Time for New Tactics to Retain Military's Best

Susan Hall

Contributor Don Tennant has written about the military's problems in retaining highly trained personnel while at the same time dealing with vulnerability to cyber warfare. He's also chimed in about the failure by management in the private sector as well to adequately recognize top performers.


Those are the issues behind the "best and brightest" leaving the military before serving a full career, according to Tim Kane, economist with the Kauffman Foundation, who surveyed 250 West Point graduates and wrote about it in The Atlantic. "Frustration with military bureaucracy" was the No. 1 reason given for leaving the military.


People in the military are "promoted lockstep" according to the year they enter the service, he says. A recently released report on retaining federal workers also addressed the need to properly recognize and reward top performance.


Among Kane's suggestions:


  • introduce meritocracy and an internal job market by allowing local commanders to hire their officers.
  • implementing "360 degree reviews" that also consider the views of peers and subordinates.


And he told Federal News Radio:

One of the ridiculous things about the military is, it's like the priesthood, once you leave, you can never come back.

Tennant wrote about a new career path in the Marines that allows cybersecurity specialists to stay in the United States during their service. He wrote:

The sooner this program is realized, the better for our country, especially if it's expanded to entice personnel who are computer experts, but whose initial service wasn't cyber-warfare-related, to remain in military service.

Considering the constant barrage of cybersecurity threats to the military and other federal agencies, the government must take new tactics to retain its best workers.

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