In war, winning matters. Factors such as economy or technology, which have been crucial in securing our position as the world’s superpower, are eroding. The Army of the future must be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively, against any adversary, in a joint, multi-domain, and high-intensity conflict. Meeting the challenges of the future requires a full investment in the Army’s most valued asset: our people. We must continue to recruit and retain talented people to maintain our competitive advantage over the nation’s adversaries. The Army accomplishes this through a disciplined talent management process. The Army People Strategy outlines how we as a total force must change our thinking in terms of managing our Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians to harness their talents to achieve maximum readiness across the total force.
As the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville’s number one priority is the Army’s people. He put it best when he said, “We win through our people, and people will drive success in our readiness, modernization, and reform priorities.” Changes brought about by McConville’s vision for the Army’s future will have long-lasting impacts across the total force.
Our Army is composed of individual Soldiers and civilians with a variety of talents and strengths. Aligning the force into cohesive teams is what makes our Army the best in the world. Building cohesive teams is done by fostering positive relationships with our teammates through inclusion, trust, and empathy toward one another. Cohesive teams are the catalyst for synergy.
In 2018, the Army created the Talent Management Task Force to operationalize the talent process across the Army. The Talent Management Task Force used authorities within the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to develop innovative ways to acquire, assess, and position Soldiers to ensure that the Army retains the right talent and utilizes them in critical areas. These initiatives will grow better leaders, strengthen our fighting organizations, and allow the Army to operate a more efficient and effective team on the battlefields of tomorrow.
Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviors
The Army’s new talent management approach starts with the main components of talent including an individual’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors (KSB). When leaders leverage the right talent against the right job, it is a force multiplier.
Knowledge – a topically organized set of facts and information acquired by a person through experience, education, or training, which supports work related performance.
Skill – a person’s proficiency and ability to perform a job-related activity that contributes to effective performance or learning.
Behavior – a person’s values, attitudes, and temperament as evidenced through their actions.
Soldiers develop KSBs in three ways. First, we impart knowledge and behaviors to Soldiers attending institutional training. This starts with a Soldier’s initial entry level training (basic training and advanced individual training) for enlisted troops and ROTC, military academies, and basic officer leadership courses (BOLC) for officers, and it continues throughout a Soldier’s career as they attend professional military education (PME) and promote through the ranks. In its role as the Sustainment Center of Excellence, CASCOM is the lead for the Army’s institutional training for sustainment Soldiers and provides foundational doctrine that Soldiers use to build their knowledge base. Our schoolhouses impart knowledge to Soldiers and continually evolve to remain relevant to the Army’s current operational challenges and remain battle focused.
The second critical part of Soldier development is the operational force, which provides hands-on, individual, and collective training to develop Soldier skills and reinforce professional behaviors. The operational training that a Soldier receives starts with the professional NCO corps and progresses through field training, rotations at our world-class combat training centers, and contingency deployments.
The third and final component is self-development. Soldiers have a duty to continue extending their knowledge, skills, and behaviors beyond what they learn from the institutional and operational force. Leaders are equally responsible for ensuring that their Soldiers receive the time, resources, and support necessary for individual growth. Through the institutional, operational, and self-development approach, our Army operates with continuous professional growth and maintains a force of talented leaders.
Sustainment leaders identify which talents are required to perform critical jobs at each grade. In the past, we often charted career pathways for Soldiers to follow based on what positions were deemed most essential to expand a Soldiers experience. The Army did this without formally assessing each Soldier’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors and potentially placed individuals into roles that did not align with their talents or strengths. We must overcome this shortfall and manage sustainment personnel by combining the advances of the 21st century with over two hundred years of experience in supporting and defending our nation.
The six Sustainment Branch Proponent offices are diligently examining their respective populations to determine the talents that key positions at each grade must possess to be successful. A question we need to ask ourselves is how do we prioritize and categorize these characteristics to develop the talents we need? It’s evident that each person possesses numerous KSBs. For instance, a logistics major serving as a support operations officer within a brigade support battalion is likely to have diverse talents. However, it is critical that this major is able to: anticipate sustainment requirements based on schemes of maneuver, develop brigade level concepts of support, and lead outside of organizational boundaries to achieve collective success on the battlefield.
Each grade of sustainment officer requires a progressive set of crucial KSBs that grow from experiences throughout a career. These KSBs are not all encompassing but reflect the most important to be successful in the sustainment community.
Talent assessments are a set of instruments that provide a standardized common lens and are valid and reliable for the purpose of providing accurate and granular talent data on an individual. To best manage the Army’s personnel, leaders need to be able to assess each Soldier’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors effectively. The Combined Arms Center (CAC) has developed Project Athena as the model to assess officers participating in PME courses starting with BOLC, Captains Career Course (C3), and Command and General Staff Officer Course.
