Attracting the Right Volunteers

U.S. Army Functional Areas and the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program

by William H. Waggy II

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The United States Army changed its policy in 2010 on how officers move to small, specialized career fields called functional areas. The new policy, known as the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program (VTIP), allows mid-career Army officers to volunteer to switch specialties to a functional area, subject to eligibility constraints and Army approval. This dissertation explores how functional areas adapted to this new environment, an environment in which their manpower only comes from volunteers. Using a new data set on VTIP applications and approvals, I quantify the supply of officers willing and approved to transfer to a functional area. Some functional areas struggle to attract officers who meet the Army's quality threshold on military performance. My research also shows that officers with low performance disproportionately apply for transfer to a functional area. While functional areas have a limited ability to change important components of job satisfaction and thus increase applications, they can alter their entry requirements. Few functional areas chose to significantly change their entry requirements. Those that did developed an alternate pathway of qualifications, implemented a change to the desired level of military experience, or introduced selection tests. I provide three recommendations. Functional areas should consider developing and using selection tests specific to important knowledge, skills, and attributes. After developing better insights into needed capabilities, the Army should increase its flexibility in selection decisions for a functional area. Finally, the Army should use the alternate promotion authority for some functional areas.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Evolution of the Officer Career Field System

  • Chapter Three

    The VTIP Labor Market

  • Chapter Four

    Career Field Changes During VTIP

  • Chapter Five

    Policy Implications

  • Chapter Six

    Recommendations and Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Understanding Circumstances Surrounding Career Field Mergers and Competitive Category Changes

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in June 2020 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Albert Robbert (Chair), Tracy Krueger, and Timothy J. Kane. This research was supported by the Army Talent Management Task Force.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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