Naval Institute, Annapolis, Md., May 13, 1905.
COMMANDER C. J. BADGER, U. S. Navy, in the Chair.
THE CHAIRMAN.—Gentlemen: When the Institute was first established, it was the general idea to have meetings at which papers should be read and discussions take place. As time went on, and it was found that few could attend these meetings, it became necessary to print the papers, and to print such remarks and criticisms as might be made. In accordance with the request of some members who are much interested in the success of the Institute, as I know we all are, this meeting was called, to try and revive in some way the interest in personal discussion of the papers that might come before it.
I am a little bit sorry that more of our people here have not attended, but I am sure that we have all the talent and expert knowledge on the subject of this paper on promotion, which will tend to bring our meeting to a successful conclusion.
I have to introduce Lieutenant Jackson, who will read us a paper on "Promotion in the Navy."
PROMOTION, PRESENT AND PROSPECTIVE.
By LIEUTENANT RICHARD H. JACKSON, U. S. Navy.
It is historically true that one of the results of war is a large increase in the naval and military forces of the victor, and though there may be attempts to return to the basis established previous to the war, a permanent increase of forces always results.
In the American navy this result has followed, with one notable and even astonishing exception—the number of officers constituting the fighting force of the navy has remained unchanged during a period in which the staff corps have increased two-fold or more, the material three-fold, and the men, that this line, or fighting corps must train and command, have increased four-fold.
The causes which have produced such a remarkable condition, and the methods which may be adopted to remedy this shortage, will be discussed, and an attempt made to show that the plans herewith submitted will furnish the least violent, and yet efficacious method.
A brief review of the growth of the navy from a period previous to the Spanish-American war will first be made, citing a few figures to show that it has been more than quadrupled in size, and is yet endeavoring to get along on the original complement of line officers.
In 1882, the tonnage was 100,000, the men 7500, and the officers, line and engineers combined, 1091. In July, 1897, officers 921, men 8000. In 1898, just previous to the war, tonnage 300,000, men 12,000, and officers as before. August 15, 1898, tonnage 600,000, men 24,000, and line officers 1562, this tremendous increase being the result of a war lasting less than four months. The following year we find the peace footing as follows: Tonnage 600,000, men 14,500, and officers back to 1020, being nearly 100 less than allowed by law in 1882, the additional 641 officers drawn from the retired list and from civil life having been discharged or retired from active service.
On January 1, 1905, we have a tonnage, present and prospective afloat and under construction, of 800,000, 34,000 men, and no more officers than in 1882, when we had 100,000 tons and 7500 men.
In 1897, the Secretary of the Navy, having under consideration the personnel of the navy, appointed a board of eminent officers with President Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, as chairman, to consider the general subject of the reorganization of the navy and a solution to the problem of stagnation. This board recommended legislation which became law in March, 1899, combining the line and engineer corps. It established a table of ratios for each grade from ensign to rear-admiral necessary for a flow of promotion, and compulsory and voluntary retirement, in order to maintain this flow permanently. This table of ratios will be discussed later. It also made the total number of officers 1020.
Extracts from the annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy and the Bureau of Navigation for the succeeding years will be interesting as showing the needs of the navy, its subsequent development, and the legislation that has been enacted for that purpose.
1898. Previous to the passage of the personnel law of i899, the Bureau of Navigation reported that, "The Bureau believes that an increase of officers can best be made gradually by passing this bill, and only making further increase as the growth of the service demands, thus giving the service institutions time to furnish trained men in the lower grades and to build up the navy homogeneously."
This bill increased the number of officers allowed by 99, the first increase since the reduction of officers by 170 in 1882.
1899. "The Bureau noted in its report of last year that the slight increase in the line as provided by the personnel bill might give but temporary relief. One of the most important features was stricken out—the change from 6 to 4 years' course; the number of commissioned officers intended to be provided for thereby was so reduced that it becomes necessary to ask that some relief be immediately furnished. The Bureau therefore recommends that the demand for officers for important service be met by providing for a four years' course at the Naval Academy, and increasing the number of officers in each grade 10%."
1900. The Secretary of the Navy reports: "The need for officers is steadily growing, and at times the Department is seriously embarrassed by lack of necessary officers to properly man vessels required for immediate service. The need will be still greater when the vessels authorized or building are completed, and ready for commissioning."
1901. The Secretary of the Navy says: "The need for line officers for sea duty becomes steadily more pressing, and in case it should become necessary to man all the vessels of our present fleet the required number is not available, and I recommend that the number of lieutenants be increased from 300 to 350, and that the limit of the lieutenants, junior grade, and ensigns be made 600."
"England increases her personnel each year by adding enough officers to man her new ships. France proposes to increase her line and engineer officers by 537, adding 91 each year till complete. Germany provides for an annual increase for the next 20 years until the personnel is two and one-half its present size. I recommend that the number of cadets at the Naval Academy be increased 50% as recommended by the General Board, and that there be ten appointments by the President, annually, at large."
1901. The Bureau of Navigation quotes from Mr. H. W. Wilson, a well-known authority upon naval affairs: "It is useless to provide ships unless there are trained officers and men to take them to sea. In this matter both England and the United States have shown grave want of foresight, increasing their material cut of all proportion to their personnel."
Then follows a table in which the Bureau mans the ships in 1904, using a complement for each ship 30% lower than that allowed abroad, with the result that 825 additional line officers would be required at the time.
The report continues: "It is now necessary to inquire into the status of the legislation which provides for the supply of line officers to the navy, and in setting this forth the Bureau again furnishes the conditions as they actually are. Under the old law, and taking the average for the last ten years, there have been each year approximately 31 graduates available to fill vacancies in the line. Since there are created by the personnel act 40 vacancies per year above the grade of lieutenant, junior grade, and ensign, and since under the present law we cannot hope for more than 50 graduates per year to fill the vacancies in the line, it must follow that officers in the line can only be increased at the rate of ten per year, as shown above. Therefore, on July I, 1904, the navy will have but 30 more than at present, while the number of additional officers necessary will be 1026, less the total of absolutely all officers now needed on shore duty (426), or 601.
"In the opinion of the Bureau there is but one remedy for this fatal error in our naval policy, and that is to increase the number of cadets at the Naval Academy. The new construction now under way at that station will enable the Government to accommodate comfortably about 800 cadets, and the Bureau believes that it was the intention of Congress, when it authorized quarters for such a number of cadets, that upon the completion of the works the money expended should not remain idle, but that all the cadets which the institute could accommodate should be educated, and the Bureau believes that the time has come when the intended increase should begin."
To this end the Bureau then recommended legislation which would have more than doubled the number of cadets then allowed.
"In opposition to such a marked increase to the appointments to the Naval Academy it might be advanced that a new hump would be created. The present law provides for a fixed number of vacancies above certain grades in the service, and by increasing the number of vacancies above each grade in proportion as the grade is increased, due to the commissioning of officers, the possibility of a hump will be avoided. Then, again, this objection could be met by so adjusting the standards at the Naval Academy that only classes of a certain size would be graduated in any year, the size to be so arranged as to increase the number of commissioned officers gradually."
1902. The Secretary reports: "The most imperative need of the navy to-day is of additional officers. I cannot overstate this need. It invites the instant attention of Congress. The administration of the Department is embarrassed almost daily by the lack of officers below command rank. This condition has been approaching for some years and was clearly apprehended by my predecessor in office. It is acute to-day, and will be desperate unless there is early action."
Then follows a table showing the deficiency (19o2) to be 571: and a table made by manning the vessels authorized and complete in four years, giving a deficiency of 136o in 1906, the complements used being 30% below those employed abroad. Yet our ships should be allowed even more officers since we are compelled to man our vessels with green crews, having little or no knowledge of sea life, being the only material available in this country.
1902. The Bureau reports as follows: "It is urged that in order to provide for the yearly casualties in the service, and the needs of the vessels building, the following legislation be enacted:
"Provided, That from and after the passage of this act there be allowed at the Naval Academy two midshipmen for every member or delegate of the House of Representatives; and two for every United States Senator; one from the District of Columbia; and ten annually at large. Provided, further, That the number of lieutenant-commanders of the navy shall be 200, that the number of lieutenants shall be 350, and that the total number of lieutenants, junior grade, and ensigns shall be 700. Provided, further, That any midshipman upon successfully completing his four years' course at the Naval Academy shall be commissioned an ensign; Provided, further, That no midshipman shall be prevented from being commissioned by any law limiting the number of lieutenants, junior grade, and ensigns; Provided, further, That the increase in the grades of lieutenant-commander and lieutenant herein called for shall be filled by promotion each year of not exceeding 25% of the total of the increase of each grade.
"The increase above provided for will be 30 lieutenant-commanders, so lieutenants, and 350 lieutenants, junior grade, and ensigns."
1903. The Secretary of the Navy reports: "Of the several officers in command of the 11 battleships, two are 59; one is 58; one is 56; and two are 55 years of age. The age of the officers who in course of time will be selected to relieve them will be about the same."
In discussing this subject the Chief of Bureau suggests as the only remedy for the evils attending the tardy attainment of command rank—a defect inherent in other naval and military systems—early compulsory retirements in the higher grades.
He says: "The process is simple and need not be applied to more than two grades. It may be briefly described as follows:
"An officer 50 years of age who has not attained the rank of captain will retire; and a captain who is 55 and has not attained the rank of rear-admiral will retire. It should be stated that this method in other services is accompanied by selection to a limited extent of officers for promotion in grades below that of captain.
"The Bureau further recommends that the total increase of 30 lieutenant-commanders and 50 lieutenants be made at once, and that midshipmen be commissioned at the end of the four years' course at the Naval Academy."
1904. The Bureau of Navigation having again referred to this point of age of commanding officers, the Secretary of the Navy reported as follows:
"I fully concur with the Chief of Bureau of Navigation in the opinion that the officers of the navy attain command rank too late in life. It is no disparagement of the senior officers of the service to say that we should have younger men in command of our ships in time of peace as well as in war."
"Attention is earnestly invited to the recommendations made by the Chief of Bureau respecting the need for more officers and men in order to carry on the work of the navy. It is useless to build ships unless provision is made to man, care for, and use them."
1904. Bureau of Navigation report: "In regard to the increase of personnel necessary for the fighting efficiency of our ships, our experience, especially in the development of gunfire during the last two years, has led the Department, after prolonged consideration, to adopt important changes affecting the organization of ships, notably the larger ones, and has shown that the previous estimate of the number of line officers required to man the fleet was far below the mark. The statement then (1902) allowed to our battleships only about one-half as many line officers as ships of the same class carried in the British, French, and German navies."
Then follows a table, manning our fleet according to this complement, showing the number required to be 2078, without providing for officers for auxiliaries, nor for details on shore in connection with equipping, refitting, and supplying the fleet, and other necessary work, which would amount to at least 600.
The report then continues: "The numbers in the grades of commander and captain should be considered in connection with the subject of the ages of officers of flag and command rank. Before leaving the subject the attention is invited to the fact that not all of the officers in the grades of captain and commander are available for sea duty, because of the presence in these grades of a number of officers of the former engineer corps who are by law restricted to the performance of engineer duty, on shore only. The July register shows 8 such officers in the list of captains, and 15 in the list of commanders. Of the first to lieutenant-commanders, 7 are ex-engineers who will become commanders before any of the before-mentioned 15 are promoted, thus making 15% of the commanders not available for sea duty. Further down the lieutenant-commanders' list there are 36 ex-engineers out of a total of 111; all these are available as lieutenant-commanders for sea duty; but when all of them shall have been promoted to commander there will be, allowing 25% for casualties, 25% of all of the commanders not available for sea duty. Later on, in the grade of captain, this proportion would be greater.
"The simplest remedy for this would be to provide that those officers of the line who are restricted by law to the performance of engineering duty only, shall, on reaching the grade of commander become additional numbers; some of them already are.
