WASHINGTON -- Around 14,000 officers will participate in the new Army Talent Alignment Process, or ATAP, as the Army works to establish a 21st century talent management system, officials said.

For the past year, the Army has been refining the way it acquires, maintains, develops, manages, and employs talent throughout the force, said Maj. Gen. Joseph P. McGee, the Army Talent Management Task Force director.

"People are the No. 1 priority for me," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. "That's why we need to manage their talent.

"I believe that if we know where people want to go and what they want to do -- and we get them into those positions -- we will have a much better Army," McConville added. "The progress we're putting in place will take time. This is going to change [Army] culture."

With the launch of ATAP, officers will now have a more flexible career path moving forward, McGee said Wednesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Officers competing for positions during the 2020 summer assignment cycle will now have access to a regulated, market-style hiring system.

Powered by the Assignment Interactive Module version 2.0, or AIM 2.0, officers engaging in the ATAP process will have more ownership of their careers, McGee added. For the first time, each officer's unique knowledge, skills and behaviors, or KSBs, will determine their list of assignment preferences.

Through ATAP, Soldiers will have "increased transparency for all the available jobs," McGee said. In turn, the Army will receive a "tremendous amount [of information] ... about each officer as they self-describe themselves in the backside of the official record brief."

Further, the Army looks to use ATAP's personnel data to identify trends or to determine outstanding qualities in certain officer positions, he said.

"The Army needs to be able to determine what those talents are, figure out how to develop them, and then employ them most effectively," McGee said.

AIM 2.0's internal algorithm will then determine if an officer's preference matches the KSBs and preference list of a gaining unit. Officers and units should set their preference list "as deep as possible," McGee said.

"The problem we will start running into is if an officer only puts five preferences down," he said. "If this happens, and they don't get their top five choices ... they will be matched under the legacy process."

The full launch of AIM 2.0 happened last week. Since then, about 5,900 officers have inputted their preferences, said Maj. Gen. Joseph R. Calloway, commander of the Army Human Resources Command. In the future, the Army will migrate ATAP and AIM 2.0 into the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, to fully integrate all three components.

"Units down to the brigade level have now been given a hiring authority. They can see every candidate for these jobs," McGee said. "The new system encourages discussion between an officer and unit to determine the right match.

"It is a tremendous gift that [the Army] has provided to commanders," he added. "They have the authority to hire their own people and build their teams."

TALENT MANAGEMENT, A FUTURE SCENARIO

It is 2028, and a geopolitical crisis has just erupted overseas. The Army has been tasked to generate a proportional response, McGee said in an anecdote to illustrate the full impact of the Army's new talent management process.

Quickly, officials collect a large query of data through artificial intelligence-enabled systems and advanced predictive analytics. With this collected data, officials design a targeted force structure response.

The Army also identifies a need for data and system engineers to respond to the crisis. In turn, the Army exercises its direct commissioning authority to bring in a group of experts, which subsequently shapes future policy and recommendations.

At the same time, Army officials go through IPPS-A to man a joint task force, tailored to meet the regional requirements. Talented officers, NCOs, and civilians -- from active-duty, Guard, and Reserve -- fill the ranks of the newly formed JTF, enabling the Army to complete its mission successfully.

"If this scenario sounds complicated, it is because the future of warfare will be characterized by dynamic change, unavoidable uncertainty, and increasingly ambiguous scenarios," McGee said. In turn, this scenario illustrates how the Army will evolve to meet the needs of future operations.

UNFAVORABLE ASSIGNMENTS

Some have raised concerns over the new assignment process and how it will impact installations that are viewed as less favorable because of their geographic location.

"On face value, there are always going to be locations that are more geographically favorable than others," McGee said. "That is always going to play a role in terms of how the [Army] assigns people."

Now that officers have more control over their career assignments, strong Army leadership at undesirable locations could generate more appeal, he added.

"How interesting is it going to be when you find a brigade commander [at a location], and everybody is lining up to go work for that individual," McGee said.

Moreover, the Army could potentially use ATAP data to determine why some installations are more challenging to fill.

"We will soon have the tools to be able to talk about the places that are more favorable, and which are not," he said. "And we can use that to have a dialogue at an institutional level about how to make these places more favorable."

BREVET PROMOTIONS

Another way the Army is establishing more flexibility is through the Brevet Promotion Program. More than 200 brevet promotion positions have been identified in the upcoming assignment cycle, McGee said.

Officers selected for brevet promotion are temporarily promoted to the higher grade for as long as they hold that position, and will receive pay comparable to that rank.

The program is intended to alleviate critical shortages of officers and to incentivize retention of those officers in whom the Army invested for education and experience, officials said.

BATTALION COMMAND ASSESSMENTS

Along with ATAP, the Army is also changing the way it evaluates officers slated for battalion command.

Under the new Battalion Commander Assessment Program, officers will need to complete a five-day assessment at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before they are selected to lead.

Close to 830 officers were nominated through the centrally selected command list and will participate in the new BCAP program next year, McGee said.

During the evaluation process, candidates will need to complete the Army Physical Fitness Test and psychological screening. Additionally, candidates will then go through a panel process and will be evaluated on their writing and speaking skills. BCAP officials will also collect feedback from their subordinates and peers.

Selecting the right officer to command is a critical decision, McGee said. Overall, the BCAP process looks to expand the Army's understanding of each officer's KSBs, and strategic potential, all while making data-informed decisions.

OPTING OUT OF PROMOTION BOARDS

Starting with the upcoming lieutenant colonels promotion board, select officers can opt-out of promotion for up to two boards for the betterment of the Army, McGee said.

Officers engaged in advanced educational opportunities that might impact their career progression, or officers participating in unique assignments, can request to defer their opportunity to compete for promotion, officials said.

"This [program] is not intended for low-performing officers who are avoiding a board because they want to avoid being eliminated from the Army," McGee said. The program is "for officers who are doing things that are of high value to the Army."

The ultimate goal is to provide officers with a flexible and individualized career path, without the constraint of fixed timelines, he said.