Maximizing Talent by Improving Retirement Options
By Command Sgt. Maj. Demetris Prewitt
389th Military Intelligence Battalion
September 2, 2021
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As the 20th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, approaches so will the 20-year career mark of many Soldiers. The individuals who stood up to defend the nation in the months after this world-changing event will begin to transition out of our ranks following two decades of war. A 20-year career is the benchmark for many professions and remains the hallmark point of commitment in the military due to its rigorous physical demands (Federal Retirement Network, 2021).
Replacing these trusted and talented veterans will not be easy with the recent changes to retirement evaluation boards, the sergeant major (SGM) and command sergeant major (CSM) command slate list (CSL), and the Assignment Satisfaction Key–Enlisted Module (ASK-EM). These
adjustments have increased challenges related to terminal
assignments and retirement submission, especially for the
Army’s highest enlisted ranks. This article suggests updating
the Army’s end-of-career talent management models
for NCOs so they appeal to mid-level NCOs as well as
longtime Soldiers who otherwise may choose working for
private sector companies or non-profit organizations that
offer more favorable options and benefits.
The Tension: Army People Strategy vs. “Needs of the Army”
Over the last 24 months, the Army Talent Management
Task Force (ATMTF) has made significant strides
in transitioning from its industrial-age “needs of the
Army” approach to a “data-rich, information-age model
for talent management” (ATMTF, 2020). Improvements
like order of merit lists (OML), dual-slate CSL releases,
and the ASK-EM have improved talent management
for most NCOs; however, the changes have ignored the
needs of senior NCOs.
A major problem affecting talent management in the
senior NCO ranks is the CSL. For example, when a brigade
command sergeant major unexpectedly turns down
PCS orders and retires instead, the resulting short-notice
reassignments can effect up to four different sergeants
major and their families. Under the “needs of the Army”
methodology, such adjustments are normal business.
But today, where Army spouses are just as likely to have
careers, Soldiers and potential recruits are less likely to
consider — or remain in — a profession that requires
frequent moves (Malandrino, 2020).
Reimagining Army Retirements
No matter how great or long the career, retirements
and transitions are a reality for every Soldier. The Army
needs to adopt people-friendly retirement solutions that
will appeal to senior NCOs as well as build confidence in
younger Soldiers that they are taken care of when they
near their retirement timeline.
18-month retirement submission. Under current
policy, NCOs who plan to retire must wait until 12 months
(19 years) before their proposed transition date to submit
a retirement request (Department of the Army, 2016).
However, the HRC processes building requirements for
the enlisted marketplace and evaluation board take place
beyond 12 months before report dates. Instead of the current
12-month policy, allow Soldiers to submit retirement
requests 18 months ahead of time. The longer 18-month
retirement submission timeframe would be ahead of the
CSL and enlisted marketplace cycles and reduce the number
of declinations in lieu of retirement. This also reduces
the number of vacancies created due to last-minute changes
when NCOs decide to retire after assignments are released.
Option to decline competitive consideration (DCC) for evaluation boards. Retirement-eligible NCOs with
20 or more years of service could decline competitive
consideration for an evaluation board—similar to the
current CSL release process. Competitive consideration
includes career-progressing assignments and advancement
decisions, but does not remove the NCO’s records
from the evaluation board panel (in the event the Soldier
is found not fully qualified for retention). The implication
for this proposal is that the Army would remove the
option to decline a PCS after HRC releases assignments. The decision to decline would take place before the
board convening, not after the assignment release.
Those who decline would need to leave the Army
no later than the board convene date + 90 days or their
current projected change of responsibility date + 90 days.
NCOs who choose to participate and are selected would
then be required to accept the CSL for at least 12 months.
This would improve the command preference designator
(CPD) since it could open after the decision rather than
before the board. Also, HRC could limit certain assignments
to individuals with appropriate skills, knowledge,
abilities, experiences, timeline, and OML.
Terminal and Permanent Expiration Term of Service (TAP-ETS). This requirement would allow NCOs
with 19 or more years of service to apply for a TAP-ETS
date 36 months or more in the future, essentially renegotiating
their enlistment contract to have a terminal and
irrevocable end date. Rating chains, HRC, evaluation
boards, and slating officials could then manage the rest
of that NCO’s career with respect to that TAP-ETS. This
option would provide predictability and transparency to
Soldiers/recruits, their families, and the Army.
Benefits of a Strategy that Appeals to People
The current “needs of the Army” approach is simply
unsustainable for retaining the best senior NCO talent
up through retirement. Our NCO Corps is the backbone
of the Army and must be kept healthy with America’s top
talent. Without improved end-of-career talent management,
the Army will continue to lose talent to the
private sector and nonprofit organizations. The proposed
solutions provide predictability for Soldiers and their
families, those nearing retirement and at the beginning of their careers, as well as informing HRC assignment
managers and slating officials in order to fill openings
with the most qualified candidates. Known and predicable
retirement options will help the Army extend the
benefits of the Army People Strategy to career NCOs and
encourage recruits in the process.
Army Talent Management Task Force. (2020). https://talent.army.mil/
Department of the Army. (2016). Army regulation 635-200: Active duty enlisted administrative separations. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN32023-AR_635-200-001-WEB-2.pdf
Federal Retirement Network (2021). https://www.federalretirement.net/eligibility20years.htm#:~:text=A%20special%2020-year%20retirement%20system%20was%20created%20for,retire%20sooner%2C%20with%20just%2020%20years%20of%20service
Malandrino, S. (2020). 5 key takeaways about spouse employment from Deloitte’s new report. Military Families Magazine https://militaryfamilies.com/military-employment/5-key-takeaways-about-spouse-employment-fromdeloittes-new-report/
Command Sgt. Maj. Demetris A. Prewitt is the command sergeant major of 389th Military Intelligence Battalion
(Special Operations) (Airborne). His previous assignments include operations sergeant major of the 513th
Military Intelligence Brigade (Theater); first sergeant, Military Intelligence Company, 5th Special Forces Group
(Airborne); senior enlisted leader, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Syria; and chief intelligence
sergeant, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). He holds a bachelor's degree in leadership
and workforce development from the Command and General Staff College and is pursuing a master's degree in
strategic leadership at the University of Charleston-West Virginia
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