"With regard to officers below command rank, existing law places no limit upon the number of ensigns and junior lieutenants, the supply of these being dependent only upon the number graduated from the Naval Academy, and the number promoted from warrant officers. As yet the increase due to the large recent classes of midshipmen has not begun to be felt; but it soon will be, and no additional legislation in respect to entries at the foot of the commissioned grades will be needed.
"There are now allowed only 350 lieutenants against 500 shown above to be necessary for sea service in regular men of war. As there would be considerably more than that number required for all purposes at sea in time of war, it is recommended that the number of lieutenants be fixed at 600. The law which requires ensigns to serve three years before promotion would operate gradually to fill up the vacancies in the list of lieutenants made by the above increase. The number of lieutenant-commanders now allowed is coo; it is recommended that this number be increased to 300, basing this number on the table above."
The writer has ventured to quote thus fully from the reports as the simplest and briefest way to place before the reader the progress made in legislation, and the actual condition of the personnel to-day.
SUMMARY OF REPORTS.
The need for more officers is annually more acutely felt, the number at present being practically the same as in 1881, the additional number needed, as cited in the last report, being at least 1500.
To meet this want Congress in 1902 doubled the number of midshipmen at the Naval Academy, the only practical source of supply. It has also authorized an increase in the lieutenant-commanders' grade of 30 and in the lieutenants' grade of 50, the junior lieutenants and ensigns to be limited by the number of graduates from the Naval Academy.
The questions then are: (a) How soon may this output of midshipmen be made available as commissioned officers; (b) how many officers do we need as a total, and how many in each grade; (c) how shall they be distributed to best advantage to avoid a hump; (d) the age of flag and commanding officers being too great, how shall it be remedied?
Since these questions all involve the roster of officers they must all be considered at the same time; and further, since Congress has authorized a commensurate increase in the junior lieutenant and ensign grades only, there must be presented to its notice plans for increase of the other grades to meet the needs of the service, and, as noted in the official report of the last two years, some method of reducing the ages of the flag and commanding officers. Note that the ratios established by the law of 1899 have already been changed by the additions cited above.
Several of the recent plans propose a further change, increasing by 100 the number of junior lieutenants allowed by the law of 1899, and decreasing the number of commanders by the same number; it being claimed that the number in the command list is too great.
Another plan proposes age for grade retirement, to apply to captains and commanders only, till the respective ages are reduced to 55 and 50.
Another plan is to adhere to the ratios of the law of 1899, and to distribute the excess in the lowest grade throughout the other grades in this ratio, as soon as the number allowed by that law is exceeded therein.
Let us first take up for consideration this plan, largely the work of the officers of the U. S. S. Nevada, which being brought forward for discussion at the Naval Academy, and being approved in its general principles by the officers there, became known as the "Naval Academy plan." The following facts were introduced preliminary to the submission of the proposition:
That on July 1, 1904, the line of the navy consisted of 966 officers; that the line is still deficient 44 officers under the old personnel law, and 124 considering the recent increase allowed.
That Congress, having in view the great need for more officers, authorized the increase of midshipmen to a theoretical maximum of 983 at the Naval Academy. Such increased number to continue till June 30, 1913, and then the number of midshipmen to be reduced about one-half; and in 1914 still further by the withdrawal of Senatorial appointments by limitation of law. The number of officers who will qualify and be commissioned under the existing law cannot be stated absolutely, but may be estimated with considerable accuracy, and has been placed as high as 200 per year. If the conditions for qualification are assumed to be as they are now and have been for some years past, the number of graduates will be 200 per year. If as difficult as between the years 1881 and 1897, we may expect about 150 per annum. Assuming therefore a mean condition, a conservative estimate gives us 175 a year, or in ten years a total of 1750 graduates; considering that there will be 40 vacancies above the grade of junior lieutenant each year, or 400 in ten years, we thus have a net increase in the line in ten years from the time that the first large class will have been commissioned, of 1350. This increase will begin in 1905 or 1907, according as the midshipmen may be commissioned after four or six years. The above facts prove conclusively that under the existing law the following conditions would obtain:
1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1914 1918
Rear-admiral 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18 18
Captain 70 70 70 70 70 70 70 70 70
Commander 112 112 112 112 112 112 112 112 112
Lieutenant-comdrs 184 192 200 200 200 200 200 200 204
Lieutenant 324 337 350 350 350 350 350 350 350
Lieutenant, J. G
Ensigns 222 247 248 318 398 600 735 1275 1815
Total 930 976 998 1068 1148 1350 1485 2025 2565
Under existing law the total number of officers in flag and command rank is 20% of the total number, so that in 1918 the total number in command and flag grades would be only 8%. It is evident that the existing law will cause a hump more serious than that which confronted the navy after the civil war. Some legislation is obligatory.
The meeting considered the personnel law of 1899 as establishing the proper proportion of numbers in the respective grades, and that this was the only basis upon which to estimate the increase. This law was the result of the deliberation of a board of naval officers of high standing and experience especially selected for the purpose, and presided over by the (then) Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt. That the deliberations of this board extended over several months and the question of the proportionate numbers in the grades was given the most exhaustive consideration; and that any substantial departure from the proportions in the several grades then established will inevitably result in permanent injury to the service, and the necessity for drastic selection for promotion in the navy.
That it is extremely inexpedient to advocate any further method of selection out, or forced retirement, than now exists, during such period as the navy is, and hereafter may be, in urgent need of additional officers. The proposition which was then introduced was as follows:
When by the operation of existing law, the number of ensigns commissioned in any fiscal year exceeds the number of vacancies for that year in the grades of junior lieutenant and ensign as established by the personnel law of 1899, the several grades of the line of the navy shall be increased in such manner as to maintain the number in the several grades as nearly as may be in the same proportion to the whole number of line officers as was established by the aforesaid act, viz.:
Rear-admirals 1.76%, captains 6.9%, commanders 11%, lieutenant- commanders 16.66%, lieutenants 29.4%, lieutenants, junior grade and ensign 34.3%.
The following table illustrates the operation of the above law:
Grade 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910
Rear-admiral 18 18 18 20 23 26
Captain 70 70 70 76 92 103
Commander 112 112 112 126 148 164
Lieutenant-comdr 192 200 200 200 224 250
Lieutenant 337 350 350 350 396 441
Lieutenant, J. G.
Ensign 247 248 318 374 465 516
Total 976 998 1068 1148 1348 1500
First increase is in 1908, because it will take till 1907 to fill the lower-grades to the proposed ratio.
If the grades are increased in proportion and
commissioned after the four years' course, same proviso:
Grade 1905 1906 1907 1908
Rear-admiral 20 21 25 27
Captain 77 84 97 110
Commander 124 132 154 176
Lieut.-comdr 192 204 238 267
Lieutenants 337 361 420 470
Lieut. J. G.
Ensigns 377 426 494 550
First increase comes practically upon passage of law, as class will be commissioned in February and promotion continue thus.
Provided that the number in the grades of lieutenant-commander and lieutenant shall not be reduced below the number now authorized by law. None of these tables take account of extra numbers.
To make the above table clear we will assume that in 1908 a class is commissioned containing 142 numbers; that the number established by the personnel law are then filled, viz.:
350 lieutenants, J. G., and ensigns.
Assuming, further, that 40 vacancies exist, the net increase will be 102, or exactly 10% of the total line officers authorized by the personnel law. The net increase would thus be distributed to the nearest whole number as follows:
35 lieutenants, J. G., and ensigns.
It was also proposed that those officers who, by operation of law, are no longer available for sea service should be placed on the list as extra numbers for the purposes of promotion and apportionment in the command and flag grades.
Why not apply this ratio of increase in grades to all grades immediately instead of waiting two or three years till the overflow commences in the ensigns' grade?
Since the navy, by action of existing law, will be doubled in about 1914 (an addition of about 1350 graduates net), apply this increase immediately so that its benefit may be felt at once, by increasing the number of officers allowed in each grade 10% each year for 10 years, to commence upon passage of this act, so that in 1915 the navy would consist of 2043 officers. The result would be the same in 1915 in either case. Why wait three or four years before starting the distribution in the higher grades?
Having now stated all the plans known to the writer as proposed for legislation, an academic discussion of the broad question of naval promotion will be introduced, with an inquiry as to the methods which should achieve the best results with a specific application to our own service.
Selection.—The first query always is: Shall we have selection? No one will deny the excellence of the theory of selection as a means of obtaining young officers for the command grades. It is evident that the best commanding officers would be obtained by selecting the most promising young men for this position, thereby giving them the opportunity to develop, and to assume great responsibility at an early age, to which would be coupled the resultant long years of experience in that position. In whatever walk in life this theory be applied, it is incontrovertible.
But in its particular application to our naval service two questions at once arise: Would the very best men be selected? And what would be the effect upon those not selected?
In answer to the first question, it would be generally, but not always, the best men as judged by the service at large.
In answer to the question of the effect upon the service, the advocates of selection, while admitting that there would be some discontent due to what, in the general opinion of the service, was an unfair choice, hold that the superiority of the commanding officers thus obtained would more than offset this discontent.
The opponents, on the other hand, who, now and always have been a very large majority, claim that the demoralization and discontent arising from even two or three unfortunate selections would be immeasurably greater than any possibility of better commanding officers could offset. This large majority carries with it, of course, the large conservative element which is particularly marked in naval life, who hesitate to adopt a new and radical system. The advocates of selection claim that the present situation is desperate, dangerous; the opponents, that it is not absolutely new, nor unparalleled, and cry, "Gently, gently; 'tis not a Gordian knot."
Having thus separated the navy into two parties upon the question of "selection for promotion," if we change the title to "selection of some sort" and invite discussion we get unanimous approval upon the general proposition; but with every shade of opinion upon its application, due to varying ideas as to the age beyond which a man must not be promoted in the command grades.
Age.—This leads us at once to the subject of ages in grades. The average naval officer now spends 44 years upon the active list of the navy, instead of 46, since he now enters at 18 instead of 16. Curiously enough upon the "age for command grade" a compromise receiving, I believe, unanimous support, can always be effected, by taking the figures 45 for that age, provided the means for obtaining the result are not discussed. The radicals say, "45 will do, though we ought to have captains at 30. Look at England." The conservatives reply, "We are not England; besides 45 is early enough; an officer should have had experience in all the other grades; he may also get experience as a commanding officer in a small way in tug-boats, torpedo-boats, and gunboats; moreover, captains at 30 means selection, and that is impossible for our country and our service."
The following extracts are from official reports of the Navy Department upon the subject of age:
1903. The Secretary of the Navy: "The duty of commanding battleships and fleets of battleships is one which demands not only experience and ability, but also makes heavy draughts upon the energy and nervous endurance of the officers charged with such responsibility, upon which the success or failure of the navy in important crises may arise. The Chief of Bureau again brings to the attention the importance of devising some plan by which officers will attain command rank at an earlier age than under the present system. The Bureau is not prepared to say that the plan of age for grade retirement, applied to captains at 55 and commanders at 50, would find favor with a majority of the officers of the navy, but it regards some action in this direction essential to naval success in the future, and bases its views upon the evidence which naval history presents to us in regard to the ages of officers commanding vessels of the line of battle."
1904. The Secretary of the Navy: "The condition of our service in this particular promises to grow rapidly worse, instead of better, in consequence of the large influx of officers in the lower grades without corresponding increase in the upper grades. These unfortunate conditions are not confined to the captains list, but extend below to commanders and above to flag officers.
"Considering that future wars must be waged by young officers the Chief of Bureau of Navigation suggests that all captains upon reaching the age of 55 be retired; that this age limit be decreased one year for each two years till the age limit becomes 57; that this limit be reduced to 55 after the next two years; that all commanders after reaching the age of 55 be retired; that this age limit be reduced as in the case of captains until it reaches 50; that no candidate be admitted to the Naval Academy whose age exceeds 17 years on the 1st day of October of the year his class enters; also, as a contributory means of relief, that officers whose services are restricted by law to shore duty only be made extra numbers in the grade of commander and captain.
