Developing U.S. Army Officers' Capabilities for Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational Environments
Feb 10, 2011
Army officers must increasingly function in joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational (JIIM) environments, and must do so at lower echelons. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, brigade commanders command sizable elements from other services, respond to multinational commands, and integrate brigade combat team operations with the activities of other U.S. government agencies, of other national governments, and of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
The Army is responsible for developing the specific officer management policies to provide enough officers with the right capabilities to meet this demand. The U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Officer Personnel Management System (OPMS) Task Force asked RAND Arroyo Center to identify and describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities that Army officers need to function effectively in JIIM contexts and to identify opportunities to develop these capabilities. Arroyo was also asked to develop a framework that will enable the Army to better track and manage the inventory of officers who possess the required capabilities.
The research team began by interviewing officers who had succeeded in a JIIM environment, along with officials from other services, agencies, and nations, in order to identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that matter.
Respondents affirmed that basic military, branch, and functional area expertise are essential to success in JIIM settings. Interpersonal and other integration skills tend to be of primary importance in JIIM environments, in which success usually requires voluntary collaboration between independent organizations that are frequently pursuing different agendas. Army officers indicated that skills and abilities acquired in the course of coordinating combined arms operations were effective in collaborating with individuals and organizations outside the Army. Officials from other services and agencies emphasized that what they needed from Army officers was help in understanding Army capabilities and assistance in leveraging those capabilities to accomplish common ends.
The JIIM domains are qualitatively distinct, if overlapping (see the figure). Simply put, success in each of the JIIM domains requires a different set of knowledge, skills, and abilities; expertise in one JIIM domain does not completely translate to expertise in another. To the extent that expertise is required, developing it requires experience in the relevant domain, not just a short preparatory course.
Service at strategic, operational, tactical, and institutional echelons requires distinctly different knowledge, skills, and abilities.That is, jobs at these different echelons differ in kind, not just in degree. The differences between echelons are at least as significant as those between JIIM domains.
Arroyo next surveyed assignment officers about the extent to which the positions they managed developed JIIM-relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Broadening experiences contribute significantly to competence in the JIIM domains. According to respondents, the single most important preparation for JIIM environments was the opportunity to experience or learn "something different," i.e., assignments in which officers could not simply rely on their own accumulated experience and knowledge to succeed. For some, that "different" experience was service in the Balkans; for others, it was a tour on a higher-level staff.
In the current operating environment, Army officers have a significantly increased opportunity to gain experience in one or more JIIM domains. Naturally, in today's security environment, most of this experience accrued in the joint and multinational domains. Service in Army positions, such as battalion or brigade commander, executive officer, or operations officer, provided significant experience in integrating joint and multinational capabilities. Key officers on division and higher echelon staffs also accumulated significant interagency experience. Development required deployment and experience in an operational theater, however. In a garrison setting, those same positions provided little opportunity for developing JIIM-relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Arroyo developed a framework to help the Army better track and manage the inventory of officers who possess the required capabilities. The study team assessed the Army's ability to meet requirements for JIIM personnel using two models. In one, a managing-skills approach, the objective is to ensure that as many officers as possible acquire at least some JIIM experience. In the other, a managing-competencies approach, the object is to develop the maximum number of experts in the JIIM domains.
It should be possible to develop and maintain enough officers with the required knowledge, skills, and abilities in the JIIM domains. The Army could meet likely requirements using either model. If the Army adopted a managing-skills approach, over two-thirds of lieutenant colonels would have had some sort of JIIM experience by the time they either retired or became colonels. All colonels would have accumulated a JIIM assignment sometime in their careers. With a managing-competencies approach, the Army could produce substantially fewer experts, but with deeper experience; however, it is likely that the resulting inventory would still satisfy demand. Either approach requires deliberate, effective management.
The Army can develop and maintain an adequate inventory of JIIM-qualified officers without significantly disrupting existing career development patterns. While the strategic environment requires a larger inventory of such officers, current operations provide officers with more opportunities to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities — although the Army will have to manage its officers deliberately in order to produce the best possible mix of JIIM expertise in its inventory of officers.