The U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) Officer Personnel Management Directorate's (OPMD) fall Council of Colonels (CoC) met at Fort Knox for the first time in December. It had been held in greater Washington, D.C., prior to this year but with the Human Resources Command moving to Fort Knox, this was the appropriate location. About 100 colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors and senior Army civilians attended the one-and-a-half day event.

The theme for the Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 event centered on adjustments to the officer personnel management system (OPMS) in areas such as professional military education, evaluations, and officer slating. Each council addresses different topics that impact the availability, competency, development or retention of company grade, field grade and warrant officers.

One such topic was the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program (VTIP), a program that attempts to manage branch and functional areas based on Army requirements. VTIP is conducted quarterly to stay in step with the ever-changing branch and functional personnel growth and reduction requirements. It is designed to eradicate undue influence, such as commander s' letters of recommendations and general officer letters to attempt to be fair and impartial while remaining transparent in the field.

Jack Kendall, chief of the leader development division, OPMD, presented a short overview of the VTIP process to the Council of Colonels. "We have about 450 applicants now," Kendall said. "We've taken steps over the past nine months to come up with a better practice to get you what you need. Panel members take a lot of time in their deliberation. We think we're moving ahead and have about a 90 percent solution.

"If selected for a new functional area or basic branch you'll be given an additional Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) of 36 months," he said. "You'll sign an agreement to that effect."

In an information paper written by Lt. Col. Dameion Logan of OPMD, VTIP is described as a retention tool, while providing transparency to the field. HRC holds a quarterly VTIP panel made up of five colonels or civilian equivalents. Officers from first lieutenant promotable to major with three to 14 years of active federal commissioned service are eligible to voluntarily compete for a transfer into another branch or functional area.

Officers are selected based upon performance, experience and skills. Currently, it just applies to active component officers and does not transfer officers into or from Aviation and Special Forces and does not apply to special branch officers within the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), Chaplain Corps and Army Medical Department (AMEDD).

Branch or functional area is determined by the Army personnel department at the Pentagon. HRC does not support transfers between shortage branches or into overage branches. Screenings of requests are considered and all aspects of the applicants career are considered when assessing the VTIP requests. While the needs of the individual officers are considered, the needs of the overall Army, branch and functional areas override.

"This program may replace the current career field designation board that automatically assigns officers to functional areas," said Lt. Col. Richard Stebbins, part of the OPMD CoC team. "The VTIP is seen as a better product because the officer gets to choose based on current availability (in/out calls for their branch). This last VTIP board had about 500 officers that were approved to a new career field."

Six officers on the OPMD team planned and organized the quarterly conference, which began in 2005 to give senior leaders a way to staff issues. Each of the roughly 100 attendees received a folder with hard-copy briefing slides, evaluations and questionnaires. Major topics other than the VTIP included: the Officer Evaluation Review (OER) system revision; Intermediate Level Education Scholars Program; officer promotions update, and other officer policy programs.

The OPMD CoC team members consist of Lt. Col. Tess Wardell, team chief; Lt. Col. Richard Stebbins, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Carleton Keafer, Maj. Chico Bennett, Maj. Kevin Jackson, and Capt. Robert Greiner, strategic initiatives officer
The next Council of Colonels is scheduled for February, 2011.