Well, I know it has been discussed elsewhere, but one of the gang mentioned this NY Times OpEd, and I have no reluctance to discuss some of the flawed thinking in it.
I don't know a lot about Mr Kane, and simply stating that he is "a Marine veteran of Iraq " says not much more than "Eddie Slovik was an Army Veteran of WWII".
I won't address his "disband the Air Force" or "Universal National Service" ideas just yet, but save them for two separate threads to keep the dialogue focused.
But, I will address his thoughts on "Up or Out" and manpower planning.
There are some drawbacks to "Up or Out". Yes, the services lose some good people. The difficulty is that the services only need "X" number of captains, for example. If Captain vacancies are limited by allowing the least competitive to remain as long as they wish, then good Lieutenants cannot advance, and the lesser qualified Captains perform the jobs that more promising Lieutenants might be promoted to and fill. There have been "Selective Retention in Grade" programs to allow twice passed over officers to remain in uniform as a manpower management tool, and this exception to "Up or Out" is a fine idea. Note the use of the term "Selective". Sometimes trying to maximize manpower quality can be tough. I am reminded of what the Colonel from the Marine Officer Selection Office said to us when visiting our college campus, "We select our officer candidates with one thing in mind. Not every Lieutenant will become Commandant, but every Commandant was once a Lieutenant. Thus, to the best of our ability, our material for Lieutenant should be material for the top as well." Potential for advancement helps provide a good pool of candidates for higher level billets.
Unlike private sector employment, the military can not seek a pool of permanent, career first-line workers. There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which is that aged riflemen are not as capable of the rigors of the trade as young bucks. Also, unlike the private sector, the military cannot tap other employers for people to laterally transfer into the NCO and Officer ranks. They have to grow their own. Part of that "growing" is winnowing, unfortunately. The age old addage of "Mission first, then the welfare of the troops" is the only way the military can succeed.
The military is, by public policy, an organization of designed capability, and thus of a defined size. It must maintain it's warfighting capability within this defined size. Further, it is totally depended upon UNITS to accomplish its mission. It is not a collection of individual players. Thus, it tries to use manpower management tools to staff the ranks for current and future needs, yet cannot "overhire" as a tool for the future. Civilian employment has similar tools. When a company has too many employees in a given category, they conduct layoffs. Very often those selected for furlough are not the least able, but the least senior. Were it not for age discrimination laws, many would be the older, higher paid, to save even more money, and in fact this is often accomplished by incentives to retire.
There is a limited place in the military for "Selective Retention in Grade" or technical specialists (WO Aviators, for example) that can be less subject to "UP or Out". But it is not a "One Size Fits All" solution.
Assailing "Up or Out" has great emotional appeal, as well as the financial accounting suggestion Kane makes. And, they might just be fine for organizations that do not have to be near 100% capable of accomplishing a defined LIFE OR DEATH mission at all times. I am just not convinced that the manpower and operating tools of American private sector business are 100% appropriate for the defense of our country. They were clearly not so for the defense of our economy!