"I am impressed with the importance of this recommendation. The interests of the service are paramount in such a matter and I believe that action should be taken to place younger men in position of command as soon as a way can be found to do so that does not involve injustice nor impose unnecessary hardship upon officers whose long and worthy service entitle them to consideration. Most of our ships and all of our shore stations are now short of officers, and with the completion of vessels now under construction this condition will become more serious."
The Bureau in reviewing the ages of our captains, as noted above, gives the following table of ages:
Nation. Youngest. Average. Oldest. Retirement Age.
England 33 48 54 55
Germany 45 48 54 None
Russia 45 50 59 55
Japan 36 44 51 53
United States 54 ½ 57 ¾ 61 ½ None
The Bureau reports: "It is no reflection upon our commanding officers to say that we should have younger men; it is a statement of fact as regards physical condition due to age. The ceaseless vigilance and activity, the strain of great responsibility in modern sea warfare, require perfect elasticity of mind and body even in their prime. The ships bearing the officers of greatest importance are the objects of the enemy's constant and determined attack; so that on the sea the senior officers must bear not only the greatest responsibility, but also the brunt of the fighting; for them no relaxation is possible. The danger of the present condition is real and cannot be overestimated."
The quotations above cited from the official reports of the last two years, bring out in the most forcible manner the present age conditions in the upper grades.
Let us now read some extracts from the report of the chairman of the personnel of 1898, Mr. Roosevelt, to the Secretary of the Navy; and that of Mr. Foss, chairman of the Naval Committee, upon presenting this bill to Congress, bearing particularly upon selection and age in grades.
Extract from the report of the chairman of the Naval Committee upon the personnel bill of March 3, 1899:
"This measure, treating the whole subject from the standpoint of the greatest naval efficiency, broad in its character, and affecting in its operation all the different corps in the navy, has, with comparatively few exceptions, if any, the support of the whole naval service.
"This means provides a remedy for stagnation; first, by providing for voluntary and involuntary retirement; and, secondly, by the re-adjustment of the numbers in the different grades of commissioned officers.
"In a navy organized to secure the highest efficiency, all authorities recognize that the number of officers in each grade must be adequate to the duties to be performed, and that the ages must also correspond to these duties. Further, that the number of officers necessary for subordinate duty is so much greater than the number in flag and command grades, that the ordinary retirement for age and for disability cannot provide for the promotion through all grades, and at the same time keep the age of the subordinate officers low enough to assure proper activity.
"To assure the maintenance of the average ages the bill provides that, in any year, when the number of vacancies due to retirement for age and the ordinary casualties is not up to a certain number in that grade, the necessary number shall be secured by permitting a limited number of officers to retire; and in case there are not enough applicants for voluntary retirement, then a board of admirals is to select enough additional ones, who will be recommended to the President for compulsory retirement. Not only does this assure the retention on the list, of the most valuable and proficient officers, but it also sets aside the least worthy, and they take their grievance, if they feel any (which is not anticipated), out of the service.
"The numbers in the respective grades were very carefully selected with respect to the actual needs of the navy on a peace basis, taking account of the number of ships likely to be commissioned for service, their actual needs, and the other absolute needs of the efficient conduct of the navy."
Extract from the report of Mr. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and chairman of the Personnel Board:
"The statement of the problem is easy. To properly man our ships we need about three times as many officers below command grade as above it. By the simple process of consulting any set of actuary tables, it can be seen at a glance, that this system insures a man spending much the largest part of his life, including his most active and vigorous years, in a subordinate capacity, including normally a quarter of a century as a lieutenant, while at the very end, when long service in a subordinate position has dulled his energy, and probably rendered him unfit to bear the responsibilities, he is thrust for a brief period into command rank, and is galloped at an absurd speed through the grades of commander, captain, commodore, and admiral.
"It was deemed best by every member of the board to try the process of eliminating the officers who were redundant, rather than of selecting the highest for promotion; for, although the latter method is ideally the best, it would in any event have to be combined with the other, and it would, in its actual working, be open to far graver objection.
"The only difference in the board arose as to the best method of making it. The three dissenting members favor some scheme by which the officers who are taken out shall be so taken by chance, or as one of the members expressed it, 'without the intervention of human intelligence.' The majority of the board believe, on the contrary, that we should try to eliminate the men who are least fit to perform the duties of the grade to which there is to be a promotion. This does not mean that they are unfit to perform these duties, but merely that among all of the officers who are fit they are less fit than their fellows. Thus, to choose them out does imply the exercise of human intelligence; and whenever human intelligence is exercised it is always possible that it will err; but it does not seem to us that we can safely assume such errors to be the normal results of its exercise, if we are to go forward at all.
"Occasionally men will be put out that will be better than the least good of those left in; but it is safe to say that the best men will never be put out, as they sometimes would be if the outcome was left to chance 'without the intervention of human intelligence.'
"The majority deem that in separating the best officers from the worst, it is safe to trust to a body of the highest officers in the service who have the interest of that service peculiarly at heart."
A very large majority of the service hold the above opinion to-day; a recent vote upon the question of promotion by selection (up, rather than out) was voted down by 8o% of votes cast (about 150 officers voting).
The following is an academic discussion by Captain Schroeder, submitted to the Naval Committee in 1894, which lays down clearly and concisely the principles involved and a solution.
ORGANIZATION ON PRINCIPLE OF FIXED PERIOD IN GRADES.
"If officers are to remain a certain number of years in each grade, say ten, there must be promoted from that grade one-tenth each year. Therefore, supposing no casualties, and that the waste is only by retirement at the top, the promotions to all the grades would be the same. For instance, suppose there were 100 ensigns and it is proposed that they shall remain in that grade for 5 years, then there must be promoted 20 a year, to junior lieutenant. This presupposes 20 vacancies in the junior lieutenants' grade, which may be brought about by making that grade of such strength and length of grade service that the former divided by the latter will produce 20; e. g., 200 men and 10 years in grade, or 16o and 8 years, or 140 and 7 years, etc. There would have to be promoted 20 to and from every grade each year, including the grade of rear-admiral; and in order to let each admiral have three years on the active list, there would have to be 6o of them. In the same way for a captain to serve 6 years, there would have to be 120, and so on.
All this will be modified by taking account of the casualties of each grade, by retirement, desertion, death, resignation, and dismissal. The casualties in the navy during the past ten years have averaged as follows:
Ensign 3% Commander 2 ½%
Lieutenant, J. G 2% Captain 3%
Lieutenant 2 ½% Flag 4%
In order to keep each grade up to its approximate strength the annual promotion to it, as given before, must be increased by that annual average number of casualties in that grade, and the strength of the grade below must be so increased that the fraction of it promoted each year will equal the increased number of vacancies in the grade above.
Assuming the age of entrance to be 15 to 17 (average 16), and the average of retirement to be 62, there would be 46 years of active service to be divided up. A proper division would be about as follows:
Cadet 4 Lieutenant-comdr 5
Ensign 5 Commander 8
Lieutenant, J. G 4 Captain 8
Lieutenant 7 Rear-admiral 5
Assume average annual casualties to be: Ensign, 5; junior lieutenant, 2 ; lieutenant, 5; lieutenant-commander, 2 ; commander, 2 ; captain, 2 ; rear-admiral, 1. Starting in with 20 admirals, 4 must be retired each year to keep them 5 years on the list, and as there would be one casualty, there would have to be promoted 5 captains a year; then there must be 5 + 2 casualties = 7 promotions from the commanders; 7 ± 2 = 9 from the lieutenant-commanders; 9 + 2 = 11 from lieutenants; 11 + 5 = 16 from junior lieutenant; 16 + 2 = 18 from ensign; 18 + 5 = 23 from the Academy. Then the strength of the grades would be as follows:
Ensigns, 18 (promotions) by 5 years in grade, 90
Lieutenants, J. G., 16 promotions, 4 years in grade, 64
Lieutenants, 11 promotions, 7 years in grade, 77
Lieutenant-comdr., 9 promotions, 5 years in grade, 45
Commander, 7 promotions, 8 years in grade, 56
Captain, 5 promotions, 8 years in grade, 40
Flag, 4 promotions, 5 years in grade, 20
The total number of officers thus obtained is 392, or only one-half the number on the register (787). It is also to be observed that the number is absolutely limited by the number allowed in the grade of rear-admiral.
There are two ways in which the number may be increased: First, by increasing the numbers and the lengths of service in the lower grades; second, by providing an increased number of vacancies in certain grades by voluntary retirement, as suggested in the bill proposed by the Honorable Secretary of the Navy.
The first method is out of the question, as it defeats the very object sought, viz., attainment to command rank at a moderate age. By the table given above officers reach the rank of lieutenant- commander at the average of 36 and commander at 41. These ages should not be exceeded.
According to the compulsory retirement scheme the number of vacancies to be made must be fixed as found necessary. There is no way of increasing the captain's list without either increasing the admiral's list, or making additional vacancies in the latter by compulsory retirement ahead of time, neither of which methods commends itself for that grade. But the grades below captain may be increased all the way down by vacancies in that grade, and the same may be done to the grades below it. It does not seem desirable, however to extend this method to include junior lieutenants, as officers of that grade would hardly have been long enough in the service to have very well defined records. If 9 vacancies be provided annually in the captain's list, 16 in commander, 25 in lieutenant-commander, and 42 in lieutenants, the vacancies would be as follows:
Grades Regular Promotion. Average Casualties. Compulsory Retirements. Total.
Captain 5 2 2 9
Commander 9 2 5 16
Lt.-comdr. 16 2 7 25
Lieutenant 25 5 12 42
Lieut., J. G 42 2 44
Ensign 44 6 50
And the lists would be as follows:
Ensigns, 44 x 5 220
Lieut. J. G., 42 x 4 168
Lieutenant, 25 x 7 175
Lient.-comdr., 16 x 5 80
Commander, 9 x 8 72
Captain, 5 x 8 40
Admiral, 4 x 5 20
It appears from the above that about 26 vacancies, besides the average casualties, are needed annually to keep the flow of promotion such that the present number of officers may pass through the grades in 46 years of service, the grades being of the strength and length of service suggested. These vacancies may be provided mainly by an annual scrutiny of the lists, as suggested by the Honorable Secretary in his proposed bill. Retirement for age in the different grades would be difficult to associate very usefully with fixed terms in the grades, as the lengths of service are so arranged, that an officer would be at the top of the lieutenant's list on completing 20 years of service; a cadet on graduation would know almost to a certainty whether or not he could attain the rank of lieutenant-commander. If the age limit in the lieutenants' list were fixed at 36 years, then, as a rule, all that were over 16 on entering the Academy would have no chance of passing beyond the lieutenant's grade. If the limit were 37 then, under normal circumstances the only ones that would fail on the age qualification for promotion to lieutenant-commander would be those who lost a year (were turned back) at the Academy, or that were suspended from rank, or lost numbers from any cause after graduation.
The option of retiring after 30 years' service would probably make a limited number of vacancies annually, but only from and above the rank of commander.
The source therefore from which most of the required vacancies would be obtained would be by annual scrutiny of the lists, and the weeding out of those officers whose records and qualifications, mental, moral, and physical are such as to prove them to be the least worthy. Any system which undertakes to promote officers to command and flag rank while still of an age to begin the assumption of high responsibility will inevitably cause some hardships, and the theory of all such systems is that the hardships shall fall upon the least worthy, not as a punishment, but for the purpose of retaining the best for the service of the country. The plan of selecting for compulsory retirement commends itself as the one productive of the least heart-burning, the least jealousy, and in all probability the least injustice."
Now our present law endeavors to accomplish this result with the difference that the ages of reaching the upper grades is somewhat greater. The results which would be achieved under normal conditions are reckoned approximately as follows, allowing the graduates to be commissioned at the average of 22:
Law of 1899 Theoretical
Law of 1899 Actual
Years in grade
Years in grade
Years in grade
The table shows that the proposed ratios are not working properly in the flag and command grades. The explanation is simple, the hump is now passing through those grades and off the list. Speaking of the hump, let us turn our attention to the Naval Academy, for we certainly have another one there.