In Fiscal Year 2021, Sustainment lieutenants will complete eight assessments during their respective BOLCs. Lieutenants on the way to their first assignments use the results of their assessments to build an individual development plan (IDP). This IDP should be shared with their new organizational leadership on how they will develop themselves for future positions in the Army. Captains at Logistics C3 complete five assessments under the Project Athena construct, the Career Courses’ Cognitive Assessment Battery and take the Graduate Record Examination.
During BOLC and C3, Officers will use the Army Career Tracker (found at https://actnow.army.mil/) to create their specific IDP. The IDP module within Army Career Tracker allows the officer to choose a leader to help them along the development path, set both short-long-term goals, and track the progress in completing those goals. These goals can include achieving preferred positions within their units, completing advanced civilian education and certification, and achieving personal goals like starting a family or finishing an endurance challenge.
Under the purview of the Army Talent Management Task Force, lieutenant colonels and colonels undergo assessments at the Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP) and the Colonels Command Assessment Program. These two programs holistically assess prospective battalion and brigade commanders to ensure the Army selects the very best leaders to command at these critical echelons. The NCO cohorts are developing initiatives including the First Sergeant Talent Alignment Assessment and the Sergeant Major Assessment program which works in conjunction with BCAP.
In the near future, the CAC will expand assessments into the warrant officer and NCO cohorts. The assessment of the total force will empower the Army with the ability to align the best people against mission requirements. The implementation for these leader cohorts is in the initial planning and development stage.
Several of the Talent Management Task Force’s initiatives are fully developed and utilized throughout the Army. Many of these initiatives begin as pilots within the officer corps but will extend into both the warrant officer and noncommissioned officer corps. One such initiative is the Army Talent Alignment Process, which uses an interactive platform to assign officers to new positions. The Assignment Interactive Module Version 2 interactive marketplace gives officers, who are in their movement cycle, visibility of all available positions and details about these positions to facilitate the ranking and decision making process. Concurrently, organizations with open positions can view prospective candidates and identify the critical knowledge, skills, and behaviors required for each of their positions. The end result assigns the right people to the right job by providing mutual collaboration. This was a game changer in the assignment process. With the success of the pilot on the officer corps, the Army is implementing this alignment process to warrant officers, and a pilot for senior noncommissioned officers is forthcoming.
Career predictability is a common area of concern with Soldiers, particularly with junior officers. As a means to identify superb talent and help retain the best of our junior officers, the Talent Management Task Force developed the Talent Based Career Alignment program. This is a volunteer program implemented during Logistics C3, assigns post command captains to nominative positions based on their preferences and assesses knowledge, skills and behaviors. Selected captains will follow a career pathway that begins at the conclusion of the C3 and ends with attendance at the CGSC as a Major. A recent Logistics C3 class participated in the first pilot of this program. The initial pilot included approximately 250 students across four captains career courses. The Army plans to expand the program in the near future.
There are many resources available to assist Soldiers, NCOs, and officers learn more about Talent Management. The Army Talent Management Task Force home page, located at https://talent.army.mil, contains a repository of each talent management program they oversee for the Army.
The Army People Strategy, located at https://people.army.mil/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/The-2020-Army-People-Strategy-Final.pdf, lays out how the Army must change its mindset and procedures in the managing the Soldiers, families, and Army Civilians to maximize the talents within the Army.
The branch proponency offices will codify the elements of talent management within the Army’s personnel policies to ensure it becomes ingrained within our sustainment culture. The branch specific chapters for officers (DA Pam 600-3) and NCOs (DA Pam 600-25) will be published in January 2021 on MilSuite. Those chapters can be found at https://www.milsuite.mil/book/groups/smartbook-da-pam-600-3 and https://www.milsuite.mil/book/groups/smartbook-da-pam-600-25.
It is every leader’s responsibility to manage the talent within their organization. The Army is inherently a “people business,” and we must continue to invest in our people in order to win on the future battlefield. Right now there is a war for talent and if we don’t manage it, we will lose it.
Maj. Gen. Rodney Fogg, commanding general of Combined Arms Support Command, is a graduate of Quartermaster Basic and Advanced Officer Leadership Courses, Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College. He has a master's degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology and a master's degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Lt. Col. John Mitchel is the Logistics Branch Proponency chief at CASCOM. He recently commanded the Army Field Support Battalion - Drum. His previous assignments include duty with the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the 10th Mountain Division. Mitchel has earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree from the University of Texas, El Paso. He also completed the U.S. Army High Performance Leader Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, NC.
This article was published in the January-March 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.