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Building a F.A.S.T. Force: A Flexible Personnel System for a Modern Military

Monday, March 20, 2017

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Building a F.A.S.T. Force

The success of the U.S. military, a professional force with a global mission, depends on its ability to harness the dynamism of American society to meet evolving strategic threats head-on. As the United States confronts an increasingly challenging security environment and as Americans’ expectations and lifestyles change, the nation cannot afford to manage its military using policies designed for a bygone era. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. It is long past time for lawmakers and Pentagon leaders to fundamentally reform the personnel systems that manage America’s uniformed service members and the civil servants who support them. The “one-size-fits-all” force that won the Cold War needs to be updated to one that fully engages all of American society, adapts to new threats, is sustainable over the long term, and is technically proficient. Department of Defense Task Force on Defense Personnel 115th Congress

One-Size-Fits-All: A Personnel System Trapped in the Past

The military uses a 70-year-old “one-size-fits-all” personnel system that brings young people into the military in their teens and 20s, puts them into a rigid command-and-promotion structure, and removes all but the most-senior-ranking service members by their early 40s. This system has served the military well over the years, but has critical shortcomings.

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Weaknesses of One-Size-Fits-All:

 Prohibits the military from rapidly acquiring needed skills or knowledge

 Limits the development of technical expertise

 Fuels the unsustainable rise of personnel costs

 Misallocates talent and minimizes individual strengths and skills

 Kicks people out of the military at their peak

 Discourages experienced, high-demand talent from joining

 Obstructs transitions between active/guard/reserve/civilian

 Inhibits professional creativity in favor of standardized career paths

 Expands the civilian-military divide

 Prevents military spouses from finding and keeping meaningful employment

 Favors uniformity over individual merit and performance

It’s past time for lawmakers to reform the personnel systems that manage America’s uniformed service members. 

A F.A.S.T. Force for the Future: Recommendations

This report presents a comprehensive package of 39 bipartisan proposals to improve the effectiveness of military personnel policy. Taken together, the recommendations contained in this report aim to prepare the military to confront the threats of the future while also keeping promises made to today’s service members and meeting the needs of military families. A Fully engaged, Adaptable, Sustainable, and Technically proficient (F.A.S.T.) military will ensure the future force is as strong as the one the United States has fielded for the last 70 years.

  • F-1: Make it easier for military spouses to find and sustain a career, especially when relocating.
  • F-2: Create an online database to automate and increase service-member influence over future military assignments.
  • F-3: Enhance and expand the Selective Service System to include all young American adults. 
  • F-4: Require Selective Service registrants to complete the military vocational aptitude test.
  • F-5: Expand the Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education, including postgraduate and community-college students.
  • F-6: Improve and synergize online military recruiting efforts by creating a cross-service common application and expanding web-based recruiting tools.
  • F-7: Improve access to and quality of Defense Department-provided child-care services.
  • F-8: Create on-base child-care coordinators to advocate for military families in the local community and to build private-public child-care partnerships.
  • F-9: Provide proactive institutional career guidance to service members before they complete their initial service obligation to increase retention.
  • F-10: Conduct exit interviews to evaluate the quality and rationale of separating service members.
  • F-11: Align, where relevant and possible, military training with civilian professional licensing and certification requirements.
  • A-5: Create a separate and unique personnel system for all Defense Department civilian employees.
  • A-4: Expand lateral-entry authority to allow midcareer civilians to enter the military at higher ranks.
  • A-3: Create a continuum of service by making it easier to repeatedly transition between active, guard, and reserve components.
  • A-2: Revamp military manpower assumptions to allow for flexible career timelines and adaptable personnel policy.
  • A-1: Replace predetermined, time-dependent promotions with a fully merit-based military-promotion model.
  • A-6: Establish pay bands for all defense-civilian employees.
  • A-7: Create rapid-recruiting organizations and processes within each service to expedite processing of nonstandard military recruits.
  • A-9: Establish better enterprise management of the military health care system to improve access to high-quality, modern, and efficiently delivered health care services.
  • A-8: Establish specialized recruiting offices focused on attracting individuals with critical skills.
  • S-12: Collect and publish data, by service and base, on the number and percentage of service members who leave service due to health-related issues, and use data to target interventions.
  • S-11: Establish pilot programs to test use of commercially insured health plans to offer health benefits to reservecomponent service members and their families, military retirees and their dependents, and the dependents of activeduty service members.
  • S-10: Improve the quality of post-deployment reintegration by applying lessons learned from U.S. Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Family program.
  • S-9: Enhance the new, annual TRICARE enrollment process by implementing automatic reenrollment and by gathering data on alternative health-coverage eligibility.
  • S-8: Implement evidence-based programs and policies that promote healthful behaviors among service members, encompassing physical, nutritional, and mental health.
  • S-7: Offer a new TRICARE option for dependents of service members to leverage employer contributions and reduce TRICARE costs.
  • S-6: Increase TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees to cover 20 percent of the cost of coverage beginning in 2038 so that current service members are grandfathered in.
  • S-5: Institute annual involuntary separation boards to remove low performers in over-manned specialties.
  • S-4: Direct that the next Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation evaluate the current military compensation system and adjust it to deliver optimal strategic outcomes.
  • S-3: Integrate personnel policy into the new National Defense Strategy.
  • S-2: Replace the military pay table to ensure compensation is commensurate to increased responsibility and performance.
  • S-1: Replace Budget Control Act defense budget caps with a strategy-based budget that is regularly reviewed and updated.
  • T-7: Improve civilian-military permeability for health care providers through more-effective utilization of the reserve component to better meet staffing needs.
  • T-6: Centralize personnel-management authority for health care personnel under the Defense Health Agency.
  • T-5: Increase educational opportunities for Defense Department civil servants.
  • T-4: Speed up and better utilize the Highly Qualified Expert program to source civilian subject-matter expertise in critical areas.
  • T-3: Reform veterans preference policies to ensure the most-qualified applicants are given opportunities for employment in critical Defense Department job vacancies.
  • T-2: Expand the use of warrant officer positions and create a technical, non-command career track for officers and enlisted personnel.
  • T-1: Replace “up-or-out” promotion processes with a “perform-to-stay” system.

KEYWORDS: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, TASK FORCE ON DEFENSE PERSONNEL, 115TH CONGRESS

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