Army testing program to change “needs of the Army” system

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Balog, assigned to the 55th Signal Company (COMCAM), addresses the Soldiers of his company during his farewell ceremony at Fort George G Meade, Md., Oct. 21, 2015. Balog finished his second tour at the 55th Signal Company and is moving on to his next duty station at Camp Casey, republic of Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christophe D. Paul/Released)

The US Army is launching a pilot program that could revamp the system that places assignments on the “needs of the Army.”

Known as the Assignment Interactive Module (AIM) pilot, the system is designed to to collect information such a soldier’s database, skills and foreign language capabilities to determine the best fit for new assignment. The new program is a precursor to the Integrated Pay and Personnel System-Army, or IPPSA.

Director of the Army talent management task force Major General Wilson Shoffner, says the program essentially takes the individual strengths of each soldier and places them where they are truly needed most, far beyond the current system (which uses rank and occupation specialty).

“The big idea is that we can enhance readiness if we can figure out how to maximize everyone’s potential to contribute,” Shoffner said. “Some might say it’s about taking care of your best, but it is much more than that. We want to find those talents that may not be readily apparent. We want to find out what people can do, abilities they have that may not be obvious and then are more difficult to manage.”

Shoffner says the system allows the Army to have “total visibility and automated ability” when managing over 1 million personnel.

Deputy chief of staff for personnel (G-1) Lieutenant General James McConville says the IPPSA system will better allow the Army to track a soldier’s abilities, which can give them a potentially boost in careers.

“It will fundamentally change the way we do business,” he said. “People in the Army are the most important thing we have, so we’re trying to move from an industrial age personnel management system to a 21st Century talent management system.”

The new system will be more efficient than simply managing soldiers on MOS and rank.

“We’re going to be able to manage soldiers by their knowledge, skills, abilities and behavior,” he said. “What we want to be able to do in the future is know if you have regional expertise, if you speak certain languages, are you a master in cyber, if you fly an aircraft.”

An example where the system would have been useful can be found in the 101st Airborne Division’s deployment to Liberia, which could have used IPPSA to determine which soldiers were from Liberia, spoke the language or had experience with epidemics.

McConville thinks the IPPSA could also enable the Army to pull its best and brightest soldiers.

“Only 1 percent [of enlisted soldiers] will make sergeant major out of a year group. That’s the same for officers, about 1 percent make general officer,” he said. “What we want to do is identify those outstanding noncommissioned officers as they come to the end of their first tour and then start investing in them as they come up.”

The IPPSA program will not be in place until 2018 for the Army National Guard and will come to the active and reserve forces the following year. Even when in place, the system won’t be fully operational until 2020.

Army Times reports that until the system is in place, the Army will use the AIM pilot on officers attending the Command and General Staff College in an effort to gather data for testing.

“We want to find those leaders that have the ability to lead the Army in the future,” Shoffner said.

Still, the system is very complex, something Shoffner admits will pay off as it is critical to place soldiers where they are needed most.

“What we’re trying to do is win in an unpredictable, complex world, and to do that, you have got to have the very best talent that you can, so we want to be able to identify those leaders,” he said. “Some of our leaders in the Army do a very good job at this right now, and we don’t want to change that, but we want to also give those leaders better tools to be able to help manage the people that they’ve got.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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