Keeping the Warfighting Edge

An Empirical Analysis of Army Officers' Tactical Expertise Over the 1990s

by Maren Leed

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Because of high rates of deployments combined with other missions, someobservers argue that today’s smaller Army is edging toward shortfalls in training and personnel readiness. Interviews conducted by RAND’s Arroyo Center during 1998 and 1999 at most warfighting brigades in the continental United States indicated that some commanders expect an eventual degradation in the tactical competence of future leaders.This expectation was attributed both to shorter tenure in key developmental positions and fewer opportunities within those assignments to participate in field training. The project then undertook an empirical analysis of personnel data to assess whether assignment length and general career patterns had changed over the 1990s. Primary data on thecontent of key developmental assignments were also collected and analyzed. The results in this documented briefing provide evidence to support beliefs that current officers, especially at the most junior levels, are weaker tactically than were the officers who successfully prosecuted the Gulf War. Further, these declines, in light of changes in the internationalsecurity environment and Army practices, suggest the existence of a growing tactical gap.The documented briefing describes various policy options to address these problems. It also recommends specifically that the Army bolster its ability to monitor the developmental content of assignments and its leader development system, in general, to ensure that future commanders will be prepared to meet the full range of Army missions.

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The research described in this report was conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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