Naval Academy.—The Secretary of the Navy says of this institution in 1903: "The main source of our supply must be from the Naval Academy. The duties of the modern naval officer are so varied and complex that they demand a rigorous and protracted education and training. This training can best be obtained at the national school at Annapolis. The school produces officers the equal of any in the world. When the best are obtainable we need not content ourselves with anything less than the best. The Nation has devoted many millions of dollars to the upbuilding of this school, instituted and maintained for the sole purpose of producing naval officers of the highest type.
"With the utmost wisdom Congress has prescribed that the students shall be selected from all sections of our country, and in practice all classes of our people are represented there. Naval officers do not constitute a caste; our system of selection brings to our service each generation the new blood of democracy. It admits none by favor, excludes all except those of the highest mental and physical vigor. Thus selected, thus educated, inspired by our naval traditions, we may be assured that these young men will reach and maintain the highest standard of efficiency."
Output and Selection.—By the law of August 5, 1882, the number of midshipmen commissioned from the graduates at the end of their two years' cruise was limited by the number of vacancies in the grade of ensign the preceding year. From this date until 1894 the number of graduates, although only 47% of the entries into the fourth class exceeded the vacancies, and 182 midshipmen were discharged between those dates. From 1894 to 1899 the number of graduates, though 50% of the entries, was not sufficient to fill the annual vacancies which in 1899 had increased to 26. The law of March, 1899, made 99 additional vacancies in the grade of ensign, which the graduates have not been sufficient to fill; so that now, January, 1905, allowing for the 70 vacancies since created, there are 124 vacancies. The law increasing the number of appointments at the Naval Academy will be felt in two or three years, as was shown by the table on page 410, where 70%, or 175, was taken as the probable annual output.
Let us now examine this 175, and see what it represents from the point of view of selection, for the benefit of the selectionists.
In a great many of the congressional districts the appointments are made by competition, and the average number of competitors may be placed at five, as a conservative estimate; moreover, in those districts where the Congressman makes his own selection he is apt to take great pride in the future success of his appointee, and will certainly have a promising boy in mind among those in his district. Let us say that he only chooses the best one of five, so that for every Too boys under consideration only 20 arrive at the Naval Academy to take the entrance examination.
The question of getting the better boy by open competition or by selection by the Congressman has been looked up and the percentage of successful boys at the Naval Academy seems to be about equal from the two sources. Hence the ratio of i in 5 from each source seems fair.
Age at the Naval Academy.—It is claimed that the age limit at the Naval Academy is now too high, the limitations being 16-20 years, instead of the limits 14-18 of 20 years ago. By taking the limits 15-17 years officers would be obtained younger, and more nearly of the same age, securing greater uniformity of age in each grade, and consequently more uniform retirement. The opponents claim: (a) That if the officers be commissioned at the end of the four years' course they will be officers just as young under the present age limits; (b) that 22 is young enough to commission officers; (c) that the course at the Naval Academy has changed greatly in 20 years, and instead of spending two years on grammar school education as formerly, the professional education is commenced immediately, and with the broad fields to be covered in ordnance, electricity, and engineering no time can be allotted to common school education.
Ensigns after 4 Years' Course.—As already seen this would give us ensigns at the age of 22 as heretofore, giving them responsibility at an early age. The following are some of the extracts from official reports upon this subject:
1899. The Board of Visitors recommends that the course at the Naval Academy be four years and that the midshipmen be commissioned, at the end of the course, as ensigns.
The superintendent of the Naval Academy made the same recommendation. He said: "The history of the present system of the two years' course at sea is such as to convince any one of its injudiciousness, of its wastefulness, and of its injustice to the officer. It was not adopted because it was thought excellent, but as an expedient to cut down the number of graduates from the Naval Academy at a time when the annually occurring vacancies were few."
1901. "The Bureau feels called upon to renew its statements of previous years as to the desirability of commissioning cadets at the end of the four years' course, instead of at the end of the six years' course, as is now the case. This is only a matter of justice to the young men concerned, since it places them on an equal footing with the cadets entering West Point at the same time, and further gives to them the pay of officers whose duties they are called upon to perform; and it will be of great assistance to the Department, since it will be enabled to order these officers to more responsible duty than is now admissible."
The superintendent of the Naval Academy recommended that since the average age at which the British line officers were commissioned was 20 years 8 months, and our own officers were being commissioned only when they were 25 years old, the age of appointments to the Naval Academy should be only between 15 and 17 years, and that the cadets should be commissioned upon graduation, thus approximating the ages for the two services.
1902. Report of Board of Visitors upon the subject of commissioning midshipmen at the end of the four years' course at the Naval Academy: "The Board is satisfied that they are entirely competent to do the work. As a matter of fact they are doing it without commissions, and without adequate pay, and without a proper position in the navy. We believe that common experience will justify the belief that the navy will be more efficient if responsibility is thrown upon officers at an early age. We believe that with proper care and selection the naval cadets graduating from Annapolis, or certainly the best of them, may be safely trusted with the responsible duties in their profession, and that the navy will be better in the long run if such duties are imposed upon the cadets immediately upon graduation from the Academy. Picked American youths as they are, mature, or can be made to mature, early, and in our opinion the earlier the better."
The same year (19o2) the superintendent recommended that the age of admission be restricted to the limits of 15 to 18 years, that the course at the Naval Academy be four years, and that the graduates be then commissioned ensigns.
Such has been the tenor of the reports upon this subject.
The writer further advocates that the examination at the end of the three years, when they qualify for junior lieutenant, be somewhat similar to the one now given at the end of the two years' cruise, and that final standing in the next higher grade be established by giving to the examination the coefficient of 250 (the old coefficient for the two years' cruise); total of coefficients at the Naval Academy 750 of the final moo. In other words, the result of the three years as an ensign to count as one-fourth of the seven years. The coefficient might even be higher with better results. The coefficient now used at the end of the two years' cruise is so small (40 out of 800 and much less than the 4th class year) that it does not affect the final standing; and since the midshipmen all get commissions at the end of the two years' cruise, there is no stimulus to industry and application. On the contrary, the sudden and marked transition from close discipline and constant study to great freedom and few mental tasks, coupled with little or no responsibility, tends to laxness in performance of duty, carelessness, and idleness, habits only too quickly formed and difficult to eradicate.
This practically carries selection to the age of 25; but what is far more important, carries the youth through the formative period of his life under a constant stimulus to effort, and a reward for industry. How frequently are we struck with the change in the character of our apprentices during this period.
If a scheme for utilizing the English system known as the "five firsts" were adopted, it would be even more beneficial. By this system an English midshipman who passed "first class" in the five professional subjects in the examination for the grade of sub-lieutenant obtains his lieutenant's commission at once. It might be applied in our service by giving to all who obtain a star mark, 85%, on the examination for junior lieutenant an increase of certain numbers, say ten, provided it did not put him out of his class.
The following table shows the number of graduates since 1860. It also shows the number of candidates since 1883, the number of 4th classmen graduated, and the number commissioned, giving the percentage in each case. The year given, means the year the class graduated. On the right is an approximate table of retirements.
Upon examination of the table it will be seen that between the years 1881 and 1901 less than 50% of the 4th class was graduated, and only 32% was commissioned in the line and engineer corps. In the next 5 years 70% had been graduated, and 64% commissioned in the line. That during the 10 years between 1860 and 1870, the years that were graduated the largest classes, those that furnished the hump, the largest class of graduates was 88, and the average for the 10 years was 65.
That the law of August, 1882, was most severely felt by the classes of 1881 to 1891, during which time only 22% were commissioned, and that this excessive reduction will again appear in 1921 to 1931 as shown by the small number of retirements during those years.
The process of weeding out to reduce the numbers to these low percentages takes place under conditions absolutely fair to all concerned. Every midshipman at the Naval Academy is marked every day upon his knowledge of his studies, and monthly written examinations further assist in showing the true knowledge possessed by the student. Then, on the three months' practice cruise each year, especial attention is paid to their efficiency in practical work and exercises. So that at the end of the four years no one can deny that the position of the midshipman in his class is graded as closely as is possible for the human intellect.
If we further consider that only one boy in five has appeared in the above table we find that only 2700 boys have been selected out of 13,500 applicants, and of the original number only 675 have been commissioned.
Is there any military organization in the world where there is such weeding out?
Let us now examine the result of the output from there from now until 1914, when the numbers will be reduced one-half, so that an attempt to consider a longer period is hardly advisable. The numbers up to 1909 are reckoned from the classes at the Academy now; the subsequent numbers allow for a fourth class of 250 members and a percentage of graduates as indicated by the present course.
What is to become of all these young men, especially of the classes entering after this year? Not even as a result of a four years' civil war did we introduce such a hump; yet we have not fully recovered from that to-day. The excessive age of the officers in the commanders' grade is simply the hump passing off the list. Let us assume that our navy will be doubled in 1915, as it will under the present law, the true rate for commissioning graduates in 1915 would be 90 annually. Yet with the navy its present size we threaten to inject in two years 500 midshipmen—more than the entire hump of the civil war which stretched over 7 years. 150 a year, allowing between 40 and 50 a year for the casualties, and 100 net increase, is certainly the maximum that the navy list can take care of under our system of selection, a system which the general opinion of the service deems the best, needing only normal conditions and regulated supply of officers to give results as nearly satisfactory as can be hoped for in any military organization. Even this large number (150) graduating annually is only admissible to meet the necessity for double the number of officers needed to carry on the demands of the service.
It must be borne in mind that any fluctuation from a fixed rate of admission at the bottom and removal at the top of the list will always give trouble, and the graduation of classes too small is only in a less degree unfortunate than the graduation of excessively large classes. It does not seem possible that there can exist any possible emergency in time of peace that would justify the graduation of such enormous classes, and the formation of a hump from which the navy could be freed only by most drastic legislation. Any one who will examine the table of graduates from 1860 till the present time can hardly think otherwise.
This is a matter that rests entirely in the hands of the Department and, as was shown by the report of the Bureau of Navigation which the writer has quoted in italics on page 405; its exercise was contemplated when the law allowing unlimited number of ensigns was passed. The navy has carried on its work ever since the Spanish-American war with a shortage of officers in order that none but regularly trained officers should be commissioned. Shall we, in our impatience to remedy this shortage, to-day take in more midshipmen in two years than we have ordinarily done in 15 years? Is it not better that the navy grow slowly and steadily by regular increments? Would not ten years be a minimum to place upon the date at which the navy should have doubled its size, instead of adding one-half in two years, as would now be the case?
The following is from the report of the Phythian Board in 1894:
"Great caution must be observed in filling the vacancies caused in the lower grades; for if too rapidly done there will infallibly -result another accumulation similar to the one now deplored. The Board recommends that in filling the active list from the Naval Academy, the number of ensigns commissioned shall be 10 in excess of the vacancies occurring the previous year."
That there would be no difficulty in reducing the size of the classes graduated is evident upon comparing the percentages graduated now with the percentages of some years ago. It is a question if the percentage is not already too high, as a consequence of the desire to meet the demand for more officers. It would be a grave mistake to reduce in the least the standard of entrance to a career that becomes each year more exacting, demanding the best talent and ability that can be obtained. The character and quality of the classes varies but little from year to year, so that when we graduate 75% of the 4th class it can hardly be denied that we are accepting graduates that ten years ago we would have rejected. Nor is there the same application and industry shown by the midshipman as when the numbers were much restricted, and each one had to hustle to save his commission. So that for many reasons the further reduction of the percentage of the class graduated seems desirable.
Ratio in Grades.—The flow of promotion has often been compared to the flow of water through a pipe, a certain rate of flow being decided upon as necessary, the pipe must be constructed to maintain that flow, or we have stagnation. It being recognized that the number of officers needed below command grade is much in excess of those needed in those grades, some means must be taken to draw off this excess. That the number thus drawn off as waste be not too large, the constriction of the mouth or discharge of the pipe should not be excessive, i. e., the number in command grades should be liberal.
