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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

Military Solutions

What should organizations -- or, in the case of the military, our government -- do to counteract the tendency for general officers to hang on too long?

The most senior positions in the US military are the four-star generals. Our military promotion system is "Up or Out" for the forty or so officers in that position, and that number is capped by statute. For these most senior officers, appointments are made by the president and confirmed by the majority vote of the Senate.

The prescribed assignments include senior combatant commanders (General Petraeus of US CENTCOM), service chiefs (Army Chief General George Casey) and vice chiefs (for Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines), and Joint Chiefs (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and his vice chairman, Marine Corps General James Cartwright.)

The nominal assignment is three years, with two years as the base with a one-year extension. The four-star generals serve at the pleasure of the president and decisions for appointment or relief are recommend by senior advisors on military affairs--the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Once a four-star general is relieved from the position, the officer must be reappointed to a position at the same grade, revert to a lower grade, or retire within 60 days. As General MacArthur said to a joint session of Congress in 1951 after his dismissal, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

Thus, the process for ensuring senior military leaders do not stagnate is provided in structure by law and a review process by senior leaders who have the ultimate responsibility to build the best team possible to protect our national security interests.

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  May 29, 2009; 2:59 PM ET
Category:  Succession Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It is important to have these General Officers remain long enough to make the neccessary changes and implimentations to support our national security. A quick turnaround usually leads to a guick breakdown. Its not so much how long they remain in the position but how effective are they while in the position. This should dictate the time allocated for their service in the position. As general officers they can tell us how long they need to be in a position. Ms. Blankenship

Posted by: okme | May 30, 2009 6:22 PM
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