View Full Version : OPMS XXI Failure vs OPMS II

02-02-2009, 01:09 AM
Since OPMS XXI / III have been implemented, I am discerning a specialization in the officer corps, mainly, by field grades and senior company grades having to choose a specific career field. There are several fields that this specialization is applicable, however this does not translate across all fields. This is especially important during the post Sep 11 era. OPMS XXI was created prior to 9/11 and therefore must be reevaluated in the contemporary operating environment.

I will highlight five specific areas in my experience to prove my point, SF, PSYOP, CA, IO and FA59. In all categories now officers are expected to choose a future career field in their 4-10 year window. A 4-7 year window for SF/PSYOP/CA/IO and 10 year for FA 59. This design started when SF became its own branch. It was formalized with OPMS XXI. It allows officers to choose a career field different from the basic branches. The previous system (OPMS II) allowed dual track officers who served in one for a period of time and then a return to their basic branch (FA/AR/IN/SC/MP). This system OPMS II, allowed a cross fertilization of skills and experiences, while allowing the officer the ability to stay or leave that track. OPMS XXI requires officers to choose a career track later with not as much flexibility to return to a basic branch.

During the current fight, a cross fertilization of skills would be very useful. Also, a return to the OPMS II model would allow a greater diversity of officer skills to suit a specific job. The proposal I raise is whether we are better of now than before. I can see the benefits of a former SF/PSYOP/CA officer serving at the CPT/MAJ level returning to his basic branch and sharing that experience across the force. The same goes for an FA 59, what good is it to have a strategist that has not served as a BDE S3/XO or Div G3? FA 59 should be focused on those completing a course in strategic planner (SAMS / JAWS) etc... However currently FA 59 planners do not attend this level of education, nor are they required to. Similarly, IO officer attend a three week course to become IO officers vs PSYOP/CA who attend 6 months of schoool, inculding a Regional Studies course, 3 months. How many Brigade commanders and division commanders would rather have a FSCOORD/ECOORD, who served for 3 years as a PSYOP/CA/IO officer and brought that non-lethal experience forward. Similarly, the newly announced Electronic Warfare field creates even more specialists. This coupled with universal, but not equal ILE can create a generation of specialty officers without the tactical acumen of their peers on a staff.

My conclusion is that we must review OPMS XXI and possibly go to the ASI route for officers vs. a strict functional area management system. This would allow cross fertilization of experiences as well as, officer development. The specialization of the officer corps is creating the opposite of what is directed by the Army COS and leadership. We desire generalist with varied skills and experiences, however our system is creating the opposite, specialists with a stove pipe system for promotion.

I offer these thoughts for discussion, but highlight my original point, that it seems we are creating more specialists than generalists. This obviously is not in accordance with the prevailing thoughts on officer management by our leadership.

Ken White
02-02-2009, 01:48 AM
...My father, in 1962 served with SF for 3 years and returned to his basic branch infantry, bringing his experiences with him. It allows officers to choose a career field different from the basic branches.As you know, Aviators used to do the same thing. This cross fertilization was beneficial to SF, to the aviation community and to the rest of the Army. That process was halted for two reasons -- some but far from all in SF and Aviation wanted to be branches for the advantage that would hold; and then OPM (now HRC) hated the extra work involved in tracking and assigning such folks with multiple skills.

These Personnel Managers, after all, are the folks that said and 11B and an 11M peon -- or, far more dangerously, NCO -- were identical and interchangeable. HRC wants ALL persons of like specialization and rank to be absolutely interchangeable so they can stick round pegs in square holes (they'll fit, but they have to be smaller in diameter or capability...).

That regardless of the dangers to unit effectiveness...

They have also assigned Foreign Area Officers to a nether world.

Desired are as few sub specialties as possible to lessen the workload. In fairness, HRC is not solely to blame, Congress pushes much of the minutia in the personnel field in a misguided and flawed attempt to be 'fair' and to avoid the penalizing of marginal performers -- to the detriment of the Armed forces as a whole.
...This obviously is not in accordance with the prevailing thoughts on officer management by our leadership.Our leadership is busy and has five thousand irons in the fire; they rely on HRC to best devise personnel policy. Thus, I'm not sure the leadership is fully aware of the flaws, even the dangers, of the current personnel system. They, after all, did well in spite of it.

02-02-2009, 03:52 AM
I am not providing a critique on the leadership, only where we are now. The AVN example is applicable. I have friends that fly very little since become AVN officers. I think that is a shame especially since they are now MAJ/LTC.