Another illustration which has always seemed to show more clearly and forcibly the principles of promotion is a pyramid, made up of a series of blocks representing the grades, the width of the base of each block being the number in the grade, and the height of the block the number of years to be passed in that grade. The following diagram would then represent approximately our navy list.
Now, that there shall be an even flow of promotion, the upper corner of each block must be removed by wear and tear of service, or forcibly, so as to change this rough pyramid into a true pyramid, the sides being bounded by straight lines. The wear being a known factor and practically constant, the amount of material to be annually removed is at once known. The effect of inserting one or more 25-inch blocks at the base, instead of the 5-inch blocks as at present (classes of 250 instead of so), and later pushing these stones up with 15-inch blocks, and then with 9-inch blocks, which will be our foundation stones in 1915, is evident. Since we must have a broader pyramid, let us use from the beginning the smallest foundation stone commensurate with the object to be obtained—the symmetrical enlargement of the pyramid.
The question of the number of officers in each grade should not be decided by taking the number of ships of the navy, and assigning to each, one commanding officer, one executive, one navigator, etc.; but rather by deciding (a) the number of officers of the grade of lieutenant-commander and below that are needed for the service; (b) the approximate years that an officer should serve in each of these grades, fixing definitely the age at which he should reach command rank (generally placed at 45 or 46), then divide the period before retirement into three intervals of time, one for commander, one for captain, and one for rear-admiral. Having decided upon those intervals (for illustration we will call 46-52 for commander, 52-57 captain, 57-62 admiral) the numbers which will give a flow through this grade can be obtained by actuary tables, or by the actual records of the navy in the past. This will give a larger number in these grades than can be found in any foreign navy, and larger than we have employment for in our service. These numbers should then be reduced somewhat, bearing in mind that a reserve must be maintained in these grades for use in time of war, as commanding officers can neither be found nor created. The reduction of officers, to allow for the difference between the actuary table and the number needed, to be made by selecting out those least fitted for promotion, and retiring them with three-quarters of the pay of the next higher grade. The ages fixed by the Roosevelt board are given on page 421, and it is upon this principle that the promotion is governed to-day. It is giving satisfaction and is accomplishing all that was predicted for it, up to and including the grade of lieutenant-commander. It has not yet reduced the ages the proper amount in the upper grades, because it has not yet been able to throw off the hump which will not be completely accomplished for five years. If the lower grades are not in the meantime overcrowded with a new hump, the system from that time forward will give satisfaction to nearly all the service. It will be noted that the ages given in the table for captain is 52, and to be promoted to rear-admiral is 58 years. The selectionist claims these ages to be too great, and talks of rear-admirals at 48 and captains at 30. Now all this is impossible for us. If a reasonable reduction be demanded, two or three years for each grade, it can still be attained by this system. Simply apply compulsory retirement to a larger number of captains.' But it first remains for the selectionist to prove the necessity for these reductions in age. When these ages were fixed upon by the various boards they were thought to be satisfactory; they give satisfaction to-day. The only charge made is that other navies with another system of promotion have younger captains, and that younger captains is what theory calls for. Now the writer is heartily in sympathy with the cry for young commanders, but he is willing to call 45 young. But having once obtained the position of commanding officer, he does not recognize the pressing need for the officer to wear an eagle instead of an oak-leaf. He has heard several excellent commanding officers say that after once commanding a ship it mattered but little to them what its size might be. It is the "Habit of Command," with all that goes with the term in its full sense, that must be learned; the earlier the better, but 45 is accepted as a reasonable age, and that we have, or will soon have. Another statement made is that there are not now enough commander's commands, and that the number of commanders should consequently be reduced. Why not then allow the commanders to command larger ships. As the ships are growing larger and larger, it is quite proper that the tonnage to which a commander is eligible be increased. It has been done once; if there be need for it, let us do it again. But to constrict the flow of promotion by reducing the number of commanders is illogical. With the large number of torpedo craft, gunboats, and small cruisers there seems to be no reason why a large number of officers should not have had experience of some sort before reaching the commander grade.
As regards the age for flag officers, the writer is willing to abide by the teachings of our own naval history, and the conditions as he sees them to-day. That we have excellent flag officers at 57 and 58 cannot be denied to-day; and the Department can and does choose the ablest and most vigorous for its important commands afloat. That the condition is desperate the writer does not admit.
Solution.—As already stated in the discussions of the plans advocated for legislation, the writer favors an increase of ten per cent each year to the number allowed in each grade by the Roosevelt ratio for ten years, thus doubling the navy at the end of that time, securing a steady increase in the grades during that period, and hastening the reduction of ages in the command grades to normal.
The following would be the wording of such a bill:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, That the active list of the navy shall be composed of 1 admiral, 2 vice-admirals, 36 rear-admirals, 140 captains, 224 commanders, 340 lieutenant-commanders, 600 lieutenants, and not more than 750 lieutenants, junior grade, and ensigns: Provided, That the increase in the grades below vice-admiral, as hereby provided for, shall not, for any one year, be more than ten per cent for each grade.
SECTION 2. Officers in the line of the grade of captain, commander, and lieutenant-commander may by official application to the Secretary of the Navy have their names placed upon a list which shall be known as the list of applicants for voluntary retirement, and when at the end of any fiscal year after 1915 the average vacancies for the fiscal years subsequent to that date above the grade of commander has been less than 26; above the grade of lieutenant-commander less than 40; above the grade for lieutenant less than 58, and above the grade of lieutenant, junior grade, less than 80, the President may, in the order of the applicants, place a sufficient number on the retired list with the rank and three-quarters of the sea pay of the next higher grade to cause the aforesaid vacancies for the fiscal year then being considered. Provided, further, That from the passage of this act and until the grades have been increased as provided for in Section 1, the number of vacancies required shall be an annual increase of ten per cent to the numbers as now required by law in the respective grades.
SECTION 3. That should it be found at the end of any fiscal year that the retirements pursuant to the provisions of law now in force, the voluntary retirements provided for in this act and casualties are not sufficient to cause the average vacancies enumerated in Section 2 of this act, the Secretary of the Navy shall, on or about the first day of June, convene a board of five rear-admirals and shall place at its disposal the service and medical records on file in the Navy Department of all the officers in the grade of captain, commander, lieutenant-commander, and lieutenant. The board shall then select, as soon as practicable after the first day of July, a sufficient number of officers from the before mentioned grades as constituted on the thirtieth day of June of that year, to cause the average vacancies enumerated in the Section 2 of this act. Each member of the board will swear or affirm that he will, without prejudice or partiality, and having in view only the special fitness of officers, and the efficiency of the naval service, perform the duty imposed upon him by this act. Its finding, which shall be in writing signed by all the members, a majority governing, shall be transmitted to the President, who shall thereupon by order make the transfer of such officers to the retired list as are selected by the board: Provided, That not more than ten captains, eight commanders, eight lieutenant-commanders, and four lieutenants are so retired each year. The promotions to fill the vacancies thus created shall date from the thirtieth of June of the current year.
SECTION 4. From and after the passage of this act midshipmen that have successfully completed the course at the Naval Academy shall be eligible for commissions in the lower grades of the line or Marine Corps, the two years' course at sea being hereby abolished.
SECTION 5. All officers of the line now or hereafter by law becoming ineligible for sea duty shall at once become extra numbers on the list in their respective grades.
The writer has been prompted to bring this subject before the service for the following reasons:
(a) To demonstrate the danger of graduating the very large classes in order to relieve the present great lack of officers. There has as yet been no harm done, as no class of more than 150 members has yet been graduated; but unless the present classes at the Academy be reduced in size, a hump will be created and the navy will suffer greatly from it before the consequent stagnation can be relieved.
(b) To show that the present is a most opportune time to begin to commission midshipmen at the end of the course at the Academy, thereby partially relieving the lack of junior commissioned officers, and making larger classes at once available.
(c) To show the soundness of our present system of promotion, and to evoke a general expression of opinion from the service upon this system, as well as upon selection for promotion, and retirement for age in grades.
(d) To bring before the service the fact that the navy will, by virtue of present law, double itself by 1915, and to suggest a scheme for applying this fact to immediate use, by increasing each grade 10% annually till this has been accomplished.
There soon must be some legislation for the purpose of distributing the junior officers throughout the grades, and, quite as important, an increase in the number of vacancies at the top of the list. It would be well for every officer in the service to seriously consider this fact, form his opinion, and put himself on record upon a subject of such vital interest to the future of the service.
The Secretary of the Navy must necessarily turn to naval officers for plans and suggestions relating to technical and professional questions. Among his official advisers are the officers of the General Board and the Bureau of Navigation. It has always seemed that if the Line Committee, whose sole duty is to consider the welfare of the personnel, particularly upon the question of promotion, could collate the opinion of the service and present to the Secretary any plan or measure advocated by a large majority of the officers of the service, that such a measure would be entitled to, and would be given, equal weight with a measure from any other source. If, further, the Line Committee could, by conferring with the Bureau of Navigation and the General Board, unite upon certain measures for the good of the service, and present to the Secretary such measure with the statement that the navy is practically united upon this proposition, the need for which is evident, the hand of the Secretary would be greatly strengthened, and the probability of obtaining necessary legislation thereby greatly increased.
The essential reason for the existence of a Line Committee is, as its name indicates, to represent the majority of the service. It is but fair then to the committee, that the officers of the service by individual or concerted action keep the committee informed of the needs of the personnel. It is earnestly hoped that the publication of this article will provoke a discussion upon this old, but most important, question of promotion, from which the opinion of the service to-day may be ascertained.
To the end that this opinion may be formed neither hastily nor without full knowledge of our present condition and of our experience in the past, the writer has collected in this article the facts and opinions of the last 40 years. Let each, then, "after maturely considering the evidence adduced, give his opinion without prejudice or partiality," remembering that—
"Experience, joined with Common Sense,
To Mortals is a Providence."
Lieutenant W. W. PHELPS, U. S. Navy.—Mr. Chairman: It is a very excellent and thoughtful investigation of the situation. I take this opportunity of going on record as saying that I am for selection. I think it is coming; the President is for it, the Secretary is for it, and there are officers strong in the service who are for it.
Everybody admits—our essayist admits—that selection is desirable, but he says it is impossible. Now, why should selection be impossible, unless for the only argument we ever hear, namely, because of politics. We trust our Board of Admirals to select out the officers who are to leave the active list; why should we not trust our Board of Admirals to select the officers who are to be promoted? It seems to me that that way selection up is just as fair as selection out.
One reason why the service refuses to accept selection, and sticks to promotion by seniority, which, after all, is promotion by experience—that is a certain selection of course, selection by experience, the most experienced are the oldest officers generally—the reason why we do not accept promotion by selection is because we do not have a proper esprit de corps in the service. For instance, of our 38 lieutenants on duty at the Academy we have only to or 12 who are interested enough to come here to this meeting to-night. At the annual meeting of the Institute last fall I think we had about 20 members of the Institute present to elect officers. At the Graduates' Reunion, in June, we get about half or two-thirds of the officers on duty at the Academy to go to the reunion of their school here. I mention these instances as indicating a want of interest. The esprit, I think, is lacking. We ought to accept the choice and decision of the officers who reach our flag grades to make selection. I, for one, am willing to do it.
I do not think there will be a Secretary or a President, or a Senator, who would be strong enough to disregard the vote or decision of the Board of Admirals on selection in our service.
I have never heard any argument yet to the effect that selection did not bring the best to the top in any profession, the navy as well as any other.
It is very interesting and instructive to have had Mr. Jackson's investigation of this subject, and to have had him bring out many points that we have not carefully considered before. He makes a good point on selection while midshipmen, but that only covers six years of a man's life, and what is that in the life of a man serving the navy 45 years? Habits of carelessness might well be formed after six years in our lives that are not tolerated with the close supervision that we live under here as midshipmen.
Selection is splendid as long as we are midshipmen here, but after that we do not have any more selection.
