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Almost 19,000 captains and majors will be screened by separation and early retirement boards this spring as part of the ongoing drawdown of the active-duty Army.
The Officer Separation Board and Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board could select up to 20 percent of the considered population for separation from the Army.
But an Army spokesman at the Pentagon said the boards will select up to 2,000 officers — not 3,800, which is 20 percent of about 19,000.
The boards “will select from as little as 5 percent to as much as 18 percent of specific considered year groups originally over-accessed to support a much larger force,” he said. “The Army will select the minimum number for separation that will allow it to meet congressionally-mandated end-strength, with this year’s board directing separation for up to 2,000 officers.”
Some of the selected officers, however, may not have enough time in service to qualify for a 15-year retirement.
Officers subject to these boards are Army Competitive Category captains in year groups 2006 to 2008 and majors in year groups 1999 to 2003. Eligible officers must have at least one year active-duty time in grade and not be on a promotion list to the next rank.
“The Army’s drawdown plan is a balanced approach while maintaining readiness and reducing turbulence to the officer corps,” said David Martino, director of the Officer Personnel Management Directorate at Human Resources Command. “We know the Officer Separation Board and Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board will separate fully qualified officers who have rendered quality service to the nation. We’ll execute [the boards] with precision, care and compassion.”
More than 10,000 captains will be affected by the boards; about 9,700 will be screened by the OSB, which is for officers with fewer than 18 years of federal active service, and about 700 will be screened by the E-SERB, which is for soldiers with 18 or more years of federal active service, according to HRC.
Almost 8,500 majors will be affected by the boards. Of those, almost 7,000 will be looked at by the OSB, and about 1,500 will be screened by the E-SERB.
Officers with 18 or more years of service who are selected for separation will be allowed to serve until the first day of the first month of their 20th year of active federal service, earning them full retirement benefits, said Hillary Baxter, chief of the leader development division at HRC.
If these officers decide to leave active duty immediately, they will be offered Temporary Early Retirement Authority benefits, Baxter said.
TERA, which Congress authorized the military services to use as a force management program through fiscal 2018, allows troops with at least 15 but less than 20 years of active service to receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service, except that their retirement pay is reduced accordingly.
Officers selected for separation by the E-SERB “are still safe to get a retirement if they so choose, and they will be offered TERA if they decide to leave,” Baxter said. “That is going to be at their discretion.”
Those selected for separation by the Officer Separation Board are eligible for involuntary separation pay, provided they have at least six years of active federal service.
Selected officers with at least 15 years of active service on the date of their separation also are eligible for TERA, Baxter said.
“It will be that officer’s choice to either select separation pay or TERA,” she said.
The board will convene in March for captains and in April for majors, according to HRC.
Officers selected for separation should be notified in late June or early July, Baxter said.
They likely won’t leave active duty until fiscal 2015, unless they request an earlier separation date, according to information from HRC.
Martino emphasized the affected year groups were not chosen in relation to performance.
“Year groups were selected based on eligibility requirements established by law,” he said, including the year group’s projected inventory, future Army requirements and the amount of time officers in the selected year groups have served on active duty.
“The Army structure and the requirements associated with Army structure are going to reduce, so … the Army officer corps will make a reduction relative to that structure,” he said.
The OPMD will provide support to affected officers and their chains of command, Martino said.
This includes helping officers prepare their records and assisting commanders in the field as they counsel and coach their officers, he said.
HRC also will assist officers selected for separation, including conducting individual notifications and providing transition assistance as required, he said.
One option for qualified officers is transitioning to the Army Reserve or National Guard, both of which have company-grade vacancies in their formations, said Col. Charles Slaney, HRC’s OSB/E-SERB National Guard and reserve-component subject-matter expert.
“We’re only transitioning highly trained and qualified officers,” he said. “This ensures a smooth evolution to create the best team possible and retain America’s best and brightest.”
HRC has done a number of things to help affected officers prepare for the board, said Col. Stephen Sears, deputy director of OPMD.
This includes sending them the link to a website established by HRC with information on the boards and how to prepare their records, Sears said.
HRC also has sent information to commanders across the Army with information on how to assist and counsel affected officers in their units, he said.
“That’s an important piece, for these commanders to sit down with the officers and look them in the eye, and help them prepare their records and give them an assessment of where they think they stand in terms of their peers,” Sears said.
Assignment officers at HRC also are ready to work with affected officers who need help preparing their records or if they have questions about the strength of their file, he said.
Officers can access their performance file at any time, Sears said.
A separate site called My Board File, which identifies all of the records the board will view, will be open from mid-December through late February for captains, and mid-January to mid-April for majors.
“They can log in to My Board File and see the specific documents the board will see,” Sears said. “That way, they can focus on those.”
Officers in the eligible year groups should take a close look at their records to make sure they’re accurate, up-to-date and complete, Sears said.
“I think our officer corps is phenomenal,” he said. “That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, this board will likely select officers who are highly qualified.”