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Army overhauling personnel management

October 13, 2011

By Master Sgt. Doug Sample

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 13, 2011 ) -- The all-volunteer force can expect several changes in terms of promotion, evaluation and professional development as the Army looks at new strategies for overhauling its personnel management system.

During a panel discussion on leadership and future personnel strategies Wednesday at the AUSA annual meeting and symposium, Army leaders briefed Soldiers and civilians on what they can expect as the service looks to 2020.

Thomas Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), said the overall strategy is to transform the Army management of manpower over the next nine years.

"The Army of 2020 must retain high-quality individuals. We must be more flexible and informed, better able to identify and draw on the unique skills and talents within the force to more easily address specific missions," he explained. "Our goal is to create institutional agility so that we are able to expand and contract the force to meet new missions, changing environments, and emerging crises."

To achieve that goal, Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, deputy chief of staff (G-1), said the Army must maintain and manage the talent it has within the force. Bostick said the Army is good at developing leaders, but emphasized that as it looks to the future, there has to be change.

"We are very, very good at developing leaders and we are focused now on how do we do it better," said Bostick. "You can talk to any industry out there and they will look at the United States Army as a great example of how we develop young leaders, officers, non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and civilians. We want to keep that reputation as we move forward. After 10 years of war, we're taking a real strong look at where we are at and taking some action and changing some of the ways we do business."

Bostick also pointed out that the Army needs leaders who are adaptable, diversified and can operate on many strategic levels. "Whether it is within Congress, or the media, or budgeting, or personnel ... across this enterprise that we have ... we have to ask are we setting ourselves up for success? Are we getting the civilian education, the military education, and the experiences, knowledge, skills and abilities that we need?"

Bostick also spoke enthusiastically about a new option the Army is working to implement in the near future that he says will make officers more adaptable leaders. Over the next year, West Point and the Training and Doctrine Command will roll out a new initiative called "broadening." It will aim to allow officers to gain the knowledge, skills and abilities through various assignments outside their core competency.

The new initiative, which has the support of the Army secretary and chief of staff, provides officers the opportunity to work as fellows with government and civilian agencies as well as military exchange programs, training with industry and teaching at colleges and universities.

Bostick recalled comments former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made to West Point cadets in February, telling them to "look for opportunities that in the past were off the beaten path. If not a career dead-ender, then the institutional Army should not only tolerate, but encourage you in that effort."

Other changes, Bostick noted include implementing a senior-rater box on the officer evaluation report for all grades, brigadier general and below, with the exception of chief warrant officer 5; implementing successive positions by senior rater, and incorporating comments on OERs by raters indicating completion or initiation of the 360 assessment. The 360 assessment allows peers and subordinates to rate a Soldier's performance over the past three years.

Bostick compared the 360 assessment to what many soldiers know as an after-action review, adding that officers need to become "comfortable with the dialogue" in the assessment.

G-1 Sgt. Maj. Tom Giles explained the Army plans to develop its non-commissioned officer corps through changes in schools and training. Giles said Soldiers can now take structured self-development training, which he said encompasses "all the key things that we don't have time to get to in institutionalized training. Things like the culture and traditions of the service, information that is critical to young service members."

Giles also commented on changes to the noncommissioned officer evaluation report, adding that the document has "had its day."

"Most importantly (it) does not meet the Army leader-development strategy," he said. As for the ratings in some of the NCOERs, Giles said most NCOs would agree there is too much inflation in bullet comments. "We need to get back to accountability," he said.

A board of sergeants major are discussing several recommendations for improving the NCO rating system to include a multi-source assessment tool, he said, and ways to increase senior-rater and rater accountability.

Meanwhile, directors for the National Guard and Army Reserve admitted they have unique challenges when it comes to providing the training needed to develop strong leaders. However, both men offered up what they said are positive solutions to the problems their services face.

"Our struggle is to how do we get that training and incorporate it into all the other things on the plate of this Soldier," said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief, Army Reserve. "So our challenge really is where do we fit our leader development in with all that we are asking our Soldiers to do, and they have a full-time job at the same time."

Throughout the three-day conference, Stulz said he has spent a lot of time preaching the value and benefit of the "Continuum of Service" model which allows the Reserve to maintain the investment the military has made in developing leaders for a life-long career.

Stultz said continuum of service allows Soldiers to "flow back and forth" between active and Reserve time "so they can achieve their life goals of going to school or starting a new career." In return, he said Soldiers get experience that will make them better leaders.

Maj. Gen. Ray Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard, explained the Guard has a "backlog" when it comes to military education, and that the Guard is looking at several options to better develop its Soldiers as leaders. He pointed out that the operational tempo of Guard units due to the continued support of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has outpaced the ability to educate and train noncommissiond officers and junior leaders.

"We've got a backlog of professional military education ... we have Soldiers that have not gone to the appropriate military educational schools and what that has done is that we see squad leaders in the same Warrior Leaders Course as their supervisors, as their platoon sergeant. We got to work through that and we've got to do it quickly, because we want these leaders to be appropriately trained for the tasks ahead.

"We want our NCOs and our Soldiers to have the developmental opportunities they need. Our challenge is to make sure that they have the same education and the same training as their active-duty counterparts so they can have the same opportunities they deserve."

The general also said the Guard will focus more on building resilient Soldiers and families, and improvements to personnel and medical readiness.

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