If we are not to have selection it would be a stimulus if, now and then, we adopted the method of the medical corps, of turning back officers. We do not have it in the line, but once in a while you find it in the medical corps, that an assistant surgeon who conies up for promotion is turned down for a year. That would help.
We should pull together a little more as line officers, and should have a little more faith in the flag officers of our own school, and our own cloth, who have gone through it all, who have reached these high grades, and if we submit our cases to them, we would not suffer in the long run, and the service would be benefited.
Lieutenant RIDLEY MCLEAN, U. S. Navy.—Mr. President and Gentlemen: It is with considerable hesitancy that I take the floor to discuss a paper which evinces so much thought and preparation, and which happens to be on a subject to which I have devoted but little attention, but I rise to say a few words on the subject of selection.
Selection has apparently so few friends that it is almost a sacred duty of each believer in it to make himself known, however feeble may be his efforts in its behalf.
Much has been said and written on this subject of late, hence it is useless for me to occupy time attempting to show that because a midshipman graduates ten numbers ahead of another this year, he will not necessarily be a more efficient admiral forty years hence, or because he graduates at all he will necessarily be fit to command a ship, squadron, or fleet forty years hence. It is unnecessary for me to point out that, even were all men equally proficient, it is a pernicious system which permits each and every one of them to reach the senior rank—for only a little mathematics will show that where the number in that grade is 2 per cent of the total number of officers, omitting casualties, each officer would spend 2 per cent of his service, or less than one year, as admiral. Casualties affect these figures only as to degree—they do not affect the principle.
It will be noted that I differ materially from the lecturer as to the desirable age at which officers should attain the rank of rear-admiral. He gives it at 57 or 58, whereas I regard 50 or 52 more nearly the proper age. Without arguing this point, I refer the members present to the prize essay of this year wherein the essayist finds it necessary to coin a new word "admiralship," and points out the fact that duties which would fall under this heading are as yet practically undeveloped—that it is a new field. Why is this? It is due to two facts. First, ordinarily when officers attain the rank of rear-admiral they have so little more time on the active list they do not feel justified in inaugurating new policies or systems—which we know are necessary to improvement—especially in unexplored fields; and second, because when a man has reached 60 or 61 it is the great exception if he has the energy to take up a new line of study in all of its details. So important do I regard the matter of having the tenure of office in the admiral's grade not less than about 10 years, I would favor nearly any form of selection which would accomplish that end, even if it consisted in selecting a number of lieutenants by lot with the intention of shoving them through. Though this may seem a wild statement, it would be a large improvement over the present method. Now everyone attains the rank of rear-admiral for about a year; by the above proposition those selected by lot would be average officers, with the advantage that they attain that rank younger, with an assured tenure of office great enough to incite them to advanced study and preparation for that grade, and also enough to enable them not only to inaugurate but to perfect such reforms as their studies had caused them to regard necessary.
This is to my mind the crying (but by no means the only) need for selection, and it cannot be accomplished by any practicable method, except by simply selecting officers for promotion, and advancing them over the heads of others, however harsh this method may seem.
I mention the necessity of early command rank as a principal reason for promotion by selection, because it is a reason frequently overlooked, and one on which I disagreed from the lecturer. But I will refrain from mentioning the other reasons because, as I stated in the beginning, so much has been said on the subject, and so many good reasons have been advanced in favor of selection it would be unnecessary to repeat them. The reason this is unnecessary is that every officer with whom I have seriously conversed has, after a little argument, invariably admitted the correctness of the principle of selection, but has taken refuge behind the threadbare statements that "It will not promote the best men," or "Who in the service knows the best men?", or "It will be a matter of political or family influence," or "It would cause heart burnings and discontent which would be pernicious," or "Look at selection in the army," or "We favor selecting out instead of up." In short, that though it is theoretically the correct thing, it simply isn't applicable to the naval service. My purpose is therefore to attempt to show the fallacy of the above excuses and to show that it is practicable for the naval service, and that it will work.
Considering these objections singly:
It will not promote the best men. It is hard to say that it will promote in the exact order each man according to his ability, but so far as the service goes only good men will be promoted, and certainly notoriously bad men will not be promoted. Thus, only good men attain command rank, while bad ones remain somewhere below, for there are several stepping stones extending over a period of years on any one of which the less surefooted are liable to slip and fall. Of these good men that are selected from grade to grade, it is a sure thing that certain individual officers who have distinguished themselves in, say, the lieutenant's grade, and been selected early in their lives for lieutenant-commander would likewise distinguish themselves in that grade (while possibly others equally promising as lieutenants and selected at the same time might grow indolent and fall by the wayside). Those lieutenants who are thus selected for early promotion to lieutenant-commander and who continue their efficient work in that grade will be early selected for commanders, and so on. Thus some of those selected from the bottom (not all of them) would continue their luminous careers and hence reach admirals' grade, say, at 50. These may not be absolutely the best men in the service, but it would certainly be a grave criticism to state that they were not good men, or, indeed, that they were not probably among the best; but even if they were only the average, as I have already stated, the fact that they attain admiral's rank at 50 would, in itself, be sufficient cause for selection. But they are not average officers; they are above the average; they have been repeatedly reported upon, by various officers, and selected by various boards, and they are among the best; and, besides that, the scheme I shall propose will not leave any good, zealous, and efficient officer behind. Hence, though the best may not be on top, only the good are on top, the best are somewhere around there, and the bad are somewhere down below.
It would cause heart burnings and discontent which would be pernicious. So it might, but those who have attained or are en route to command rank, those actives who make the service what it is, those whose spirit and energy and zeal give to the service its spark of life—their hearts are not burning. For such men the chance for early promotion is an incentive to even further effort. Such men are the ones who gain positions of responsibility, while those suffering with the heart burn will remain in subordinate grades where, with active superiors selected for their energy and ability, their attack of heart burn can do little harm; for if energetic superiors cannot hold such men up to their duties in spite of their heart burn our discipline is indeed bad. But I think the case is overdrawn. I think, as a rule, it would work the other way. I think it would cause nearly every officer worthy of that name to take a keener interest in his work, in view of the inevitable result if he is inattentive. An analogy may be drawn in the competitive feature which has been consistently followed in the instructions for target practice. The fact that certain ships, divisions, and officers must stand last on the list has not yet elicited a protest. To the competitive feature is due all the success of the system, and if a ship stands last one year she, as a rule, instead of getting mad, gets busy and shows up higher the next year. This is due to the fact that every one knows the competition is fair and square. If we get a fair and square system of selection, based on merit, why shouldn't it work equally as well?
In answer to the objections "Who in the service knows the best men?", "It will be a matter of political or family influence," or "Look at selection in the army," I will attempt to propose the general features of a system which I believe would be practicable and which I think answers the objections; in other words, a fair and square system based on merit.
First. As for army selection, it is unfair for anyone attempting to get at the merits of selection to even mention that system. Everyone knows that to reward an army officer by selecting him for promotion he can only be made brigadier-general, and that the selection is purely in the President's hands, where necessarily personal and political influence have the greatest weight. The most ardent selectionist would never advocate a system like that for the navy, hence it should be dismissed from consideration.
Now, as to the other questions, I would unhesitatingly reply that no one man, or no one board, or no two boards know, say, who the best ten lieutenants or the best ten lieutenant-commanders are. Also, that selection is not necessarily a matter of political or personal preferment, because the law can be so formed as to prevent this.
How would a scheme like this work? The details are undoubtedly subject to revision—I refer to the general scheme.
Suppose the general features of the following plan were made a law.
1. Officers will be promoted in order of seniority until they attain the rank of lieutenant.
2. Promotions from the grades of lieutenant, lieutenant-commander, commander to be made by selection from among the upper half of the list of officers in these respective grades. Officers attaining a certain age (which should be fairly well advanced, since we wish to utilize their services as long as practicable) to be placed on the retired list for age in the same way they are now retired at 62. Officers who are eligible and who have been passed over, say, for five years, to have less important duties, while the personnel of the battleship squadrons would be made up of officers whose chances for selection were still good. (This to minimize the theoretical effects of heart burnings and disaffection already mentioned.)
3. No officers of these grades will be promoted to the next higher grade except those who have been selected by two boards composed of officers senior to them in rank in the manner hereinafter described. The names so selected will be submitted by said boards to the President, who will, if he approves, promote them to the next higher grade, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
4. Should the President not approve of any one or more of the names submitted, he will return the recommendation to the boards, who will, in similar manner, nominate other officers selected in the prescribed manner to replace the names of those which were not approved by the President.
5. The boards on promotion will be convened twice a year, or more frequently if necessary.
6. Both commanding and executive officers will submit regular reports on officers their junior, and these reports shall include a reply, on oath, to the following question: "If ten officers of his grade were to be selected for promotion, would you recommend this officer for selection?" "If twenty were to be selected, would you recommend him for selection?"
Replies to contain explanatory remarks for information of the Board of Selection.
7. The boards will be governed entirely by the reports, but will give necessary weight to the personality of the officer making the report, and when recommendations and other features are equal, giving preference to the senior.
8. Each member of the junior board will carefully examine all the reports of each officer of the upper half of the grade, and, supposing ten are to be promoted, each will make out a list of the 50 officers whom he considers best qualified for promotion. The members will then come together, tally their individual votes, and as a board agree on 40 names out of the upper half, then arrange these names in the order in which that board recommends them for selection. The lower half of the list is then cut off and the first twenty names forwarded, without being in order, to the senior board. This board is limited in its nominations to these twenty names. Each member will, after careful examination of the reports of these twenty officers, arrange them in the order he regards them best qualified. The board then assembles, tallies and arranges the names in the order which the board finds them best qualified. The first ten names are taken and submitted in proper order to the President of the United States.
Certainly there is a minimum chance for political or personal preferment; even if it appeared on some one occasion there would be two different boards the next time this officer came up for promotion. Certainly personal or political preferment would be the great exception rather than the rule.
Now a remark in regard to the relative merits of selecting up and selecting out. Few people seem to realize that selecting out is absolutely contrary to the principles of human nature, while selecting up is directly in accord with it. It is the difference in the ease of saying "No" and "Yes." It is in accord with human nature to compliment, to say good things when they are deserved, yet the reverse is difficult. It is especially in accord with the spirit of naval officers to be lenient with their fellows; that is, not to visit hardships on them, however well merited they may be, while on the other hand they are naturally lavish in their praise and appreciation of work well done. A board which would never in the world throw a man out as long as he had a single good quality, even when that good quality only consisted in his never having been reported for drunkenness, would gladly pass him over to reward some officer whose record showed that he was zealous, efficient, and able.
Some anti-selectionists say: "Let the board have authority instead of throwing a man out to leave him on the list, so he wont be out in the world, and take the next man who is qualified." My reply to that is "Assuredly!", for the man who makes such a suggestion is a selectionist pure and simple without knowing it.
Lieutenant I. V. Gillis, U. S. Navy.—Mr. Chairman: Having returned from the East only a short time ago, I have not had a chance to look into this subject as I would have liked, but I have seen something of the various arguments advanced in the Army and Navy Register. My chief objection, which I wish to record, against selection, is not as to the theory of selection, which is excellent, but the principle. It seems to me that in any naval service selection is impossible to be carried out practically.
You can base it on an examination; officers are stationed in all parts of the world, and at all sorts of duty. If they are stationed in a place favorable to study, they come up to the examination and pass well. If they are placed on a station where they cannot study, they will pass an inferior examination. If you base it on sea service, then excellent officers who have duty in the Navy Department, or Indian Head, or stations of that kind, will desire to go to sea, simply to get promotion, and the service will be denied their excellent work. If you base it on selection, pure and simple, officers in out of the way posts will not be known by the board that selects them. Officers in the immediate vicinity of that board—Washington for instance—will be known in every way, and probably will be selected.
These are my objections to promotion by selection as a practical and not as a theoretical man.
Lieutenant H. O. STICKNEY, U. S. Navy.—Mr. Chairman: I have not seen this paper by Mr. Jackson, and am not at all prepared to discuss the subject, but I am glad to see that someone is willing to voice his objection to selection, and I would like to second it, and to say that I am unalterably opposed to selection for several reasons.
