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NEWS | Nov. 19, 2019

'War for Talent' to be factor in future fights, says task force director

By Devon L. Suits Army News Service

A battalion commander's role is vital to accomplishing the Army's mission and the key to retaining the best Soldiers throughout the force, said the director of the Army Talent Management Task Force.

"When you go out there and talk to industry leaders about the management of their people … they will say that they are in a war for talent," said Maj. Gen Joseph P. McGee, speaking at an Institute of Land Warfare breakfast Nov. 14. "That 'war on talent' is going to be a decisive factor on how we fight future wars.

"One of [the Army's] strengths is the people that we bring in and the leaders that we develop."

Through the new Army Talent Alignment Process, the force is implementing a 21st-century approach to managing its personnel, starting with the active-duty officer corps, McGee said. With the implementation of ATAP, the Army is also initiating the new Battalion Commander Assessment Program, or BCAP.

During the BCAP development process, Army leaders conducted a full analysis of their current commander selection process and found that the Army spends more time selecting Soldiers for Ranger training than it does for battalion commander positions.

Under the legacy system, a review board will spend one to two minutes reviewing each officer's file before they assign each file a grade and move on, McGee said. Further, he said review officials tend to focus more on the "block check and the first and last sentence" on each candidate's Officer Evaluation Report, rather than reviewing their full OER.

"We quickly figured that there is generally more information contained in a tweet than relevant information within an OER to determine whether you are going to be promoted or selected for battalion command," McGee said.

Starting in January and February 2020, the Army will use the BCAP process to determine the next set of primary and alternate battalion commanders.

Back in September, about 1,900 lieutenant colonels were considered "eligible for command," with more than 1,100 opting in for command positions, McGee said. Based on the different requirements by branches and functional areas, close to 800 candidates were invited to participate in the BCAP process at Fort Knox, Kentucky, next year.

"Officers are going to show up and are going to complete a height and weight test," McGee said. "They are going to take an Army Physical Fitness Test, and that APFT is going to be a scored event."

"They will then go through a series of psychological assessments and take a cognitive and non-cognitive assessment. They will also take a writing diagnostic test, both computer based and handwritten," he added.

After candidates complete the initial elements, they will participate in a panel interview process.

"We are trying to eliminate any biases that exist within the interviewing process," McGee said. "A candidate will show up and report into a room … behind a screen."

"On the other side, we will have a two-star general, two one-star generals, and two former brigade commanders. They will ask a series of behavioral-based questions, which will be the same across the different panels."

Corresponding with the review process, the Army has sent out 26,000 surveys to subordinates and peers, to solicit information about each commander candidate. Thus far, the team has received a 50 percent participation rate, he said.

Once the BCAP process is complete, the Army will incorporate the five different evaluating factors to re-establish the Order of Merit List. U.S. Army Human Resources Command will then use the new list to select primary and alternate Soldiers for battalion command.

"We think at the end of this … more relevant information leads to better decisions," McGee said. "I think this helps eliminate many of the blind spots from the legacy system that we had used to pick the battalion commanders."