However, the general arguement though, of OPMS XXI, is what I am exploring. Is it better to specialize or have generalist? One could argue either way, but our senior leaders did approve of this system pre 9/11. I only say, maybe we went a bit too far in this arena and it deserves a re-look or revision based on the COE.? 11B vs 11M is vaild on an elisted MOS structure arguement, but a 13A vs a 59A on an officer arguement is different. I was only addressing officer management in this post, otherwise it would become too big.

02-02-2009, 05:01 AM
As an aviation officer, I'd like to note that the aviation branch doesn't seem to promote the diversity of assignments like the other branches (FA, Infantry) would seem to. For the longest time, diversity in the aviation branch meant that maybe an officer spent some time in the aviation maintenance unit.

In more recent times, we've given our officers and warrant officers the opportunity to serve in the Brigade Aviation Element--a planning cell in every infantry brigade combat team that includes an aviation major, aviation captain, tactical operations warrant officer (usually CW3), two NCOs and an enlisted soldier. However, the aviation world has this funny habit of "kicking people upstairs" away from the aircraft, so to speak. So what you sometimes find is that the BAE represents a convenient place to stick someone who got a DUI, fooled around with an enlisted soldier, etc.

With that said, it's not uncommon to see senior officers in the aviation field who never spent any time outside of an aviation brigade or battalion. While proficiency in the aircraft is a must for command in the aviation community, it also hurts the aviation branch in that we don't grow the leaders we should be growing. The aviation branch (though fairly new) has only produced one 4-star general and certainly no combatant commanders.

Another complaint about diversity is that, in the aviation branch, there's a fear that a diverse assignment might attach a stigma to an officer and cause them to wind up on MiTT teams, BAEs and whatnot for the rest of their career. We need to stop this trend and allow officers to experience a slightly more broad skill set in order to prepare them for the world we live in. We certainly must not do this at the expense of core competencies (aviators must be proficient in the aircraft to continue to serve in the aviation community). We also must not try to turn the "pentathlete" concept into one of allowing any officer to serve in any position--which almost seems as if that's what HRC is trying to do to junior officers, with captains now being in such short supply. (Who knows, maybe that was the initial reason for the "pentathlete" concept, and not the need to excel in 4GW)

Rob Thornton
02-02-2009, 02:50 PM
its amazing what claymation childrens' stories can bring up. I think any reliance on a systematic approach to personnel management will only get you a 50-70% solution to your personnel requirements at best, and the larger the population combined with the more changes in the environment the more degredation that will be associated with that number.

Why do we often get more round pegs in round holes at the BN / lower levels? because we take the time to get to know our people better, and the consequences of our choices are ones we have to live with.

In order to get our number higher, we have to apply the same philosophy to personnel management on the institutional scale. Systems will not cut it because by their nature they establish walls and get comfortable with themselves. What is needed is a three part approach that provides understanding of changes in the environment, a way to look across your resources and understand which person best meets those requirements (or might if given some additional training or education) and the flexibility to choose that person or if that person is meeting a higher priority, the ability to choose someone out of the score or so most qualified.

I would also add there is value in accommodating self selection where possible. This is because people often know themselves and their situations better then an outsider.

We don't do any of these particularly well in my opinion. We prefer to believe that an _____________ (fill it in) will do as well as any other. Its comfortable to do so, but neither realistic or particularly effective.

Best, Rob

02-02-2009, 03:54 PM
Steel 3,

Welcome aboard. You have started an interesting discussion, and I like the professional manner in which you frame your approach to avoid needless aggravation to an emotional topic.

With that, my two cents...

I had lunch with a buddy of mine before the Superbowl yesterday. He is an artilleryman, and I am an armor officer. Currently, we are both in grad school in the defense analysis department at NPS. During our company grade time, we both served on SSTR and combat deployments in platoon/command positions in BOTH light and heavy units. Additionally, we both served on unique staff positions for our third deployments. He worked with the Air Command planners in Kuwait during OIF One, and I did a stint as an LNO and assistant planner with CJSOTF-AP in 2005.

We were discussing the pros and cons of our varied experiences. The majority of our peers have had some similar opportunities during the last nine years. Furthermore, between the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan, almost every combat arms officer spends some amount of time as motorized infantry.

Without reservation, we believe that this cross-fertilization within the maneuver community has personally made us better officers. In this regard, maneuver branch is "getting it right." As a tank PL/XO, I learned combined arms maneuver and maintenance. With SF, I was introduced to COIN, FID, and bottom-up intelligence collection. As an airborne recon troop commander, I mastered covert reconnaissance, air assualts, patrolling, and raids. The collective insights I gained from the various specialized NCOs I had the opportunity to meet, serve, and fight with is unparalled. My buddy had the same experiences within the Artillery community.

We spent our lunch debating the merits of what would be fun to do and professionally rewarding during our field grade time outside of ILE and S3/XO jobs. Prior to ILE, he is off to combat advise in Iraq. He will no doubt be a better operations officer with the real world lessons he learns advising.

