Officer Personnel Management

The Army’s officer personnel system has been outdated for years, in fact it was devised, even in its present form, to support an industrial age military; where generalists and not specialists were needed.  Under the Defense Officers Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) passed in the 1980s some reforms were instituted, such as eliminating the Reserve and Regular Officer promotions boards, and defining Time in Grade requirements.  DOPMA is also outdated.

Over at the Federal News Service they are taking a two part look at the Army and its promotion system.  Within the services the Army’s officer promotion boards are generally considered to be the most anal service about their officers following the prescribed road map for promotion.

Out of necessity it has to assign junior officers to Training and Doctrine Command positions, where often times the officer cannot transition to a MTO&E tactical unit and get their platoon leader time.  Even for officers who do well, who receive top blocks on their report cards, they will find themselves blackballed by their branch and placed in the shit bird pile because they did not have MTO&E platoon time or their Command was a Training command and not a real MTO&E Command.

For an officer to go to ROTC or even West Point today to teach is the kiss of death.  You will suddenly find yourself blackballed by the professional personnel managers at HRC or even worse having your promotion board decide your career is outside the parameters of those sitting on the board.  End result you will find yourself a non-select.

Then there are the officers who stub their toe (not talking about a relief for cause) as a Second Lieutenant, who bounce back do well in subsequent assignments only to find themselves being bounced from the Army.

Lastly there is the curse of the Top Block.  A friend who as a Battalion Commander received 4 report cards.  On his first it was Center of Mass as his Brigade Commander had no room for another Top Block, his next three were Top Blocks, two of which were in Iraq.  Guess what he was a first time non-select for Colonel (he made it the second time around) and has never attended the war college.

The Department of Defense could benefit from a new Personnel Management Act.  One that reflected the realities of the 21st Century and not the mid-20th Century post World War II Industrial mind set.  The military and the Army manage talent more like they did in Mad Men than Silicon Valley manages and nurtures talent.

About keydet1976

Retired as a Colonel in the United States Army after 33 years of service. Graduate of the VMI, MA in History at JMU, completed course work for Ph.D in History University of Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Army, Idiocy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Officer Personnel Management

  1. slater says:

    And most who get the kick in the nuts do not desire to be Cincinattus.

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  2. burkemblog says:

    I think it’s not so much the system but instructions to boards–boards feel free to ignore instructions when it suits them–I’ve often thought the GOs who head boards ought to be held to account for deviations from their instructions, but that never happens. Two other things: GOs tend to pick new GOs who look like them in terms of background, so it’s a self-perpetuating mechanism. Second, there are so many deals made before boards that there’s not much room for the average, unsponsored GI to get in. I’m speaking as someone who was passed over for both major and lieutenant colonel, but made both second time around. I was also a bit of a late bloomer. Then again, i didn’t take my career seriously until I had about 10 years in. What happened to me was in part my own fault. I used to tell the cadets at West Point that even if they were sure they were getting out after 5 years, they needed to act as if they were bucking for chief of staff from day 1 just in case they changed their minds. It’s a complex business. Ask John Nagl.

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  3. burkemblog says:

    Another point–I think the Navy is actually worse than the Army for officer management–look at how they groom their 03s to do a tour in DC (ruinous financial cost) to get ready to come back between every sea tour–it’s the only way to make 0-6. It’s one of the reasons their ships’ captains get relieved so often–they know how to play in the Building, but not out at sea.

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    • CooperEP says:

      If you aren’t one of the “anointed ones”, then you constantly get shafted with low fitreps and crappy assignments. This isn’t to build character or provide a diverse experience basis for the young leaders, rather, it is all under the guise of paying your dues. I personally have had two commanders tell me that they were giving me low-ball fitreps so that they could bump up other people to entice them to stay in the Navy, or use me the “reset their reporting senior average”. There was no language in my fitrep to say that they did that, so it just looks like I was a below average junior officer. Both reasons are total BS because you get penalized for no other reason than because it is your turn to take one for the team. That is why I have done everything I could in the Reserves to get kick ass fitreps so that I stood the best chances for promotion and command. So far, so good, but it was a hard lesson from my active duty days.

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