February 18, 2008

Fred Kaplan puts Kip's name in lights!

Kip's hit the big time, giving your favorite blog one of its biggest mainstream media pick-ups in recent memory. Fred Kaplan picked up Kip's screed from last week regarding new $40k enlistment bonuses. He writes:

First, at a time when the Army is trying to expand its ranks for the long haul (Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has authorized the recruitment of 65,000 more troops in the next several years), this bonus is likely to attract—or, in any event, produce—short-timers. Since the cash is handed over only after the recruits finish their service, they will have an incentive not to re-enlist for a second term, much less to make a career of the military.

Second, it may work against another set of incentives to retain junior officers, who are leaving the service in droves. The Army recently offered a $30,000 bonus for captains who re-enlist. Some have found it alluring, but now they're likely to be peeved that the Army's giving mere recruits even more.


Are we about to witness an arms race of bonuses among the ranks or, short of that, another wave of exits from the likes of Kip?

To be clear, Kip's not leaving anytime soon. But it's likely that a fair number of his friends will be. Kaplan argues that the Army will fight the numbers game until it brings most of the troops home from Iraq. That may true, but not the whole story: these aren't all new problems. Some in the Army recognized in the late 1990s that it had a retention crisis and began studying ways to address it. But 9/11 provided a short-term fix, and many of the reforms under review were abandoned. Too bad, because those problems still underlie the current complains about optempo an deployments. Most of the officers Charlie knows would gladly trade their bonuses for a rationalization of the assignment process, that actually matched skills to tasks.

Update 1: AM here. Allons enfants de la Patrie, le "Kip" est arrivé. En Francais.

Update 2: Kip here. While I don't usually give biographical details, I think it is worth mentioning that I continue to serve and will for some time. I did not, however, take $30,000 because I objected in principle and also because I thought the incentives list was particularly back-handed in offering things that could be gotten at much lower cost (e.g., a branch transfer with an additional service obligation as opposed to a normal branch transfer which would cost nothing and is likely to improve officer satisfaction and keep him in anyway). I also think that most captains would agree that $10,000 per year for 3 years (taxed, even if you are in a war zone, unlike enlisted bonuses) is simply not enough to commit yourself to the Army. In retrospect, the $30,000 bonus only attracted those who were going to stay in anyway. It convinced many others, including me, that the Army simply did not "get it."