Occasional reader jpr sent in this article from the Navy Times:
The Navy is ‚Äúaggressively‚Äù working on a plan to keep captains who are not in line for major commands in the service to fill other critical billets.
Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John C. Harvey said Tuesday during testimony before Congress that the fleet… wants officers who have already served 25 years to remain on active-duty.
‚ÄúWe are exploring a variety of monetary and non-monetary incentives,‚Äù Harvey said in testimony delivered to the House Armed Services Committee‚Äôs subcommittee on military personnel at a hearing that focused on recruiting, retention and pay issues.
It’s a good read, and meshes well with what I’ve heard from quite a number of my peers. Most of us joined the fleet when we were building towards a 600-ship Navy, and now of course we struggle to keep nearly 24o “active in commission.” As the fleet gets smaller, command opportunities diminish and it’s command – at sea – that makes the staff work worthwhile.
But I also think it’s true that a 25-year old change in retirement law has had an unintended consequence: My peers at the Severn River Trade School were considered to be on “active duty” when the law changed, so we remained under the “high one” system – our final retirement is based on the last paycheck we’d received. Our colleagues in NROTC and OCS were not so lucky.
It isn’t all about the money, but by the time you get to be my age, totting up the costs of putting kids through four (or five, or six) years of college can make a man feel ret pondersome. There’s a war on of course, but a guy with a quarter century of service can start to think like maybe he’s done his bit for the flag, especially if hanging around is more about polishing PowerPoint briefs than it is manning the guns.
The last major pay rise for an O-6 occurs at the 26-year mark, after which he receives annual additions of 2.5% to the total: 50% of base pay at twenty years to 75% at thirty. An officer putting in the last four years of a 30-year career gains 10% in retirement pay over a 26-year retiree, but the latter has spent those four years earning real money “on the outside” with the added advantage of shopping a resume while still in his late 40′s.
So anyway, in 1981 Congress noted that too many captains and colonels were waiting for that last pay step and then shipping over to do it the civil, so they amended the law to what’s known as a “high three” system: An officer’s final retirement is based on a rolling average of his last three years of service. The intent, I believe, was to encourage officers towards completing a 30-year career. The effect was rather opposite.
We fight the enemy at sea, but among ourselves ashore. With fewer opportunities for captain command at sea, more commanders who were competitive for captain declined their promotions and retired early, while many captains – having sampled at leisure the austere pleasures of work at a major staff ashore, and seeing nothing but more of the same in the future – declined to put in the statutory minimum three years to retire in grade, asking for waivers to retire at the 24-year mark.
And here we are.