U.S. Army Looks at Ending Bias in Choosing Colonels for Command Assignments

Talent management organizers work to remove bias at Colonels Command Assessment Program

Bias. Some of the Army’s top leaders visited Fort Knox Sept. 17 to hear how organizers of the new Colonels Command Assessment Program expect to remove as much of it as possible.

The four-day program started assessing commissioned officers’ abilities Sept. 11 for strategic potential and readiness to take command of units and organizations throughout the Army. Bias, as organizers mentioned, can be detrimental to appointing the right colonel to the right job.

“The mandate that we’ve gotten from the Chief of Staff of the Army, we created this to be world-class, fair, consistent and, because of COVID, safe,” said Maj. Gen. JP McGee, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, in charge of conducting CCAP. “If you want to be fair, you have to do everything possible to eliminate bias.”

McGee explained that though it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate bias, they have built several measures into the selection process designed to reduce its effects.

“What we’ve done is really squeezed it down so it’s not going to be a dominant factor,” said McGee.

He and other organizers explained these steps to Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and the Army’s senior enlisted advisor, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, who stopped by to check on progress after over 150 brigade-level officers had already competed for the coveted top-tier positions.

Talent management organizers work to remove bias at Colonels Command Assessment Program
McConville and Grinston listened as CCAP organizers highlighted some of the complicated steps they take to focus not on test results as much as processes. Organizers explained that the emphasis on how officers process and critically think through real-world scenarios is more critical to determining whether they are prepared for a command position than their prowess on an Army Combat Fitness Test.

Later in the day, Dr. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army (Manpower & Reserve Affairs), and Deputy Chief of Staff for G-1 (Personnel) Lt. Gen. Gary Brito stopped by to receive a briefing on CCAP.

“I have two kids in the Army, and I was a long time engaged with the Army; I think this is terrific,” said Wardynski. “When we started things like talent management and then this, the question of fairness came up. A lot of the focus of fairness was to the individual — the leader that will go through this.”

Talent management organizers work to remove bias at Colonels Command Assessment Program
Wardynski said the issue of fairness has to be expressed from a greater vantage point.

“My first thought is, are we fair to America: mom and dad who send kids, brothers and sisters who send siblings?” said Wardynski. “I think this program really keeps faith with America. The Army is moving every effort, putting its very best people on the project, to make sure our Soldiers are well led.”

“There is no substitute for leadership,” Wardynski continued. “We can have the best equipment, the best troops, but if we don’t have the best leadership, it will come apart.”
Brito agreed.

“Above and beyond what is provided on ink just based off of an [officer evaluation report], this allows us to see some of the human aspects as well,” said Brito. “There are some things that a candidate can control, like their [physical training] score. But this assessment, both through the panel gets to some of those other human aspects, and strengths and weaknesses.

“If nothing else, hopefully it may identify a toxic leader that may not be identified in a paper evaluation alone.”

Wardynski said CCAP is poised to lead the Army toward the future.

“The Army, with this effort, has made a revolutionary change in its willingness to use assessments to do the deep work in making sure our Soldiers have the very best leaders,” said Wardynski. “This will move us forward in protecting our nation.”

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