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2-star outlines impending officer, NCO separations

Jun. 2, 2014 - 05:41PM   |  
The Army is flagging 2,500 NCOs and officers for involuntary separation to help meet the end-strength goal of 490,000 soldiers.
The Army is flagging 2,500 NCOs and officers for involuntary separation to help meet the end-strength goal of 490,000 soldiers. (Army)
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The Army has flagged nearly 2,500 officers and noncommissioned officers for involuntary separation as its works toward an end-strength of 490,000, and it’s eyeing even more cuts in the coming year.

An officer separation board and an enhanced selective early retirement board will return in fiscal year 2015 for captains and majors, and a selective early retirement board will be convened for lieutenant colonels and colonels, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, director of military personnel management. Also, NCOs will continue to face Qualitative Service Program screenings, which look at over-strength specialties or grades.

Seamands took time on May 22 to sit down with Army Times to discuss these measures.

The level of cuts required of the Army means the service is “going to have to separate soldiers who have served honorably, deployed multiple times and done all the right things,” Seamands acknowledged.

The force will get even smaller after 2015, with projections calling for the Army to shrink to about 450,000, or even as low as 420,000 if sequestration returns in 2016.

“The fact of the matter is it comes down to math,” he said. “How do you get the Army from where it was to where it needs to be in a compassionate manner?”

To reach its end-strength goals, the Army is employing a number of different measures. Here’s what you need to know.

Officers

The Army is bringing in fewer lieutenants, Seamands said.

In 2012, the Army brought in about 5,300 new officers. This year, the goal is 4,100. It also is rerouting some ROTC cadets into the reserve component, where there are shortages, instead of the active Army, Seamands said.

The Army conducted an OSB and a SERB this year for select captains and majors. These boards were designed to shrink a population that was intended for a force of about 540,000, Seamands said.

The OSB looked at captains and majors with at least six but fewer than 18 years of service. The eSERB looked at captains and majors with 18 years or more of service.

About 1,100 captains and 500 majors, out of a population of about 19,000, have been chosen for separation, Seamands said. The selected captains should be notified by their chain of command in June, while the majors will learn their fate in July.

Officers identified for separation will have nine months to transition, while those who are retiring will have to leave by the first day of the seventh month after the cuts are approved by the Secretary of the Army.

The Army also conducted eSERBs for lieutenant colonels who had been passed over twice for promotion and colonels with at least five years’ time-in-grade.

About 200 of these officers were selected for retirement last year; they have to be out of the Army by Aug. 1, Seamands said. About 350 colonels and 458 lieutenant colonels were considered for retirement by the SERB.

Each officer was counseled by a senior officer before the boards, and they will again be counseled if they are selected for separation, Seamands said.

Warrant officers

“The warrant officer corps will get smaller as well,” Seamands said.

The Army will likely conduct a retention board for its warrant officers in fiscal 2015 or 2016, he said.

The service has asked Congress for the authority to have more targeted boards, he said.

NCOs

The Army has reduced its enlisted recruiting goal from about 68,000 to about 57,000 this year, Seamands said.

But the Army will also use QSP to shrink over-strength specialties.

These cuts are being done in conduction with some brigade combat team inactivations. So far this year, the Army has inactivated five BCTs, with five more to go in fiscal 2015.

Depending on the military occupational specialties, NCOs in the ranks of staff sergeant and higher could be targeted for QSP screening.

Last year, about 100 NCOs were selected for separation. This year, Seamands anticipates out of more than 5,000 soldiers considered, about 500 will have to go. The number of cut soldiers is likely to grow to 1,000 next year and again in 2016.

So far, more than 90 percent of NCOs identified for separation via QSP have been eligible for regular retirement or early retirement, Seamands said.

Another tool the Army could use is denied retention.

If a specialty is over-strength, the Army will determine how many NCOs it needs and allow commanders to determine who is eligible for reenlistment, Seamands said.

“We give the field a vote and let the field determine who’s the best and should stay,” he said.

At the end of the day, Seamands estimates less than 10 percent of the officer and NCO corps will be selected for separation.

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