One thing I would like to call attention to is that I frequently hear a comparison made between the navy and civil life. The statement is almost invariably made that everything goes by selection, according to merit, in civil life. Now, is that so? In any banking corporation, or business concern of any kind, in civil life, if a man is incompetent he loses his job; if he is competent he generally holds it; but the men promoted are very apt to be the sons, cousins, and friends of the president of the corporation. I do not know that I have any better ground or knowledge to base this statement on than others present have, but I believe if you will look it up you will find it is almost absolutely true. It is simply human nature. The president knows these people. He is not personally interested in knowing whether John Jones is a very much better man than Sam Smith is, but he is interested in knowing whether his own nephew, or his wife's nephew, is a good man or not; he either knows it or he finds it out, and if the nephew is a good man he gets promoted—and often he gets promoted regardless of qualifications.
Another feature of the thing, as regards the service itself, speaking of the question of heart burnings that may be developed, I believe this: What we need in the service is team work. If we have a large ship, a battleship, with a commanding officer who is the finest in the service individually—may have been promoted two or three times by selection—if he has a first lieutenant and five or six watch officers jumped over by selection, I do not believe that ship is going to be anything but extremely inefficient. I do not believe she can possibly be efficient. I go a step further and say that the captain and the first lieutenant both may be two of the best men in the service; if the watch officers are dissatisfied because they have been jumped over, this feeling of dissatisfaction, I believe, will make the ship inefficient.
If you have a baseball team here at the Academy, and every man is working for his personal record, I do not believe they will win the games; if they are all working for team records, and every man is willing to make his own record a secondary consideration, I believe the games will be won, and I believe this principle holds good in the service.
Lieutenant H. O. STICKNEY, U. S. Navy.—The question of promotion by selection having been discussed in connection with Lieutenant Jackson's timely paper, I desire to add a few words to my remarks made at the meeting of the Institute, on the 13th instant.
Probably every officer in the navy, especially those who have been instructors at the Naval Academy, will concede that no system of selection can insure getting the best men at the top, for the reason that no perfect system has yet been devised. It is well known that the best students do not necessarily make the best officers—and it takes war to show whether an officer is a good admiral or not, as it took war to give us General Grant and a host of other military and naval heroes.
A few believe we can get better men at the top by some system of selection. No system has as yet been elaborated and placed before the service in a finished form capable of definite acceptance or refusal. Until some such scheme has been presented to us it may seem, perhaps, a little hasty to say one is "unalterably opposed" to selection.
We are constantly told by advocates of selection, that in civil life men who are the most capable rise to the top.
I deny that this is so, and with the innumerable exceptions that can be seen every day around us I fail to see how these statements go unchallenged.
Opportunity makes the man, more frequently than the converse.
Thousands of bright young doctors, lawyers, and other professional graduates start their careers every year, and who are they who succeed quickest and best? The answer is unmistakeable. It is they who have influential connections to push them along. The man without such friends struggles along in obscurity, unknown, and with praises unsung. Lucky he is if he ever rises above the point of paying his necessary expenses. But one in a thousand of these men, without powerful friends, ever becomes a shining light; that is, ever gets selected.
I have mentioned this to knock down one straw man so frequently set up by the advocates of selection.
The most striking examples of the failure of "selection" are to be found in civil life.
I believe that selection in the navy would be more nearly "a square deal" than it is in civil life, for I have more confidence in our ability to select according to merit.
But with all this, until the day comes, when, if you or I are smitten on the one cheek we will meekly turn the other, the day will be far distant when either of us will do our duty cheerfully and zealously after being turned down to make room for our juniors who were "on the spot" and had the opportunity, especially if we are ordered to serve under them.
I believe the selection we have now is far reaching enough; and who will deny that the exercise of that power during the war with Spain was the primary cause of one of the most unfortunate controversies in the navy that the service has recently seen? Well exercised as this power was, it but emphasizes my statement when I say that if selection is extended to include peace times, and other than to the grades of flag officers, we shall see a contented, hard-working personnel transformed into one full of discontent and heart burnings, where each man is neglecting four-fifths of his duty in order to distinguish himself and shine in the eyes of those who will be called upon to select officers for promotion—and where each man is jealous of his mess mate. Will this bring about greater efficiency?
I would like to add a word in regard to the training of midshipmen.
During the next ten years about half the line officers in the service at the end of that period will have passed through the Naval Academy.
Is there any duty to be done in that period of time more important than the proper education of such a proportionately large number of young officers?
I believe the number of officers available as instructors at the Academy is less than half the number that should be employed in this important duty, and I believe that the service would gain infinitely by placing in reserve, if necessary, enough ships to provide at once the requisite numbei of officers for the training of these young men.
I consider this question of far more importance than the age of admission of midshipmen, or the question of promotion by selection.
It is a subject for immediate action—the other questions are not pressing.
Rear-Admiral F. E. CHADWICK, U. S. Navy (writer not present).—My own view has long been that a certain proportion of promotions should be made from each grade by selection, going down a limited distance only. and that the greater proportion of selections should be in the lower grades. This would be an additional incentive to men when young, though I do not know that they can work much harder than they do now. Selection should never, in my opinion, be as complete as in the British service. It is too uncertain a method, even if we have a general concensus regarding a man. You can never really know how a man is going to turn out until he meets the crisis. But it will work well to a certain degree, and a partial system should be tried.
Captain RICHARD WAINWRIGHT, U. S. Navy (writer not present).—Lieutenant Jackson's lecture is very timely as bringing before the navy a question most vital to the efficiency of the service. The subject is fully and fairly discussed, but I regret that he fails to refer to the report made in 1895 by the joint committee of Congress of which Senator Hale was a member.
I cannot agree with the conclusions of the lecturer, for I do not think he has given sufficient weight to the present needs of the navy.
There is an absolute need of more officers and the yearly increase proposed by him meets this want too slowly. In place of paying heed to Lieutenant Jackson's demonstration of "the danger of graduating the very large classes in order to relieve the present great lack of officers," it behooves the authorities to strain every effort to graduate as many as practicable. For this reason it has been recommended that the term at the Academy be shortened to three years until the need for more officers is less pressing.
It is true that in filling up the lower grades by graduating large classes a "hump" will be produced, and that some method to remedy this evil must be adopted. For this purpose the reserved list for age in grade has been proposed.
In the lecturer's bill the number of officers in the upper grades is out of proportion with that in the lower grades. It would be impossible to give a reasonable amount of sea service to the officers in the command grades.
He is also in error on the question of the age of flag officers. He says "that we have excellent flag officers at 57 and 58 cannot be denied to-day and the Department can and does choose the ablest and most vigorous for its commands afloat." There is no admiral as young as 57 and only three under 59 on our list. The age at which captains are promoted is on the increase, and soon only a few will have as much as two years on the admirals' list.
It is important that an admiral who is to command a fleet in time of war should have some prior experience in handling a division, squadron, or fleet. Five years at least should be spent on the admirals' list. Hence the recommendation to place captains over 57 on the reserved list.
The problem confronting us is an old one. There are a large number of officers needed in the lower grades with comparatively few in the command grades. If all pass slowly towards the top, the only vacancies being casualties and retirements at 62, many must retire as captain, a few squeezing over and forming the admiral's list, and all or nearly all will spend too short a time in the upper grades.
The true pipe line system (Lieutenant Jackson's is a variety) requires the several grades to be made up according to the needs of the service, and to apportion the years, between graduation and retirement, among the several grades, so that the proper time will be spent in each grade. Then add to casualties and retirements the number of forced retirements necessary to promote the lowest number in a grade in the time assigned to that grade.
In order to avoid an excessive number of forced retirements, Lieutenant Jackson, in his variation of the pipe line system, has increased the numbers in the command grades beyond the needs of the service and they are out of proportion with the lower grades.
The theory of the bill approved by the Secretary of the Navy last January was to increase the officers to meet the service requirements as rapidly as practicable. To make the numbers in each grade to accord with service needs, to bring the age of officers gradually to a reasonable limit, and to prevent stagnation in promotion by a limit of age for sea duty in upper grades.
I firmly believe that the above method far more nearly meets the needs of the service than the bill proposed by Lieutenant Jackson, and that less injury will be inflicted on individuals.
There are two weak points in this method. One is the large number of officers of high rank that will be reserved for shore duty; and the other is the discouragement for the older men with lack of incentive to exertion for the younger.
The first objection is more apparent than real. There is a growing need in the government service for experienced men who are outside of politics and above ordinary temptations. It will cost less to maintain an efficient service when the surplus is actively employed than when it is shelved on a retired list.
The second objection could be met by filling a portion of the vacancies in the lower grades by selections made by a board of officers with continuing responsibility.
No scheme can be proposed that will meet all objections, and many variations may arise between the extremes of "vested rights" and "pure selection." It is to be hoped that the bill which has received the approval of the Secretary may meet the views of those who study the subject.
Medical Inspector H. E. AMES, U. S. Navy.—Of course this question of selection bears more directly on the line, and I can only speak from my observation. I will not speak of the line side, but in some of our staff corps we have had selection in a way. Certain of the higher positions have been filled by officers who have been selected, not by a board of officers, but by one or two men who simply had the political pull. They have invariably gotten the plum, and not from merit at all; in fact, it is well known throughout the rest of the corps that they were not the best suited; but there was no possible way of beating them out without creating great discord, not locally in the corps, but perhaps throughout the country, or say, in the navy itself.
Owing to the peculiar condition of our country, our institutions and laws, I do not believe selection will work satisfactorily; it may do very well in foreign countries. Indeed, while we are apt to say that the higher billets under monarchical forms of government are filled by capable men, it does not prove that there are not a great many men who would fill them more satisfactorily.
It does not follow that a man need have scientific ability, as long as he has scientific instincts. I do not believe, speaking from the staff's side of it, that selection (we have it; but it has not been left to a board, but to an individual; the principle is the same) has brought about that success that we would like to have.
I think one trouble is that when it comes to promotion in the line, there has been too much carelessness in scanning a man's record. We know any number of men where board after board has turned them down, whose influence would eliminate those who opposed their advancement, and substitute others, and keep eliminating until they secured a board that would pass the individual. The physical record goes for very little, and in many cases the mental record goes for very little. It is simply the peculiar condition of affairs in our country that enables some people to work a scheme of that kind, and I can go back, if necessary for thirty years, and cite case after case.
Again, a great deal could be done, particularly when it comes to selection from the higher grades, say to command rank. There may be nothing particularly against a man, so far as his ability to do this, that, or the other, is concerned, but they do not look into the man's ability or power to control other men. There are many men that are promoted to higher rank who are scholarly and able; they can do almost anything, but when you come to place a great many people under their control, they are entirely lacking, and will do more damage to the service than perhaps an inferior man, with the power to command men, would do.
Another feature is in regard to the young men entering the Academy—reducing the age. I think it would be a great mistake. It is known, so far as psychology is concerned, that in the youth of 55 the mind is not developed, and it follows of course, if you are going to take them at 55, unless you can select out of a great many the number required, you are going to fail, because it is apparent that it is preparing and not advancing the mind, as the intellectual centers are not developed until 57 or 58 years of age. That is now recognized in all institutions of learning, and instead of reducing the age I think it would be far better to keep it as it is. I would say from 57 to 20. Make the standard higher, give them the full four years' course, and graduate them as ensigns, instead of giving them the two years at sea.
I only speak from observation, but I think if there is anything of value I have gained from my observation on board ship, is in noticing the young men after commencing their sea duty, for the two years after they leave here I would say that probably eighty per cent of the young men devote about an average of one-half of one per cent of their time to study; the rest is simply performing duties, and not using their brain. I think it would be a great mistake, from the intellectual side, to reduce the age here. I am not as much interested as the rest of you are, but simply speak as an outsider might. As Admiral Goodrich says, "A lieutenant who cannot head his company and lead it up a hill should not be given a position of that kind; he is not fitted to hold that rank."