Without placing labels like FAO or SF, we just thought that having the opportunity to do a tour with state department, working in an embassy or internship with an NGO, or something drastically outside of combat arms would better prepare our peers and ourselves for the difficulties of command in the current operating environment.

Our discussion may have simply been wishful thinking, but I think it is relevant. I suppose this approach would be a more hollistic one than the current scheme.

Good luck with your study, and I hope this adds to the discussion.



02-04-2009, 01:24 AM
I am welcoming all comments.

This is a topic I am considering for my SAMS monograph.

Please weigh in. I am interested at several levels, BCT manning:

Do we need a 40 A Space Ops guy, or 57A sim Guy in the BDE S3 shop? or do we need a CBT ARMS officer with an ASI for a skill?

Or are we (through MTOE/OPMS XXI) creating our own problems of manning and competence at the BDE level and higher?

Rob Thornton
02-04-2009, 03:45 AM
Steel 3,

Steel 3 said, "This is a topic I am considering for my SAMS monograph."

A timely topic. One of the things Big Army is trying to figure out is what additional augmentation is required in the BCT to do certain missions under certain conditions with respect to stability operations and Security Force Assistance.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think we can do too much better than a 70% as it applies to the "full spectrum" because conditions and objectives change. However, a 70% mark on the wall through a one year deployment would be pretty good, and agile commanders and unit leaders could probably adapt to cover the remaining 30%.

The first part I think is to get better at understanding the requirements based on a good analysis of the mission and a better understanding of the environment. The second part is having a generating force that can resource those "capabilities" to man those required functions. We'd looked at this in the SFA Case Study ( http://smallwarsjournal.com/mag/2008/12/sfa-case-study-mosul-iraq.php ) both in terms of staff augmentation and in terms of additional types of units needed based on conditions (see chapter 7 in the sub chapter on Organizing).

In the SFA Case Study we went with the idea of RNA (required not authorized) so you could have a "pregnant pyramid". RNA is not cheap (albeit cheaper than making it a MTO&E authorization), and it is not perfect (it is not a new concept) but it does allow both the unit commanders and the generating force a certain degree of flexibility in that it helps identify the need for augmentation given a certain range of conditions by letting the unit CDRs know where there functional gaps are. It also allows the generating force to better understand the risk of filling them or not filling them - e.g. Army Strategy 2008 (on AKO) says we will accept risk in the generating force so if you pull out low density Functional Area types to augment BCTs you should at least know what holes you are uncovering in the generating force. It doesn't mean you can't do something, but it may give you an indication of how much of what you need to regenerate.

There are several related things going on at Leavenworth right now that are applicable to what you are considering for your monograph. Up at the BCBL (the Battle Command Battle Lab) inside the old prison they are working a follow on DWE experiment that focuses in on SFA, the METL tasks for it and the augmentation required. Contact JCISFA or the BCBL for more info on DWE - just watching the planners for the next couple of weeks may give you some good insights. I'd also suggest you get in touch with the FDD (Force Development and Design) folks who are also looking at this topic. Like I said its a timely topic, you could almost watch some of these issues unfold over the next year and your monograph might write itself.

Best, Rob

02-04-2009, 12:03 PM
Interesting topic. Hope we get to discuss it in SAMS together this summer.

I think this topic really boils down to a very simple discussion - do we create generalist officers, or do we create specialists? Personally, I think you need both.

The entire branch mentality is a specialist approach - if one is an artillery officer, there are specific technical and mathematical skills that seperate him from other services. The same goes for every branch. At the junior officer level, you need the specialization. The nature of operations today shifts the focus from specialized personnel requirements to more of a generalist nature IMO. FA, armor/cav, MP's and infantry units are performing missions that are broadly similiar in OIF and OEF.

There is a trend towards generalization at the Major level and above within the operations field, but yet at the same time you also have even more specialization in the form of Functional Areas. Personally, I think there is little difference if one wants to call the designation a Functional Area or an ASI - the requirements are still going to be the same for PME and for assignment potential. I'd add that some of the Functional Areas require specialized manpower because of the unique nature of their jobs - you aren't going to pull just any old 04 out of the Operations field and make him a FAO and award him an ASI.

One of the more interesting little quirks of being in the Guard is that I don't get stovepiped within the personnel system with a "tag" of a 59A, or an Ops field guy. I can be both. In fact, I am an armor officer, a 50A Force Management Officer, and have worked as a 59A for two years prior to CGSC. Once I complete SAMS, I'll be sent to another 59A position, more than likely the Deputy G5 of a Division. And I still will have a good chance at becoming a battalion commander, simply because I was a company commander within the Armor Branch. Now, I might not get to command a cavalry squadron or a combined arms battalion, and I might have to command a Division STB, but that's fine as well. I think the personnel system in the Guard - and I can make arguments that it's too flexible - is much more flexible and adaptable that the overly centralized AC system. There are merits and detractors to both however.

