WASHINGTON -- The Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980 has served the military well, but it needs to change to meet the changing environment, service personnel chiefs told a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee yesterday.

The law was passed in a far different time and it standardized officer promotions across the services. It enshrined the "up-or-out" process and it gave the services the necessary tools to manage a huge industrial age force. The four manpower chiefs detailed their services' plans in written testimony to the subcommittee on personnel.

The act now limits the flexibility services need in today's environment, Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands said in his written testimony. This is especially crucial when dealing with low-density, high-demand specialties.

He said Army officials are "reviewing proposed statutory changes for the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to modernize the DOPMA to recruit, develop, promote and retain officers for today's operational requirements."


He assured members that the Army will share their review with legislators. "A review and adjustment of DOPMA may enable more effective management of human capital, and help ensure the inevitable cycles of reduction and expansion work more smoothly for all the services," he said.

In the Navy, changes in the act will help the service compete for talent, and use that talent more effectively, said Navy Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke, the chief of naval personnel.

"Sailors leaving the Navy have increasingly expressed frustration with the industrial-age personnel systems and processes under which we operate, which do not provide the kinds of choice, flexibility and transparency they value and expect," Burke said. "Just as the scope and complexity of the warfighting challenges we face on the battlefield demand a different approach, so, too, does our approach to recruiting, developing, and retaining the kind of talented force we need to compete and win in this warfighting landscape."

DOPMA has worked, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, but it needs to modernize. The Air Force's deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services told the senate panel that "modernization will provide more flexibility into the officer management system so we can quickly respond to human capital requirements in the information age."

The Air Force has already modernized personnel policies for the enlisted force and expect to use that example when proposing changes to the officer force, she said.

The U.S. labor market is becoming more and more competitive. "Attracting and keeping the bright leaders may require additional flexibilities in our personnel management governance," Grosso said. "We also know officers serving today desire more agility and ability to manage their careers than DOPMA currently affords."

New domains of warfare concern Marine Corps officials, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs. "Cyber operations, information and electronic warfare, enhanced command and control, intelligence, engineering, civil-military operations, manned-unmanned teaming, robotics and the leveraging of artificial intelligence are examples of critical skills we will need for the future fight," the general said. "Creating incentives through continued reform will help us now and in the future."

The Corps is also looking at creating separate competitive categories for certain officer occupations. "Non-command career tracks are also being discussed," he said. "We are assessing whether this would result in adverse second- and third-order impacts for the Marine Corps. Any such tool must be implemented equitably; it is not something that should be offered to some, but not similarly-situated others."