YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Navy captains and commanders have a little more time to decide whether to voluntarily retire by September 2012, or instead face an earlier exit at the discretion of a board designed to trim the ranks.

Unrestricted line captains with at least four years of time in-grade as of July 1, and commanders who have been passed over at least twice for promotion, now have until May 30 to submit voluntary retirement papers, according to a Navy administrative message released Tuesday.

The deadline has been extended to give officers more time to explore their options, according to the message.

The boards will cut about 120 officers from each rank, according to current projections. Earlier this year, the Navy had projected cutting only 100 officers from ranks. The projections could change depending on voluntary retirement requests prior to the new deadline.

Officers who voluntarily retire may choose a date no later than Sept. 1, 2012. Officers who are forced out must retire no later than the first day of the seventh month following their selections. The Navy expects its cut decisions to be finalized by Sept. 1, according to the message.

While the Navy has sharply cut its enlisted figures in recent years, the officer corps has remained relatively safe from cuts, according to figures requested from the Navy by Stars and Stripes.

There were 271,381 active-duty enlisted sailors in 2010, an 11.2 percent decrease from 2005.

Meanwhile, there were 56,922 officers and midshipmen in during the past year, a .5 percent drop from 2005.

Retirements and separations among the officer corps are down 29 percent since 2005, according to Navy figures.

“There is no doubt that we have very, very low attrition and historic retention tied generally to the unemployment rate,” said Rear Adm. Anthony Kurta, director of military personnel plans and policy, during a March phone interview.

Kurta added that there is no target ratio of officers to enlisted sailors. The end ratio is largely a product of what commanders are asking for, he said.

“We respond to those needs, which are somewhat different on the officer side than on the enlisted side,” Kurta said.

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