Some years ago my firm employed an ex-Lt Colonel who had been made redundant as part of the 'options for change' restructuring of the 1990s. He didn't want to leave, he confided; he rather hoped to make Brigadier at least. This was a time when the army was applying a version of 'up or out' - that if an officer, after so much time in a certain rank, failed to gain promotion they had to pack it in. It was designed to stop the blocking of a career progression and experience for the most capable coming up through the ranks. After a while it became apparent why my Colonel had been returned to civilian life; whilst hugely capable in any number of ways, and a thoroughly decent and sociable chap, he lacked a certain key strategic insight and as a consequence set off in directions that were not quite in the firm's long-term interests. He found his niche, I'm happy to say, successfully heading a small and long-established charity.
I rather strongly support 'up or out'. No-one wants to see a forty year-old Captain or a fifty year-old Major. But if the 'Telegraph's' report today is both truthful and accurate, something has gone seriously wrong. A downsizing exercise that leaves the army with the less capable whilst losing those of greater potential is not in the nation's interest. It may be that the report is flawed and part of the war of info-attrition being waged against service cuts. Or it may be that the army's severance package is just too generous. I think we need to know which - if the latter, we need to restrict the benefits. Remember that it's already cost us many hundreds of thousands of pounds to train a Lt Colonel up to that level of experience; making it too attractive to leave is a failure to protect our investment as well as disadvantaging our national interest.