Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox expands as assignment selections prove successful
Candidates conduct their psychometric assessments during the Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox, Ky. CAP assesses candidates for attributes and competencies the Army is looking for in its leaders, including physical fitness, verbal and written communication skills, positive interpersonal behavior, team-building skills, cognitive capability, and strong decision-making. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. — It has been nearly two years since the Army first launched at Fort Knox what has become the premier tool for leader selections at battalions and higher — the Command Assessment Program.

Much of the assessment and analysis process has remained intact since then. However, some of it has also changed.

For instance, what started as the Battalion Commander Assessment Program has since blossomed into at least six different courses, to include the Colonels Command Assessment Program, Acquisition Leader Assessment Program, Medical Command Assessment Program,  Division Chaplain Assessment Program and Sergeant Major Assessment Program. It’s also no longer just for Army “green-suiters.”

“Since the program was conducted last year, we’ve more than doubled the candidate population from just shy of 800 to nearly 1,800,” said Maj. Joseph Payton, Strategic Communication team leader for the U.S. Army Talent Management Task Force. “As you can imagine, we’re excited to expand this program that provides an objective assessment of leaders to reach our Army civilians, who play a critical role in our success.”

Army leaders have also addressed several COVID-19 concerns to protect everyone who attends a program course.

“Being safe is one of the four mandates for the Command Assessment Program,” said Payton. “More specifically, our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the CAP comply with the Centers for Disease Control instructions and policies as ordered from the Department of Defense down to the local Fort Knox senior commander's General Order Number 1.”

Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox expands as assignment selections prove successful
Dr. Sarah Meyers, an operational psychologist supporting the Command Assessment Program, provides feedback to a CAP candidate during his developmental outbrief at Fort Knox, Ky. In addition to the predictive assessment events, CAP offers developmental opportunities, such as a developmental outbrief, mentorship breakfast discussion and executive coaching to those who attend. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force) VIEW ORIGINAL

What this means for attendees and cadre, according to Payton, is that they will live, move and operate within what he calls a bubble — a quarantined geographic area within the installation that ensures their safety.

Those needing to exit the bubble will be required to seek permission from the Talent Management Task Force director, Brig. Gen. Brett Funck. Those requiring entrance must first be COVID-tested.

“We are prepared to handle any positive tests that may occur to ensure individuals are notified, isolated in separate on-post accommodations or returned to their place of origin, and provided full access to medical care, as necessary,” said Payton.

Payton acknowledged that some officers and cadre members at the site are not yet vaccinated. However, there is no indication that requirements or restrictions have impacted candidate performance or the cadre’s assessments.

“We are managing each case with the greatest attention and care,” said Payton. “We’re extremely proud that the Command Assessment Program is not only world-class, fair, and consistent, but it’s also safe.”

Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox expands as assignment selections prove successful
Lt. Col. Lindsay Ryan conducts the essay writing assessment during the Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox, Ky. CAP assesses candidates for attributes and competencies the Army is looking for in its leaders, including physical fitness, verbal and written communication skills, positive interpersonal behavior, team-building skills, cognitive capability, and strong decision-making. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force) VIEW ORIGINAL

The assessments concepts arose from shortcomings in the old evaluations process to determine the best leaders to assign in key positions. Much of the evaluations process was subjective, according to Payton: reliant on first-line supervisor reports and sometimes vague standards that proved difficult to qualify.

“Assessments, like what the candidates experience at CAP, are objective measurements using instruments that provide a granular level of talent data about an individual,” said Payton. “The assessments themselves have remained functionally consistent since we began CAP. This is because they are based upon thorough and proven research and delivered using support from operational psychologists.”

Those measurements provide a key component missing in the evaluations process; they remain the same in every program under the CAP umbrella, said Payton. They focus on knowledge, skills and behaviors related to the requirements found in the Army Leadership Requirements Model.

“This includes verbal and written communication skills, positive interpersonal behavior, team-building skills, cognitive capability, and strong decision-making,” said Payton. “We still hold our leaders’ evaluations in high regard, and now we supplement them with the assessment at CAP to inform leadership decisions consistent with 21st century Talent Management principles.”

Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox expands as assignment selections prove successful
Command Assessment Program candidates discuss options for completing the task during the Leader Reaction Exercise event at Fort Knox, Ky. Compared to potential principals identified by the Command Select List board alone, CAP-selected principals are, on average, more physically fit, more cognitively capable, better written communicators, better verbal communicators, more self-aware, and less likely to display counterproductive leader behaviors. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force) VIEW ORIGINAL

Another aspect of the program that has proven to be invaluable is feedback. Payton said while feedback from those who have attended the course has come in, what changes and updates will be made based on it is still too early to tell.

“What we know is that when compared to potential principals identified by Command Select List boards alone,” said Payton, “CAP-selected principals are, on average, more physically fit, more cognitively capable, better written communicators, better verbal communicators, more self-aware, and less likely to display counterproductive leader behaviors.”

To date, the assessments are proving themselves successful, he said.

“The assessments do exactly what a 21st century talent management system needs,” said Payton. “They remove bias.”

That bias cuts both ways, too. Payton said there have been some officers in the past that were not ready to command at the battalion and brigade levels that on paper appeared ready. At the same time, there have been those fully ready who were passed over.

The assessments are catching both while punishing neither — a 28% change in the order of merit list that are being hailed as “huge successes.”

“The jury is still out regarding overall benefit of the entire program, but the assessments are contributing objective data into the process that determines who will lead our people,” said Payton.

The Army Talent Management Task Force continues to focus on the way forward for CAP as it hones the assessments process taking place today.

“The foreseeable future for CAP is this iteration, which will be conducted in its entirety at Fort Knox through Nov. 22 of this year,” said Payton.

Along with current courses, they are looking at more branch-specific courses among commissioned officers and assessments at enlisted levels below the current Sergeant Major Assessment Program, or SMAP.

“We are looking to transition from the old paradigm which was data poor and relied solely on a subjective evaluation to a new one that is data rich and adds objective assessments with the evaluation to determine the future leaders in our Army,” said Payton. “It’s essential that as we project forward, CAP continues to fulfill its promise to be world-class, fair, consistent, and safe.”

Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox expands as assignment selections prove successful
A candidate conducts the sit-up event of the Army Physical Fitness Test during the Command Assessment Program at Fort Knox, Ky. This year CAP grew to incorporate field-grade leaders from across the Army, including the U.S. Army Reserve, projecting to assess approximately 1,800 candidates over the course of seven weeks. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force) VIEW ORIGINAL

Competitive recruitment of the best available talent remains the driving force behind the assessment programs, which is leading the Army to fit the right leaders into the right positions.

“The Army is in a war for talent,” said Payton. “We must compete to acquire, develop, employ and retain the best quality people because our people are our competitive advantage.”