Senior Army personnel officials on Thursday unveiled the initial results of the service's new officer assignment strategy, which for the first time brings both units and officers into the selection process.
From October to December, about 14,500 officers participated in the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP), a regulated, online market designed to better match an officer's talents to a unit's requirements.
"The system allows officers to view and preference all open positions, while also factoring in their knowledge, skills, behaviors and their preferences," Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, head of Army Human Resources Command, told defense reporters Thursday at the Pentagon.
"ATAP also empowers unit commanders to have more influence over which officers ultimately come to their formations," he said.
ATAP is part of the Army People Strategy announced in October, designed to manage talent across the force more effectively. So far the effort has also yielded the new Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP) that is intended to put officers through a series of assessments to ensure they are ready for battalion command.
Overall, the ATAP process was highly effective at matching the preferences of both the units and the officers preparing to move into new assignments this summer, Calloway said.
"We had more than half of the officers and more than half of the units receive their first choice for every job in the market," he said. "Then we had about two-thirds on both sides of the equation receive one of their top three choices and about 80% of units and officers receive a choice that was in their top 10%.
"So, as the former director of Officer Personnel Management Directorate, I can say that that is truly unprecedented in terms of the level of satisfaction on both sides of that equation," Calloway said.
The Army ran the first test of ATAP about two years ago with a group of majors at Command General Staff College and has been refining it ever since, said Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, deputy chief of staff for Army G1.
This new round added colonels to the process, which brings in job specialties such as chaplain as well as specialties from the medical community.
The next round of ATAP is scheduled to begin in April for the 4,500 officers who will move into new assignments next winter.
But before that happens, Army officials hope to make improvements to the process based on glitches that emerged during the first round of assignments.
"The medical profession is pretty complicated ... in that the specialties that you need are a lot more complicated than an infantry or human resources soldier to make sure you get the right person in the right place," Seamands said. "So, as we started the process, we realized how complex it was with the skills you need to identify for a specific medical profession."
Army officials hope to make improvements to the Assignment Information Module (AIM 2.0), the automation system that allows soldiers to use ATAP in an online portal, Calloway said.
"With this next cycle, there will be some improvements," he explained. "On the automation side, we will improve the tool because the AIM 2.0 portal is where all the officers and units come in and make their preferences, to see all the jobs, all that kind of thing."
Most of the improvements will be designed to make the AIM 2.0 tool "more user-friendly on both sides so that the filtering mechanism in the tool will help," Calloway said.
"So you can imagine you are a logistics captain and you've got 400 or 500 jobs that you are looking at and, on the other side, you are the commander and you've got 500 to 600 officers and trying to figure out which person do you want to come to your formation," he said.
In the first round of ATAP, the tool became overloaded and "assigned some officers to jobs to which they were not qualified for," Calloway said.
"What we have to do is insert additional logic into that tool to prevent that from happening," he said, adding that Army assignment officers were able stop the misguided assignments before they became active.
"It's very complicated, of course, because of the volume of users on both sides. In any automated tool, to try to enable them to sort through and to see all the resumes and all that, it takes a huge amount of bandwidth," Calloway said.
Surveys from the field and feedback from commanders will also be used to refine the process, he added.
"This was a significant change in the way the assignment process has been run, so the first major iteration of this part of it [showed] individuals needed to understand the system and how it worked and how they needed to operate this to their maximum benefit," said Brig. Gen. Joseph McGee, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force. "And then units, too, down at the brigade level, have been pushed into hiring authority because they can now pick their own teams, needed to adapt and learn how to use this.
"So, I think what we will see in further executions is, now that we have done this with 14,500 officers, those lessons learned are going to be carried forward to the individuals and to the units," McGee said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct information about the intention of the Army People Strategy and what job specialties are included in the process with the addition of colonels.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.