The Army’s new command assessment program for selecting battalion commanders is proving to be a game-changer for the selection of future Army leaders. The Battalion Command Assessment Program (BCAP), which captures data to inform the selection of leaders for Centralized Selection List (CSL) positions, gives the Army insight into how its officers who have aspirations to command at the battalion-level and in key staff positions get their results. Army leaders have a message for those who don’t succeed the first time around—listen to the feedback you get at BCAP, implement the lessons learned, and try again.
In the Fall of 2021, approximately 15 percent of BCAP attendees were returning candidates. Many were designated “ready for command” the previous year, but were put on the alternate select list, meaning they would have the chance to command a battalion if someone on the principal list became unavailable. Many of these officers came back to BCAP to re-compete for a spot on the principal list. Still others who were designated “not yet ready for command” during their first encounter with BCAP returned with the hopes of improving on their previous performance.
“Not making the [principal] list after my first experience at BCAP was disappointing but not surprising—I knew I didn’t have the profile to get selected immediately,” said Lt. Col. Steven Weber, chief of current operations, at the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center. “But I kept trying because BCAP gave me a chance to challenge myself and prove I am ready for command.”
Weber, a two-time BCAP participant and now, principal select slated to command 3rd BN, 362nd Infantry Regiment at Fort Bliss, shares recommendations gleaned from his direct experience.
“My advice for anyone who doesn’t make the [principal] list or the alternate list after one round of BCAP is to keep pushing. Everything works out in the end if you continue to better yourself,” he said.
Roughly 60 percent to 65 percent of first-time BCAP attendees are selected as principals and will command a battalion. However, becoming a resilient leader sometimes requires reframing challenges and pressures into positive opportunities for learning and development. Officers who return to BCAP have the chance to demonstrate the lessons they learned about themselves and the skills they refined through self-reflection to show they are now ready for command. Approximately one-third of these officers become principal selects, which accounts for almost 10 percent of the overall principal command list.
Weber credits the out-brief he received during BCAP for much of his own professional development.
“One of the greatest benefits of BCAP is learning about yourself,” said Weber. “Getting a psychological in-depth internal look at how you function and how you view yourself is key to understanding your strengths and weaknesses. This feedback on how I could become a better leader and commander prepared me for the next step in my Army career.”
Each fiscal year, officers are invited to attend BCAP upon conclusion of the CSL board. Approximately 800 officers who are invited to the four-day assessment at Fort Knox, Ky. compete for roughly 400 commands and key billets. Past performance in previous jobs and performance at CAP determines who is a principal or alternate select for these positions.
The BCAP is just one of the six assessment programs that fall under the Command Assessment Program (CAP). The results of the CSL board combined with performance at BCAP produces an order of merit list that is utilized by HRC to develop the list of principal and alternate command selects for the CSA to approve.
Compared to potential principals identified by CSL board alone, CAP-selected principals are, on average, more cognitively capable, better written communicators, better verbal communicators, more physically fit, more self-aware, and less likely to display counterproductive leader behaviors.