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There are also opportunities to receive feedback from the “consumers” of the soldiers produced by this process (e.g., the Fourth Infantry Division at Ft. Hood).
Interviewees at Ft. Gordon explained that in order to devise a program to meet manpower requirements in the signals CMF, a board is convened from various units involved in signals training and from the consumer community that requires the trained personnel. This board convenes apart from the CMF review process. The board typically meets at least every two years but more frequently in the event of rapid change or unexpected developments. For example, when a new system or a new hardware item appears, the board develops and promulgates a series of approved tasks for it. Often, a private-sector firm (or materials developer) develops the tasks under contract. The board subsequently reviews and approves the tasks or requests changes as needed. The board also decides the venue of the training, i.e., whether it will be provided at the unit level or in a training facility.
28 Attracting the Best: How the Military Competes for Information Technology Personnel This type of review process gives the consumer community the necessary information to provide feedback to the board. Concerns, perceived needs, or other issues affecting the consumer community are aired at a board meeting or communicated to board members by other means, enabling the board to evaluate requirements determination with some understanding of the users’ perspectives.
Assessing the Overall Health of the Unit: Recruitment and Retention After gaining some understanding of requirement determination, our next task was to consider the overall health of the unit. In making this assessment, we focused on the sufficiency of the unit’s manpower and its ability to meet recruitment and retention goals.
We found that the majority of CMF units were adequately staffed and had at least come close to their accession/retention goals. For example, the NCOs with whom we discussed the overall standing of CMF 74 generally described it as healthy. MOSs 74B and 74C had reportedly met their accession goals for fiscal year (FY) 2001. Although retention in 74B was initially low compared with that in the Army overall, it rose during the fiscal year, and 74C had experienced no accession or retention problems. We note that retention in the unit was being compared with overall Army averages, not targets specific to the CMF or its MOSs.3 Despite CMF 74 being generally healthy, the interviewees mentioned specific problems that affected the management of personnel. For example, there was a reported shortfall of soldiers with a top-secret clearance resulting in insufficient manpower to fill special assignments. The problem was exacerbated by lengthy delays of 12 months or longer in obtaining a top-secret clearance.4 In 74C, the biggest shortfall occurred in obtaining qualified personnel to fill billets in the Special Operations Command, where such a clearance is needed. We should note that, although there is no specific connection between the clearance issue and the IT occupations, IT skills are often used in secret or top-secret work. As a result, the lack of IT personnel with the appropriate clearance poses a substantial, though unexpected, obstacle to meeting IT manpower requirements.
An analysis of another MOS, 74Z, known as a low-density MOS because it contains a relatively small number of personnel, reveals that retention is a significant concern for this unit. As a capstone MOS, accession targets are not relevant (a capstone MOS is fed from subordinate MOSs), but at the time of our interviews, retention was slightly below the Army-wide average. We were told that retaining 74Zs was difficult because their technical skills were in demand by private industry. Retirement eligibility was also cited as a factor worsening retention in this MOS.5 Our interviews with CMF 96 yielded similar observations and highlighted retention as the key challenge for maintaining an adequate number and quality of personnel. While CMF 96 was at the Army average in meeting its enlistment target, retention was a notable problem, particularly for soldiers at mid-career (E-5 and E-6). Our interviewees in this CMF felt that the low retention rate could partly be explained by the fact that many MI soldiers entered for the educational benefits (e.g., the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the College Fund) ____________
3 See CMF 74 Review, current as of April 3, 2001, available from U.S. Army PERSCOM.
Evidence from Field Interviews on the Management of Enlisted IT Occupations 29 and left at the end of their term to begin using the benefits. 6 Furthermore, our interviewees suggested that low retention rates in this specialty might also result from “poaching” by the civilian contractors who conducted the All Source Analyst System course and provided information on outside earnings, which enticed some servicemen to seek alternate employment in the private sector.
Research at Ft. Huachuca offered further perspective on the retention challenge. In our interviews, we were told that MI personnel had a distinct lack of incentive to make a career of the Army. This had a trickle-down effect: The loss of experienced soldiers caused a speed-up in promoting junior personnel to fill the emptied billets. As a result, those who were promoted lacked experience and skills necessary to train more-junior personnel. Overall, the mission suffered as overall experience dropped. Our interlocutors noted that they were even losing people at the 15-year mark, just five years before eligibility for military retirement. This implies that, for some personnel at least, the disincentives to remaining in an IT occupation in the Army—or the lure of civilian job opportunities—were great enough to dominate military retirement benefits and retired military health benefits, eligibility for both of which occurs at 20 years of service.
As in CMF 74, the long lag in obtaining a top-secret clearance was an impediment to managing soldiers in CMF 96. Even before September 11, 2001, the backlog was 14 months if the file contained no derogatory information and longer otherwise. Ft. Huachuca cannot keep a soldier until the clearance comes, however; so after some period the soldier receives an interim clearance and is assigned to a unit. If the clearance is denied, the soldier is processed for termination or reclassified into another MOS. During the background review for the clearance, the soldier remains in the MOS and counts against its authorized manning. Such personnel compose 3–5 percent of the overall trained inventory.
