Jury is still out on Army career intermission program

The Army is trying to be more flexible with its soldiers in order to entice talented and smart men and women to join and stay in the service.

Part of that push includes the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP), a way for soldiers to take a break from active duty to pursue education or career opportunities.

The Army is now back with some initial results of the program and at this point they are pretty inconclusive.

The service started the program in 2014 and allows 20 officers and 20 enlisted personnel a year to move from active duty to the reserves for a maximum of three years.

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Since it started, 37 soldiers applied into the program, but only 23 were accepted and 13 actually participated, stated a report to Congress from the Army.

The study stated “high performers are looking for career flexibility to manage competing life priorities. Lacking flexibility and courses of actions that protect their careers, soldiers often leave the Army. The Army is offering CIPP to provide valuable alternatives to help retain these valuable service members while allowing them to pursue personal and/or professional goals.”

Eight of the 13 soldiers left active duty to go study for bachelors, masters, doctorate or law degrees. Four soldiers left to spend more time with their families, care for an ailing family members, adopt or care for children or align assignments with a military spouse. The final soldier chose to pursue civilian professional opportunities overseas.

Since the creation of the program only two soldiers have returned to duty. One officer was able to finish her first year of required study to become a physical therapist. She is currently enrolled in her second year and will complete her studies using a previously authorized educational entitlement.

The second soldier was not hired for the overseas civilian position and returned to active duty after 2 months, the study stated.

Four participants were sergeants, five were staff sergeants and one was a sergeant first class. On the officer side one was a captain and two were majors. Out of those who applied the rank most interested in the program was sergeant, with 10 applying. Eight majors also applied for the program.

The total cost to the Army for keeping the 13 soldiers in the Army as reservists was about $280,000. About $100,000 came from permanent change of station costs, about $43,000 came from basic pay and about $140,000 came from TRICARE costs.

The military as a whole is having a hard time retaining its most talented workers.

The services are trying to accommodate 21st century demands on service members with changes to personnel policy, but many policies are entrenched in law and some in the Pentagon are digging in against change.

“If the military is going to recruit and retain a volunteer force with the necessary skills, it needs to do two things. It needs to recruit, assign and promote in a way that develops and retains value across a wide range of skills including the highly technical skills, and it needs to better accommodate the evolution of American society and the American family. And it needs to do those things without sacrificing the aspects of the system that are working well,” former Sen. Jim Talent told Congress last month.

Many service members are leaving the military for better paying jobs in the private sector that are more conducive to their family life.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter created the Force of the Future to try to deal with some of those issues.

Many thought the Force of the Future was dead after President Donald Trump was elected. Republicans were critical of the reforms, which ranged from extending maternity leave for women to creating public-private work partnerships for DoD employees to letting transgenders serve openly in the military.

But the Force of the Future initiatives are being rehashed in the email chains of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I just the other day was able to get on an email chain where they recirculated the Force of the Future report amongst the Joint Staff to inform [leadership] issues,” Air Force Maj. Miriam Krieger, a special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff  said last month.