Cover: Aligning the Stars

Aligning the Stars

Improvements to General and Flag Officer Management

Published Apr 29, 2004

by Margaret C. Harrell, Harry J. Thie, Peter Schirmer, Kevin Brancato


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Private-sector corporations identify their high-potential employees early on, placing them in positions in which they can develop skills that will eventually be of valuable use in senior executive management and leadership positions. Such investment in these maturing assignments adds a stability and influence to the company, bringing years of expertise and experience to the highest levels of decisionmaking. The Department of Defense (DoD) wants that same type of experience and tenure in its general and flag officers (G/FOs) but currently encounters a high turnover from these most-senior employees. Moreover, a concern exists that simply lengthening the stay of senior officers will only clog the system, stagnating promotions throughout the entire officer corps. In response to this, RAND researchers analyzed the current system, reviewed literature on corporate management practices, and modeled different ways of managing G/FOs. They categorized officer assignments as either "developing" or "using" and looked at how much time officers spend in each to evaluate current and potential promotion flow. In addition to proposing variations to the promotion model, the authors address the concerns expressed by those in DoD and Congress about implementing such changes.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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