Ron Humphrey
02-04-2009, 01:13 PM
How closely does this particular issue reflect the decision which was made years ago to do away with specialist ranks in the enlisted branch and many of the problems that have stemmed from that?

Just as doing so there removed some of the "true" expertise through either those who truly where great at what they do having to move up or out and thus no longer available to their particular specialty. Or what it does when those who are really good at a specific job but just weren't cut out for administrative/political crud that comes with NCO status end up becoming the latter and in many ways make it harder for those still doing the former to do their jobs because their busy making things work behind the scenes that that particular NCO is having a hard time with.

But enough about my pet peeve:(:wry::D

Not to mention officers are very much the face of DOD to those who work for it and as such sometimes it takes a geek to "geek speak" or a business minded individual to talk business. There really does have to be a balance there too.

02-07-2009, 12:17 AM
I have not seen or looked at that correlation. I do know the current personnel management system has made some significant changes to the current enlisted MOS structure in the last couple of years.

Ken mentioned "round pegs in square holes." In my opinion this is very applicable, specifically in the artillery with the proposed merger of 13D Cannon fire direction with 13P missile fire direction. I am still a fan of manual gunnery, showing my age, but 13P's are not trained in any way to this skill set. We saw this initially with the origin of 13D, a merger of 13E (Btry Lvl) and 13C (BN and above) fire direction. Technically there is a lot of ground lost in this merger. The old system had 13E's learn "on the Guns" then move up the chain to 13C as supervisors. The army decided it was better to merge the two thus creating 13D, who can be assigned at PLT through Corps level on their first duty assignment.

I can see the distinct benefits in maintaining the traditional specialist ranks versus hard stripe NCO's. I believe the German Army had a similar policy in the 70's/80's. I can also see the argument that by hard striping them it buoys their credibility in a bigger picture sense.

I do think that true "specialists" in the army should be warrant officers. I have a great respect for all I have served with. I think that may be a COA for the way officers are going. Example Electronic Warfare: Does the Army need a LTC/MAJ EW officer vs. a CW2/CW3? I could also argue that method for Chemical officers, which is the path the Marine Corps chose.

Overall on the enlisted side, the danger is the current merger of MOS's vs. specialist vs. NCO's. This combination does just what Ken said, folks with enough knowledge to get by but not be all they could be in a certain field. I do agree it is a fine line to manage and none of this is easy.

I have been reviewing the recommended changes to EPMS and WOPMS on the OPMS XXI web site: http://www.army.mil/ADSXXI/

Old Eagle
02-07-2009, 03:43 PM
OK, Steel, if you're serious about making this a SAMS monograph, you also have to get serious about research. There is tons of anecdotal evidence out here, some leaning in one direction and some in another. To do it right, you're most likely going to have to seriously (3d time I've used the word) define exactly what you're trying to analyze and come up with hard data to support or refute your hypothesis. Probably involves numbers and an appropriate analytical tool (SASS or similar). He said, she said ain't gonna cut it.

That said, it's more fun for us here to bitch about the personnel weanies and their various foibles than to provide much meaningful support. However, as you go down this road, some of us can probably help with some of the hard science and maybe some existing studies.

Good luck!

Old Eagle
02-13-2009, 03:36 PM
I have been counselled offline and duly chastised. And I really appreciate it.

Now back to my point.
In your posts on this thread alone, you introduce several topics potentially worthy of investigation. Figure out which one(s) support access to good data. Pick one and define exactly what you're going to analyze. Go get the data, analyze it using acceptable academic rigor, then publish the results.

If you really want to collect personal impressions for data, you're going to need to develop a structured survey instrument. Sorry 'bout that.

On most of the issues you have raised thus far, there are viable arguments for and against the way that the personnel system has evolved. If one COA were clearly the solution to all our problems, I would like to think that we would have figgered that out by now.

Now my personal biases --
I don't like FA 59. Mainstream officers can be developed to be expert planners without leaving the force.
I love the new warrant officer corps.
I like aviation branch because that means that ground maneuver units don't have to put up with pilots as commanders.
I like SF branch for the same reason. An infantry company is not an ODA, and no, sir, we're not going to call the first sergeant, "Sandy".
I do not like single tracking FAOs. Any single -tracked FAO can be replaced by a reasonably competent foreign service officer.

AND in EVERY SINGLE ONE of those arguments, I can reverse the statement and make it defensible, too.

Good luck, and have fun.