
The derogatory information didn’t have to be recent. Got a GOMOR as a 2nd Lieutenant for Dumb LT Tricks, eight years ago? Kiss your ass goodbye. Got an Article 15 as a private before soldiering your way back into the Army’s good graces, and then getting a ROTC scholarship? You’re gone.
A non-GO Memorandum Of Reprimand was also a career killer, if you got it for something the Chief of Staff doesn’t like — like carrying a personally owned weapon. That sent one combat-vet with a Purple Heart to the Dreaded Private Sector.
Being overweight, or looking overweight in your photo: killer.
A more trivial career killer, but one the board actually used: having your official DA photo in the old Army Green service uniform, not the new blue Army Service Uniform. Given the few seconds’ consideration the board gave to each officer, the photo has an outsized impact. (Some board veterans say they look at other things besides the photo, but by that, they mean “look for signs of a COM or BCOM OER.”)
Another career killer: being in the AFPak Hands program. Captains in this program got borked at a higher level, and Majors at a double level, than average for those ranks. In addition to the RIF that decimated the company grad and junior field grades, LTCs who volunteered for the AFPAK program have also committed career seppuku: in FY 14, only 6& were selected for command and 3% for promotion to Colonel (compared to 27% and 40% of officers who declined this particular forlorn hope).
Why is command selection a big deal? The LTC Command Selection List is probably the single most key event in a senior officer’s career. Only one in twelve or so is selected. Roughly ¾ of the officers selected for Command at that level will be promoted to COL and offered attendance at a Senior Service College such as the US Army War College, an important grooming milestone for general officer. Roughly half of the COL selectees will make the COL level Command Selection List, so the gating function of the LTC CSL is clear.
Similarly to the poor bastards of the once-emphasized but now-radioactive AFPAK program, officers in the understrength Functional Area 48, Foreign Area Officers, were hit hard. And the hardest hit among them were officers whose area was in the CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility (AOR) — the most deeply understrength area.
Five of these 48Gs were among the 14 48s binned, for such HRC violations as one of the Four Poison Pills and, in one case, the crime of wearing greens in his DA Photo. From the outside looking in, it looks like one more war-vet purge. One of the terminated 48s was the current Army Attaché in a nation where the USA cooperates closely with the government while we together fight a strong insurgent presence. The geniuses at Human Resources Command haven’t any prospect of laying hands on an Arabic speaker to replace him until January of 2015, so they’re hoping he’ll take one for the team that screwed him and forego terminal leave.
See, that’s why we need professional personnel officers, to make brilliant moves like that.
Most of the officers selected were in troop units, but that’s where most officers in these grades are.
What Amulets Protected and What Didn’t
Having come into the Army the “right” way was a big factor, but all it did was change the rate of selection (the only source of commission from which nobody was selected was service acadmies other than USMA. Service academy grads can elect to take their commission in a different service; very few do. The Army has only seven such majors in the nearly 8,000 member ORB pool: less than one in a thousand, and none of them was selected; too little data for statistical significance).
Still, USMA “ring-knockers” were selected at a fraction of the rate of other sources of commission; indeed, at less than half the rate of the next most immune group, ROTC scholarship students. Still, 25 Academy grads and 178 of the scholarship grads were on the hit list. Those were the only groups selected at below-average rates. The most unlucky were interservice transfers, officers initially commissioned in another branch. Of 25 of them considered, 4 were selected (16%) compared to the <3% selection rate for USMA grads. Still, 3% is not zero; get a GOMOR or BCOM and even The Ring can’t save you.
Not only did combat tours not save an officer, and lack of combat tours not put him at risk, even a Purple Heart didn’t spare him. Seventeen combat-wounded officers are among the casualties.
We’ve talked primarily about the Majors (this is long enough) but the fate of the Captains was similar. One notable thing is that a small but distinct number of CPTs were binned for Article 15s or Letters of Reprimand that they collected during prior enlisted service. As with the Majors, having the Ring of Power halved one’s chances of being booted — but so many captains have been selected that 6.2% of the considered academy grads are among them.
How SF/SOF fared
Generally, SF officers did better than their conventional peers. Again using Majors data, either 341 or 353 officers were considered (the data are inconsistent), and 11 were selected. Of these, one was one of the PH recipients. None of the SF selectees was African American (overall, AA officers were selected at a higher rate than average). The SF captains were selected at an even lower rate, one that rounds to 1%.
Aviation officers also were selected at a below average rate, but other combat arms (Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers) were selected at higher than average rates; Infantry split, with Majors selecting below average and Captains above (as the saying goes, lower is better, in this measurement). SF was the lowest-percentage combat arms branch, and the only consistently lower branches were extremely low-density ones like Space Operations and Operations Research.
The Bottom Line
So what does it all mean? The Army is reshaping itself into a peacetime service again. This requires disposal of a large number of combat vets. And this won’t be the last RIF by any means, either. Combat and what the Army is getting ready for (mostly, to fight the budget battles with the Marines, et al., on the playing fields of Congress, endless corridors of the Pentagon, and leaks to the Washington Post) are different and incompatible things.
Thanks for serving your country, Major. Now hit the bricks.