Gowans announces rank changes

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General John Gowans has announced significant changes in The Salvation Army’s rank system, based on the recommendations by the International Commission on Officership.

Effective May 1, 2001, the rank system will be revised as follows:

Service-year ranks

Captain: At commissioning. Major: After 15 years of service. Married officers’ service-year ranks will be held individually.

Conferred ranks

Lieutenant-Colonel: Reserved for senior chief secretaries in the larger territories and for senior command leaders in countries where the Army is a command and not a territory. Colonel and Commissioner: Reserved for territorial and international leaders.

In the case of married officers, conferred ranks will be held jointly. Conferred ranks will be maintained if officers move into a different type of appointment at a later date.

General’s prerogative

The General reserves the right to promote an officer to higher rank at any time where the interests of the Army require it. This includes the right to promote a captain or major directly to lt. colonel, colonel or commissioner.

Phasing-in period

No officer will receive a lower rank than held at present during the phasing-in period.

No further promotions to lt. colonel will be made as of now, except in the case of chief secretaries or officers commanding.

“I believe that the Army needs a rank system,’ said Gowans. “It is part of what makes us an army. I also know that no system is perfect, and that there are advantages and disadvantages in whatever amendments to the system that are adopted. But having given the matter much thought, I am persuaded that these changes are right for the Army at this time.”

In a recent Salvation Army International News Release, Gowans stated the conclusions were made “with the benefit of the thinking of the commission itself (though without acceptance of every point made), the extensive consultation exercise with officers, the hundreds of letters received, together with discussion with a variety of groups and individuals, plus my own prayerful reflections.”

Considerations taken into account were:

  • The desire among many officers for greater simplicity in the rank system and greater transparency in its working. Gowans said he regretted “that it has not proved feasible for constitutional reasons to abolish the rank of commissioner as part of that simplification.”
  • The timeliness of introducing the concept that ranks of married officers are individually held. This is particularly so in the case of ranks that relate to years of service, though Gowans does not feel it to be timely yet in the case of conferred ranks (lt.-colonel and above).
  • The need to bring forward the point at which captains become majors because of the increasing average age of cadets.
  • The need to facilitate interchange of officers between appointments without the hindrance of a rank factor.
  • The difficulty of justifying an arbitrarily set maximum quota of officers who can achieve higher rank. The current figure is 4% of a territory’s active officer strength. Wherever the line is drawn, he notes, it will be an arbitrary one and therefore potentially unjust to individuals.

The problem of a lack of clear criteria for promotions to higher rank that are not linked to specific appointments.

Issues not addressed include the ranks of lieutenant, auxiliary captain, and envoy.

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