The Army will begin selecting colonels and lieutenant colonels for early retirement this summer in an effort to trim its ranks by 2017.
This August, the Army will hold a Selective Early Retirement Board to look at a pool of 1,200 lieutenant colonels and colonels, according to an Army press release.
The decision is necessary to help ensure that other officers have the opportunity to move up in rank as the Army draws down to 490,000 by fiscal 2017, said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Army G-1.
"It's hard to do, because we're doing it to people who have supported us tremendously with great honor and service to nation and service to the Army over the last 12 years while we have been engaged in the fight," Bromberg said.
However, there are about 500 active duty colonels who have been in grade for more than five years, and about 700 lieutenant colonels who have been passed over at least twice for promotion to colonel.
Over the past decade, the average officer is staying in about 10 percent longer than in the past, Bromberg said. Colonels that might have retired after 26 years a decade ago are now staying for 28 or 29 years in service, he said. "It's just because they want to serve, which is very commendable," Bromberg said. "But unfortunately, in order to shape the Army, we are going to have to bring that down. Younger lieutenant colonels will still see that opportunity to continue to serve. What we don't want to do is have people say 'oh, they won't ever get promoted.'"
The August 13 board is expected to select up to 30 percent from the pool of 1,200, but more officers in this category will likely want to select early retirement, since promotion rates to colonel over the last two years have been lower than 35 percent at times, Army officials said. After the board meets, it is expected that Army Secretary John McHugh will approve the board's results in early January, Army officials maintain. Officers selected will have no more than seven months before they must retire by Aug. 1, 2014.
And unlike drawdown efforts in the past, there will be no separation pay for those who volunteer or are selected for early retirement, officials say. Officers who know they meet the criteria can choose to volunteer and benefit from having extra time for submitting retirement paperwork, Army officials said. Typically, retirement paperwork is submitted a year in advance.
Now officers that meet the criteria for this early retirement can submit their paperwork until July 8 this year and plan for a September 2014 retirement, Army officials said.