Keeping the Warfighting Edge

An Empirical Analysis of Army Officers' Tactical Expertise

by Maren Leed


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This document explores whether between 1990 and 1998 the tenure of key developmental assignments for infantry and armor officers became shorter; the tactical training during those assignments declined significantly; and earlier shifts in career patterns and training meant that such recent officers arrived in key positions with less experience than earlier generations of officers. The analysis finds that while some assignments did become shorter, especially for platoon leaders, on average the length of most key jobs was about the same across the time period. However, in terms of content, assignments involved less field training (much less for armor officers). Finally, there did not appear to be substantial changes in the overall career patterns of officers, except for lieutenants, who showed arising propensity to serve on staffs at the expense of time as platoon leaders. These findings suggest that the tactical foundation of recent infantry and armor officers is weaker than it had been previously, most seriously at the junior levels. Establishing a mechanism to monitor the content of unit assignments is the most important action the Army can take to improve its officers' tactical development.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Overview

  • Chapter Two

    Length of Key Assignments

  • Chapter Three

    Training Content of Key Assignments

  • Chapter Four

    Levels of Expertise at Entry into Key Assignments

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Policy Options

  • Appendix A

    Data-Collection Form

  • Appendix B

    Sample Design, Structure, and Regression Analysis

  • Appendix C

    Career Histories

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This research was conducted within RAND's Arroyo Center.

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