Cover: Challenging Time in DOPMA

Challenging Time in DOPMA

Flexible and Contemporary Military Officer Management

Published Jul 18, 2006

by Peter Schirmer, Harry J. Thie, Margaret C. Harrell, Michael S. Tseng


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Many of the laws and policies that govern officer career management (often collectively referred to as “DOPMA,” after the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980) have been in place for decades. DOPMA has served the needs of the services reasonably well, but the current system may not meet the requirements of the future operating environment. One criticism of DOPMA is that it does not allow for much variety in officers’ career paths because it is time-driven. Alternatively, officers’ competencies are now emerging as the basis for career management. In this monograph, the authors demonstrate how a competency-based officer personnel management system could provide more flexibility in preparing military officers for the wide range of roles and missions of the U.S. military in the 21st century. This analysis focuses on practices governing promotions for military officers and closely related assignment and retirement policies.

The research described in this report was prepared for 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 sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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