REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – The U.S. Army’s future leaders now have an earlier launch path to becoming space officers.The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Space Personnel Development Office, or ASPDO, is the Army’s personnel proponent for the Functional Area 40 Space Operations Officer military occupational specialty. ASPDO executes lifecycle management functions for the functional area, as well as develop the Army’s space cadre.Assured Functional Area Transfer, or AFAT, was approved as a pilot program for the Fiscal Year 2020 commissioning cycle. During that cycle, the ASPDO recruited and screened 375 applicants; interviewed 42 candidates; and offered AFAT contracts to 20 commissioning cadets.These cadets will serve four years in their basic branches before joining the FA40 community in 2024.“AFAT really allows us to capitalize on the education, experience and attributes of commissioning cadets at the start of their career to ensure optimal use of their talents,” said Col. William Starr, commandant, Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence.ASPDO has been involved in an Army Talent Management Task Force pilot program since 2019. The AFAT initiative gives 10 20 United States Military Academy and ROTC cadets with space-oriented science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees the opportunity to “branch detail” to FA40. After commissioning, the officers will serve four years in their basic branch; then they are guaranteed to transfer to FA40.“AFAT is an Army Talent Management Taskforce initiative, and the only approved grassroots initiative, that allows commissioning cadets to apply for guaranteed transfer to FA40 at the four-year point of their career and is essentially a branch detailing program for functional areas,” said Jerry Pepin, acting director, SMD Center of Excellence ASPDO. “The Army leadership sees this program as both a retention tool by providing options beyond the basic branches at an early stage of an officer’s career and an opportunity for functional areas to secure vital talent outside the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program that has traditionally controlled functional area officer populations.“AFAT is a prime example of the evolution of Army’s personnel systems from legacy Cold War to more modern talent-based management,” Pepin added. “The AFAT program offers both the officers and Army space leader’s new opportunities to seek and utilize talent across the force.”ASPDO marketed and recruited cadets by attending branch orientation days at cadet summer training and USMA’s branch week in 2019. Interested cadets were selected for interviews based on talent-based branching data that determined strengths in FA40 talent priorities.“For FA40s in particular, AFAT gives us a chance to recruit officers with STEM degrees who score well in the Army space operations talent priority areas of the talent-based branching assessments,” Pepin said. “While the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program process is primarily based on manner of performance in the Army, AFAT opens a different aperture to help balance the talent in our functional area.”