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Generations Apart: Xers and Boomers in the Officer Corps

Authored by Dr. Leonard Wong.

October 2000

36 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author addresses the junior officer attrition problem by identifying and discussing the disparity between senior and junior officers in terms of generational differences. Officers from the Baby Boom Generation think and perceive things differently than officers from Generation X. Using empirical evidence to support the generational differences literature, the author points out that Generation X officers are more confident in their abilities, perceive loyalty differently, want more balance between work and family, and are not intimidated by rank. Additionally, while pay is important to Generation X officers, it alone will not keep junior officers from leaving. The solutions presented in the monograph range from strategic policies changing the Army as an organization to operational leadership actions affecting the face-to-face interaction between senior and junior officers.


The junior officer attrition problem has grown in importance and urgency to reach the levels of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army. They have instituted pay raises, pay table reform, and improved retirement benefits to stem the flow of captains and others from the Army. At the same time, the Army’s senior leadership has sensitized battalion commanders throughout the force to the issue and is trying to convince captains to continue in the Army. Yet attitudinal surveys predict and exit numbers verify that the exodus of junior officers has not abated.

In the following monograph, Leonard Wong mines the generational differences literature for insights. Organizations in the civilian sector have been forced to deal with conflict between the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X and the Army is now discovering that it is no different.

The analysis in this monograph goes beyond anecdotes, e-mails, and editorials to describe the situation the Army finds itself in today. It is at times an uncomfortable and difficult process to objectively examine our perspectives in relation to others. The key point is that today’s junior officers think differently than junior officers in the past and hence solutions to the attrition problem cannot come from the traditional menu of conventional fixes.

Retaining our junior officers will require policy changes and critical leadership actions. This monograph convincingly makes the case for both.

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