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Officer drawdown: Retirement options for colonels

Apr. 8, 2013 - 04:03PM   |  
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25-26

The normal career length, at one time, in years of an officer retiring as a colonel, according to Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg.

28-29

The norm for colonels’ careers in the past decade.

THE DETAILS

For complete details about the Selective Early Retirement Board, consult MilPer Message13-089, issued April 4 by Human Resources Command.
Here are questions and answers that address specific issues for the fiscal 2013 SERB:
Q. Who will be considered by the Selective Early Retirement Board that convenes Aug. 13?
A. Regular Army officers of the Army Competitive Category who are on the active-duty list and who have O-6 dates of rank of Aug. 1, 2008, or earlier, and lieutenant colonels who have been twice nonselected by colonel boards that met in fiscal 2012 and earlier.
Those who will be exempt from consideration include officers on a recommended list for promotion, officers who have been approved for voluntary retirement as of the convening date of the board and officers who will be involuntarily retired under any provision of federal law in fiscal 2013 or fiscal 2014. This will include officers with mandatory retirement dates in fiscal 2013 and 2014.
Q. What are my options if I am in the zone of eligibility for the SERB?
A. Officers who request voluntary retirement will not be considered by the SERB.
All voluntary retirement applications must be submitted in accordance with figure 6-2, Army Regulation 600-8-24 (Officer Transfer and Discharges), and note “Subject: Voluntary Retirement – SERB-considered population.”
Lieutenant colonels and Army Acquisition Corps colonels must submit their requests to Human Resources Command, Attn: AHRC-OPL-R.
Colonels, with the exception of Acquisition Corps members, must submit their requests to the Senior Leader Development Office, Attn: DACS-CMO.
Requests should be processed through an officer’s chain of command to arrive at the appropriate office by July 8. Requests that arrive after July 8 will be processed up to the convening date of the board.
However, officers who miss the July 8 deadline risk being considered by the SERB if their request is not approved by the board convening date.
Q. What are the advantages of submitting a voluntary retirement request as opposed to being considered by the SERB?
A. In most cases, submitting a voluntary retirement request will provide the officer more time to prepare for his or her transition from the Army.
Pentagon officials expect that the secretary will approve the SERB results in early January 2014, which will require selected officers to separate no later than Aug. 1.
Q. Are officers selected by the SERB eligible for separation pay?
A. No.
Q. Will the My Board File system be available to officers in the SERB zone of consideration?
A. Yes. My Board File will open June 13 and close Aug. 6.
Q. What documents in the official personnel file will the SERB review?
A. The board will review an officer’s performance as reflected in the Army Military Human Resource Record, which will include limited portions of the restricted file, if one exists, the Officer Record Brief, the official photograph and authorized communications, such a letter to the board president, from officers in the SERB population.
Q. What is the deadline for the submission of officer evaluation reports and academic evaluation reports?
A. Evaluation reports must be received at the Human Resources Command no later than Aug. 8.
Source: Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1 (Human Resources).

The Army’s drawdown will hit the senior ranks of the officer corps in August when a board meets to consider senior colonels and lieutenant colonels of the basic branches for possible involuntary early retirement.

In announcing the Selective Early Retirement Board now, Army officials hope that zone-eligible officers will voluntarily request retirement in lieu of being considered for involuntary retirement, said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Army G-1 and the chief of personnel.

Under a plan designed to reduce the size of the active component from 540,000 soldiers today to 490,000 in four years, the Army is reviewing a population of 500 retirement-eligible colonels and 700 lieutenant colonels for possible early retirement. The SERB can select up to 30 percent of those officers for involuntary early retirement. The cuts will be completed by the end of fiscal 2014.

The Army’s master drawdown plan projects 24,000 involuntary separations and early retirements for enlisted soldiers, and 7,000 officers, by Sept. 30, 2017.

“The primary reason we are doing this for colonels and lieutenant colonels is because we have to downsize the Army and get to 490,000 soldiers [by the end of 2017],” Bromberg said. “We understand the emotion of this action, but it’s something we have to do.”

The retirements generated by the SERB program, both voluntary and involuntary, are included in the 7,000 figure.

This year’s culling only involves officers of the Army Competitive Category.

Officers of the special branches will not be screened this year, although it’s possible they could be included in future SERB actions.

Similarly, warrant officers will not be subjected to a SERB or any other drawdown-related involuntary separation actions.

However, Bromberg indicated the Army is considering lengthening promotion points for the warrant grades, while restricting accessions in some of the technical specialties to more senior enlisted soldiers than has been the case in recent years.

There could be more SERBs in future years, but that will depend on budget considerations.

“We still do not have clarity on the budget past 2014,” Bromberg said. “If we have to do further reductions in the size of the Army, there may be more SERBs.”

This year’s SERB is scheduled to begin deliberations Aug. 13 at Fort Knox, Ky.

Officers subject to the retention review will include colonels with five or more years in grade as an O-6, and lieutenant colonels who have been passed over two or more times for promotion to colonel.

Bromberg said officers in the zone of eligibility need to conduct a self-assessment with a general officer in their chain of command to determine if they want to voluntarily retire or try to ride out the SERB.

Under law, the Army can involuntarily retire up to 30 percent of the officers who are considered by the SERB.

To encourage voluntary retirements, the Army has extended the deadline for submitting retirement request to 18 months in advance of the planned retirement.

This means officers who request voluntary retirement in July will not have to leave the Army until September 2014.

By law, officers who are selected for involuntary early retirement must leave the Army no later than the first day of the seventh month after the SERB recommendations are approved by the secretary of the Army.

Impact on promotions

The personnel chief said the shaping actions associated with the SERB should ensure improved promotion opportunity for officers competing for advancement to colonel in the Army Competitive Category.

For the past two years, the primary-zone selection rate for colonel has averaged about 36 percent.

From 2001 through 2010, PZ rates routinely topped 50 percent and occasionally approached or exceeded 60 percent.

Bromberg said that over the past decade, career officers have been staying in the Army about 10 percent longer than the historical norms of previous years.

“In the past, many colonels may have retired at 25 or 26 years of service, while today they are staying until 28 or 29 years [of service],” he said. “Now, this is very commendable that they want to stay longer, but it’s occurring at a time we need to bring [retirement points] down.”

Bromberg said the longer senior colonels stay in the Army, promotion select rates for colonel will remain at 36 percent, or lower.

“What we’re going to do is ask some people to retire earlier than they had planned, which in turn will have a positive effect on promotion rates,” he said. “We want our younger lieutenant colonels to see that opportunity to serve and to remain in the Army.”

That philosophy is reflected in a recent change to the eligibility rules for the fiscal 2013 Army Competitive Category colonel board that convenes May 6.

The below-zone category, which previously was restricted to one year group of officers, has been expanded to two cohorts, including lieutenant colonels with dates of rank of Sept. 1, 2009, through Aug. 31, 2011.

———

This story is corrected from the version that appears in the Army Times print edition dated April 15, 2013.

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