Professor P. R. ALGER.—I would like to say a word in regard to the age of entry into the Naval Academy.
I am personally a strong believer in lowering the age limit. I think they should enter younger than they do here at present. If Dr. Ames' opinion is correct, that they should be older, then we should demand more of them. A man getting in here at 59 or zo should know what a man of bright mind, at that age, ought to know. We are now handicapping ourselves. We are putting a premium on stupidity by insisting upon the age limit being at a certain point, and the requirements those which should accompany fewer years.
The proposition of the General Board to reduce the age limit I heartily agree with, but it seems to me almost ludicrous to accompany that recommendation by another recommendation that we shall also reduce the length of the course. I cannot understand how the two recommendations can go together; they want to lower the age limit and cut down the course to three years. If we would raise the age limit as Dr. Ames proposes, and also raise the entrance requirements, we might very readily cut down the course, but the proper thing, it seems to me, is to cut down the age limit and increase the length of the course at the Academy. Take them at 15 and graduate them at 2o, after a five years' course, and they are ready, properly equipped to be given commissions.
Lieutenant R. H. JACKSON, U. S. Navy.—The Doctor speaks of the age 15 to 17; that is the age advocated now by the General Board in Washington. Probably the bill referred to by Captain Wainwright also mentions that.
I mentioned this suggestion as to age largely as a matter of discussion. At that time I was not convinced, in my own mind, what might be the best age. I now put forward the ideas which have occurred to me since then, which may be taken for what they are worth.
The question of age at entrance was looked up here, when the age was from 14 to 18 (a good many things have been investigated here, and that was one of them), and it was discovered, during Captain Ramsey's time, that the most successful, so far as you could make a rule out of a large number of figures, were in the younger 50 per cent; that is, those between 14 and 16 were the most successful men here. Now, if we had the age from 15 to 17 we would take in boys who are fresh, at that time, on the various subjects upon which they are going to be examined. The candidates who come here to-day get down to their old books, and look up the subject again, thus wasting a year, or two years, studying something else, when they must go back to this examination to freshen up.
Again, if we admit these facts, and it seems to agree with the opinion of the examining board, and the investigation under Captain Ramsey, if we limit the age to two years, we stop a lot of repeaters, people who fail here on their first appointment. If they happen to be 16 at that time, they don't get in. If they bilge at the end of their first year, they do not get back again, and we know that, as a rule, if we would select out the people that we drop out from the bottom here, they are the people who, we must admit, are the least desirable of the lot. So that, if this system takes boys at the time that they are just fresh upon those subjects, they have not wasted any time in civil life. If it prevents the bilgers from getting in, and it prevents the people who fail to get in from coming back here again, those people are handicapped right through; if they should go into the service at 25 or 26, they are away out of their place, and always will be. So that the more I thought of it the more it seemed to me that 15 to 17 would be a fit age, and if they were graduated then at 21 we would have them exactly on the same basis as the English lieutenant, whom we hear so much about as being right up to the mark.
Now, I stated in one paragraph that "we have to-day excellent flag officers at 57 and 58." That is a fact; that is the age of our flag officers, and I do not think there can be any great criticism of those that are given the most important commands to-day. If we look back and see who had the important commands in our navy, we find the admirals of 57 and 58. The table given by Captain Schroeder, and the table arrived at by the board of which President Roosevelt was the chairman, both agree upon 57 or 58 as the age which, in our country, under our conditions of service, was a fair .time for a man to become an admiral, and give him five years on the admirals' list. I think that has been the concensus of opinion of people that have taken up the study of ages, and the application of it to our service.
Another very important thing is that by an entrance age of 15 to 17 they would all be of the same age at the same grade; for instance, you would have no man six years out of his class.
There is another point that comes up just now. The same thing occurred once before. When I was an ensign, there were in the steerage ensigns 30 to 35, who had never stood watch, and who could not get into the wardroom, because ensigns were not wardroom officers. Now, it seems to me that to-day we are doing something of the same kind. We say we would like to have lieutenant-commanders at 36, and that we want the important billets of navigation, executive, and ordnance officers on battleships given to men with that age, experience, and rank. Well, to-day we have the age and the experience, but we do not have the rank; so what must we do but insist upon taking lieutenant-commanders only, no matter if their age be 47. Why then should not lieutenants at the head of the line be detailed for these billets?
Lieutenant-Commander W. IRVING CHAMBERS, U. S. Navy (writer not present).—This paper shows evidence of systematic, careful, and thoughtful study. It is opportune, and I think its author deserves the profound thanks of the service.
The "selection" question is aptly summed up, and I agree with the author that the age of 45 years to enter command grades is not too old. It is Utopian to hope that it may be less. The condition of our personnel affairs may not yet be "desperate," but unless the right thing is done very soon it will not be long before our present dilemma will develop into a desperate condition.
There seems to be unanimity of opinion that midshipmen should be graduated as ensigns, and if this be combined with the author's idea of carrying the selection system through the formation period, by requiring competitive examination when qualifying for junior lieutenants, after these officers have been tried in their duties on board ship, I think the problem will be simplified.
The principles of the Personnel Law of 1899 had, practically, the support of the whole naval service. Elimination of the officers who were redundant rather than of selecting for promotion was the key note to its popularity. It provided a remedy for stagnation by voluntary and involuntary, retirement and by a readjustment of the numbers in the different grades of commanding officers. The numbers in the respective grades were carefully selected with respect to the actual needs of the navy on a peace basis, taking account of the number of ships likely to be commissioned for service, their actual needs and the other absolute needs for the efficient conduct of the navy.
If now we find the conditions changed, that our policy requires a certain number of ships (so many of each class) at the end of a certain period, and that modern requirements place a larger percentage of officers in the lower grades on those ships, or disturb the former percentages in any way, we are bound to readjust those percentages. Furthermore, if we are to have those ships efficient in every way at the expiration of that period, we must provide a means for finding our quota of officers complete by that time. Our percentages then should be based not on the so-called "peace basis," but in accordance with a well considered and competent program, to perfect which we should consistently strive.
Fluctuation from a fixed rate of admission at the bottom and of removal at the top should be avoided as much as possible. But where it is impossible of avoidance the evils that lie in the wake of fluctuation must be provided for in some other way, as, for example, by varying the rate of removal along the line.
To keep the flow normal the number in command grades should be liberal. The extension of commanders to larger ships seems unavoidable and, in order to maintain this liberal percentage in command grades, while providing for sufficient sea experience to all, the period of command may be somewhat shortened or lengthened from time to time to suit the varying conditions.
Want of time prevents me from enlarging upon the means to accomplish the theoretical conditions outlined, but it is hoped that these ideas may assist eventually in arriving at a practical solution of the problem. This should be possible after mature consideration of all the points brought out in this paper and its discussion.
Captain E. B. BARRY, U. S. Navy (writer not present).—I do not know which to admire the most: the way Lieutenant Jackson has marshaled his facts, or the temperate manner in which he suggests remedies.
The past shows us that each spasmodic increase of the navy from the bottom has resulted in a "hump," clogging promotion and doing more harm than good. The remedy, a reduction of the upper grades, has been worse than the disease, thus blocking more completely the promotion of the younger officers. To be sure, we have had but little voice in our own affairs in the past, but nowadays there seems to be a tendency to let us ask for things with a strong probability of their being obtained, provided we can give adequate reasons for our requests.
I always have been opposed to the so-called final graduating examination; it is false in principle and false in practice. There is not a midshipman who could not get higher marks if he took it two years before he has to pass it. I am fully in accord with Lieutenant Jackson in his advocacy of an examination three years after real graduation with a coefficient not greater than 300 nor less than 250, assigning the remainder of the final moo to the Naval Academy. Frequently the poorest officers are the most scholastic. As Lieutenant Jackson says, this practically carries selection—but a well balanced selection or rearrangement of scholastic and service excellence combined—to the age of 25. There it should stop.
I should not like to see the English scheme of "five firsts" adopted here even with the suggested modification, which I think would not work. Suppose, for example, that Nos. I, 2, 4, 8, and 14 took "five firsts," what increase of numbers would they get? Evidently Nos. x and 2 none; No. 4 one number; No. 8 four numbers, and No. 14 ten numbers, while No. 3 would lose three numbers, and so on. Probably Nos. 3 and 5, even after being pushed down, would have better finals than 4, 8, and 14.
Attention should be given to the remark embracing the percentages of graduates, the present shortage, and the dangers from too precipitate a remedy. Of this I speak feelingly for I have stood marking time on the very crest of the old hump for many years. Pray we do not aid in repeating the blunder. Better, far, double our work for years than open the floodgates to untrained political appointments to the detriment of the Naval Academy and of the service at large. As Lieutenant Jackson says, let the navy grow slowly and steadily and by regular increments.
I am fully in accord with the idea of grade service and length of service in each grade. To make it of any value, however, it must be made absolutely impossible for any officer to do the duty of a higher grade. Therefore the duties of each grade should be so sharply defined there could be no way even for a political favorite to evade grade requirements.
I should like to see age for grade established (for the "good of the service," that is, provided it does not affect me unfavorably!), but it should be reached by very slow degrees. Let me use my own case as an illustration. Had the age bill passed the last Congress I should have tottered feebly along, an aged and decrepit commander, almost having outlived my usefulness, unfit to command the smallest gunboat, but suddenly by a fortunate vacancy I burst forth a young and vigorous captain, physically capable of commanding the largest of battleships. Such change is too radical. Until it is proved that the old fellows are too old, ease them down gently. I see nothing very alarming for our future in our fossil captains, because there is not a captain on the active list to-day as old as Farragut was when he began making history.
There are two methods, it seems to me, that must combine to make a proper age and a proper flow for each grade: 1st, increase all command grades in accordance with an expanding service; 2d, slowly and steadily reduce the age until the intervals as given by Lieutenant Jackson are reached.
One grade, however, never can be touched, and many a worthy captain will retire with his well deserved flag in sight but just beyond his reach. Nothing but death or age will change the grades of admiral, so there always must be a stagnation among the senior captains, since many more men will reach the age of 57 in four years than that of 62 in less than one year.
The pyramid of promotion is a good illustration of the excess requirements and shows how unavoidable is the reduction that must take place in each grade.
Lieutenant Jackson asks why not allow commanders to command larger ships? By all means. I think the tonnage assignment for command is all wrong. No tonnage should lap in quantity from one grade over into the next. All men-of-war should be rated by displacement, and all merchant steamers, all so-called converted cruisers, colliers, etc., should be designated as "special" rates and also be rated by displacement, beginning, however, with special 2d rate. In the assignment of commands no captain should be allowed, under any circumstances whatever, to command a "special rater." This would add materially to commander's commands.
In the bill, as given by Lieutenant Jackson, I think lies a solution of the vexing problem of promotion flow for 1915. Fixed retirement vacancies should be approached on an increasing scale, governed by the percentage of increase, thus approaching by easy stages the vacancies required when 1915 is reached, and should not be so largely increased at once, as in section 3 of the bill.
I am fully in accord with Lieutenant Jackson as to the duties of a line committee; "its sole duty is to consider the welfare of the personnel." By all means let us have a line committee that is the voice of the navy; let it have its principal headquarters in Washington or anywhere else if necessary, but there should be a member of the committee at every station, ashore and afloat, through whom quiries for opinions should issue. No action should be taken on any matter of moment until the opinion of the majority of the service can be presented to the Secretary of the Navy.
Finally, lest it may not be gathered indirectly from my remarks, I wish to record myself as opposed to any system whatever of promotion by selection, except by "selection out."
Captain BADGER, U. S. Navy.—I wish to say that I congratulate the assemblage here on the success of our experiment. The meeting has not been large in numbers, but it has certainly been very valuable in the arguments that have been brought forth on this very important subject, and as I observe some unsettlement on the part of the members I shall cut short the long speech I intended to make. I think it is now in place to thank the essayist of this evening for his valuable paper, and for the ideas he has drawn forth on the part of those who have made remarks on the subject.