Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble
Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble (Photo Credit: Contributed Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

I have vivid memories of the United States Total Army Personnel Command’s 1980s “one size fits all” approach to ordnance officer assignments: vivid, but not good. The prescriptive process, called the Operational Personnel Management System (OPMS), was grounded in a post-World War II (Officer Personnel Act of 1947) industrial-age understanding of labor force management for large organizations. OPMS encouraged equivalence and uniformity, and we recruited and developed Soldiers as interchangeable cogs in the larger machine of the Army.

This sameness may have made sense in the industrial age, but today we are competing for talent in the information age. To overcome the challenges and adversaries of tomorrow, the Army must attract and retain a diverse talent pool that can operate across multiple domains and win against near-peer threats. Attracting, developing, and retaining the best possible candidates and making the best use of their varied talents is decisive – not only to winning, but also to maintaining our all-volunteer force.

We are on a good path. A few years ago, the Army Talent Management Task Force (ATMTF) set out to shift away from the industrial-age precept of personnel management, which focuses on filling empty billets with available personnel, to talent management, which considers the knowledge, skills, and behaviors (KSBs) of an individual who is part of a more strategic workforce. Talent management is about having the right person, in the right job (with the right KSBs) at the right time. The “right-ness” endeavors to maximize individual and organizational capabilities.

Talent management is fundamental to the sustainment of our people; it helps build human endurance and resilience. And, talent management, like good sustainment and logistics practices, demands full visibility, a means to align supply with demand, and a predictive capability to forecast future need.

The web-based Assignment Inter-active Module 2.0 (AIM 2.0), which will eventually be superseded by Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A), enables an online talent marketplace, the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP). In the last year, more than 14,000 active duty officers built comprehensive resumes in AIM 2.0 that detailed their unique knowledge, skills, and experience. Likewise, commanders and human resource managers described the unique requirements of available jobs within their units.

Within ATAP, officers can see all available assignments for which they are qualified; units see all available qualified personnel; and – through preference ranking – the units and officers find each other. It is the matching of supply (Soldier) to demand (jobs). However, the ATAP marketplace deviates somewhat from typical supply-and-demand conventions, since it is supply-driven. A Soldier’s preferences are considered above the requesting units’.

With ATAP and AIM, the Army also has modern methods and tools to collect data across myriad variables. The data – both qualitative and quantitative – can be analyzed to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses at the individual, cohort, or enterprise level. For example, data collected during a Command assessment program (CAP) allows the Army to identify the leaders who have the appropriate aptitude and character and place them in a command that will benefit from their experience and specific skill set. Whereas, the legacy system relied on a single subjective data point (evaluations from superiors), the new CAP evaluations and assessments add greater perspective and objectivity and offer a clearer picture of a candidate’s readiness – and willingness – for advancement.

The data from CAP evaluations and assessments, as well as data from multiple matching cycles, can be used to identify trends over time. There is a reciprocal mutual benefit to this future-focused predictive capability. Soldiers can better manage their careers according to their specific skills and preferences, and the Army can better manage its workforce and respond to future force readiness issues with a better supply pipeline that correlates with actual talent requirements.

Continued collection of talent-related information through the programs and systems implemented by ATMTF will allow the Army to develop the diversity of talent we need to fight and win well into the future. Diversity of talent will enable the agility required to protect against competition with near peer adversaries and achieve the technological leaps required for continued modernization.

As logistics leaders, we have an important role in managing the talent of those under our command. We know the skills and knowledge we need to keep the Army operating. We also have experience back-filling critical knowledge gaps. Our goal is to be forward- looking and develop a cadre of trained logistics specialists who can adjust as the sustainment landscape changes. To get there, we must mentor and coach with a long view.

We have ceded some control in guiding career development to the Soldier or officer. That is a positive, to be sure; but the onus remains with leaders at all levels to guide individuals to specific development opportunities, including training, education, and assignments that will support both the individual and the field of Army logistics.

The ATAP marketplace is new to all of us. The rules have changed and we no longer hold the position of subject matter expert in career progression for those we command. Leaders are in the position of having to take their hand off the wheel to a certain degree. I encourage you to become familiar with the new way of operating so that you, and those you lead, can make the most of the system. I challenge leaders to ensure position descriptions are clear, accurate, and up to date. I’ve checked, and many are blank or weak.

A responsive and ready Army – of today and certainly tomorrow – depends on having the right people, in the right job, at the right time in their careers, and with the right skills and knowledge. In 1973, our Army transitioned to an all-volunteer force. Maintaining this in the 21st century requires full transparency of the jobs, skills, requirements, preferences, and trends over time.

The new talent management systems of AIM 2.0, ATAP, and, ultimately, IPSS-A provide the transparency and understanding that we logisticians have garnered for other weapon systems critical to the fight. The talent management framework developed by ATMTF will guide the strategy, management, measurement, and improvement of personnel. If implemented well, the Army will achieve the diversity and multiplicity of talents we need to attain Total Army readiness.

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Lt. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, Deputy Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Department of the Army, G-4, oversees policies and procedures used by U.S. Army Logisticians. He has masters of science degrees from Florida Institute of Technology, and Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

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This article was published in the January-March 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.

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