Although reclassification can move a soldier from MI into another specialty, reclassification into MI is difficult and is not an effective way to smooth manning shortfalls. For example, a sergeant first class seeking to reclassify would lack the knowledge base to be effective in MI. In contrast, a junior soldier reclassifying into MI begins with advanced individual training and builds the knowledge base. A reclassifying staff sergeant goes to the basic noncommissioned officer course, which provides some of the training needed for MI, but if the sergeant has already taken the basic noncommissioned officers course (BNCOC), retaking it is not required, even though about 50 percent of the BNCOC content is specific to the occupation.
Speaking specifically about recruitment and retention, interlocutors at Ft. Huachuca said that changes in MI-related specialties should have led the Army to become more innovative in the way it recruits for these specialties, but it had not. Furthermore, many interlocutors expressed dissatisfaction that retention targets were gauged to the overall Army average, since they felt that the overall average was not relevant to the mission of a particular speAccording to the Veterans Administration, which administers the Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB), soldiers may use the benefit until ten years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty. This is a new feature of the MGIB program. Previously, individuals could use the benefit up to ten years after becoming eligible for the MGIB. Thus, under the old rules, soldiers had to leave service before the benefit expired in order to use it. Often this would happen after the first term. Under the new guidance, soldiers do not have to separate after the first term to maximize use of the benefit. See “The Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty,” at www.gibill.va.gov/education/c30pam.htm#_Toc518285755, last accessed September 2, 2003.
30 Attracting the Best: How the Military Competes for Information Technology Personnel cialty. It would be more helpful, they suggested, to track the fill rate of an MOS against its authorized manning.
Recruitment and Retention: Incentives for Enlistment and Reenlistment To meet MI requirements and those for IT personnel in other MOSs, the Army uses enlistment and reenlistment bonuses to attract and retain high-quality or highly skilled personnel.
Bonuses allow the services to respond quickly to shortfalls in retention.7 However, despite the effectiveness of such bonuses in other areas of the Army, their use in the units that we interviewed was surprisingly limited. Furthermore, there was a lack of readily accessible information on the nature of enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, their size, and the requirements for receiving them.
There are many examples of the limited incentives used in these units. For example, MOSs 74B and 74C did not have an enlistment bonus or Army College Fund at the time of the interviews. MOS 74B had a selective reenlistment bonus (SRB), and 74C had a targeted SRB (TSRB) for assignments to Korea and Ft. Bragg. Despite the challenge of retaining 74Zs, it did not have an SRB or TSRB. CMF 96 had no enlistment bonus and no secondterm reenlistment bonus (no “zone B” bonus). It is true, however, that CMF 96 had become a “STAR” MOS, meaning that promotions could be made as needed to fill vacant positions.
When combined with the strong economy and the presence of personnel recruiters eager to hire bright, well-trained soldiers like those in MI, the lack of reenlistment bonuses contributed to the manning shortfall, particularly at the E-5/E-6 level. In fact, their manning was at 83 percent of authorized billets, as compared with full or nearly full manning for morejunior and more-senior billets in the CMF.
Many interviewees suggested that the opportunity to reclassify into a specialty with faster promotion or better civilian job opportunities could be used as an accession or reenlistment incentive. Currently, some soldiers can reclassify into CMF 74 or move between specialties within CMF 74. Soldiers who reclassify receive the training required for their CMF 74 specialty. Within CMF 74, soldiers may be more attracted to 74B than 74C because 74B is perceived to be more marketable. In addition, interviewees in PERSCOM said 74B had a relatively fast speed of promotion because its first-term reenlistment rate was low.
A motivated soldier could reach E-6 by the end of a four- to six-year initial commitment in 74B, indicating a very fast rate of promotion. But in the main, the Army did not encourage reclassifying, except for low-density, hard-to-fill specialties, and reclassification remains a limited instrument for motivating reenlistment. Our research suggests that expanded reclassification opportunities could be interpreted as an indirect form of compensation and motivation to attract qualified soldiers into the CMF and into 74B in particular.
Personnel Management and Retention: Incentives for Education and Training Education and training are two final aspects of the IT personnel management structure that we investigated during our interviews. Although there are few direct, monetary incentives for obtaining additional training, personnel who gain additional skills increase their opportuniThe services can allocate bonus funds across specialties as they see fit. Thus, bonuses are a flexible and rapidly applied compensation tool. When retention conditions grow unexpectedly worse, however, the bonus budget may be too small to shore up retention. The services may then have to wait for the passage of the next authorization and appropriation bills for more money. Still, the pace of response can be slower on the DoD civilian side. The dot-com boom had nearly ended by the time DoD received special pay rates for IT civilians.