WASHINGTON -- The Army plans to test a new approach to talent management this fiscal year on how to select battalion commanders before possibly extending it to other ranks, said the Army's top officer.

"To ensure we recruit and retain the right people for the Army, we are implementing a 21st century talent management system," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville during his first address in the role at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition Tuesday.

Officers being considered will be screened by a command board. After that, top qualifiers will compete in person during a five-day assessment -- the Battalion Commander Assessment Program -- at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in January, prior to selection.

After having a chance to learn lessons from the upcoming battalion commander program, McConville hopes to expand it to sergeants major and brigade-level commanders in the future.

Another talent management initiative is the Army Talent Alignment Process, or ATAP, a decentralized, regulated, market-style hiring system that aligns officers with jobs based on preferences.

"The Army spends more time and more money selecting a private to be in a Ranger regiment than it does selecting battalion commanders," McConville said, urging the need for a change.

The new talent management system will organize Soldiers by 25 variables instead of two, like how they are currently managed. The way it works now, "you're a captain of infantry or a sergeant of engineers," McConville said.

The new system will collect and measure data from Soldiers, such as their individual knowledge, skills, and attributes. Then, it will gauge their cognitive and non-cognitive abilities to get a clear picture of where to put those skills, like command or graduate school, he said.

ATAP is enabled by Assignment Interactive Module version 2, or AIM 2.0, which allows officers to self-identify various personal aspects of themselves, such as knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences. All active-duty officers are now being matched with assignments on it, with plans to expand it to all Soldiers.

"It's almost blasphemous to think the Army would actually consider someone's preferences," McConville said, jokingly. "But, if we know where they want to go and what they want to do, we believe we can get the right person in the right job at the right time and we will have a better Army that is more committed.

"When our people are treated this way," he added, regarding his people-first priority, "we know they perform better, stay longer, and they will make our Army stronger."

Another big facet of talent management, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, has been a large total Army focus that is initially being fielded by the National Guard. The system will eventually streamline all components of the Army into a single cohesive personnel and pay system, and help leaders better manage talent and assign jobs to match Army requirements.

People want to be recognized for their talents, the general said, and not be "treated like interchangeable parts in an industrial-age process.

"After we prototype and test these programs with our officers and make sure we have them right, we will expand them to our enlisted Soldiers, to our civilians, into our reserve components," he said.

PEOPLE STRATEGY

Talent management falls into the new Army People Strategy, published Tuesday, after being approved by McConville and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. The strategy addresses how the Army will take care of people by recognizing and managing their unique skills, he said, and is foundational to their readiness.

It focuses efforts on the Army's people, including Soldiers, families, Army civilians, and "Soldiers for Life" veterans and retirees.

McConville addressed five quality-of-life priorities also in the strategy: quality housing for both families and Soldiers in the barracks; world-class health care; quality childcare and youth services; meaningful employment for spouses; and solving permanent change of duty station moving issues, he said.

Although people are McConville's top priority, he also discussed the Army's other priorities of readiness, modernization and reform.

Modernization is "fighting the next fight better," he said. "It must include building multi-domain doctrine, organizations and training, delivering the six modernization priorities and implementing the 21st century talent management system."

During last year's AUSA annual meeting, the Army rolled out its six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the Army network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.

Now, one year later, McConville stood on the same stage as his predecessor -- Gen. Mark Milley, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and made good on those modernization priorities.

In the next two years the Army plans to field a new mobile short-range air defense system, an integrated visual augmentation system, the next generation squad weapon, precision strike missile, extended-range cannon, and the first hypersonic weapon battery, he said.

In addition, the next-generation tactical unmanned aerial surveillance system is slated for 2025, he continued, and fielding an optionally manned fighting vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle is scheduled for 2026.

"And shortly after that, we'll begin fielding our future vertical lift aircraft," he said. "All part of delivering the six modernization priorities.

"No matter how much technology we develop, Soldiers will always remain the centerpiece of our Army," he added. "We equip people, we don't man equipment, and that philosophy will not change."