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New Army Assessment Aims to Reduce Bias When Choosing Colonels for Command
Jul 31, 2020
by Matthew Cox
A new Army program to assess whether rising colonels are ready for brigade command and other key assignments will feature safeguards to reduce bias against minority groups.
In September, the Army will hold its first Colonels Command Assessment Program (CCAP), a four-day assessment to determine officers' readiness for command and their strategic potential.
The program is similar to the new Battalion Commander Assessment Program (BCAP), which the Army's Talent Management Task Force held in January.
Officers who are eligible for consideration in the Fiscal 2022 Colonels Active Competitive Category Centralized Selection List board are invited to attend the CCAP at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
In addition to undergoing a series of assessments, participants will go through an Army Comprehensive Talent Interview that features built-in mechanisms to reduce conscious and unconscious bias.
Each interview panel will include diverse representation to provide multiple, independent perspectives, including race, gender, branch category and military experience, the release states.
"Panel members receive anti-bias training prior to panel operations to allow them to identify and mitigate common interview biases, and they conduct daily refresher training to reinforce the initial training," Maj. Gen. JP McGee, director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, said. "Each panel has a trained non-voting panel moderator that asks a series of structured questions to ensure consistency and reduce subjectivity."
Candidates are also masked from the panel members and are instructed not to share information about their identity, branch and units during the interview, Army officials said.
BCAP features the same protocols to safeguard against unconscious bias, they added, but the issue became much more pronounced when senior leaders launched a program in late June that began with removing official photos from officer promotion board packages.
Dubbed Project Inclusion, the sweeping effort will search for ways to promote greater racial diversity, such as creating a new training aimed at elevating awareness of unconscious bias in the ranks, beginning in entry-level training all the way up to senior leader training.
Following the Army’s decision on officer photos, Defense Secretary Mark Esper put out a July 15 military-wide directive barring the use of photos in promotion boards.
The Army will also evaluate use of official photos on warrant officer and enlisted soldier promotion considerations beginning in August.
The new colonel's assessment program will be similar to the BCAP effort as a more effective method of weeding out officers who are not yet ready to take command, Army officials said.
About 1,800 majors and lieutenant colonels were eligible to go through BCAP held in January. Of the 1,100 who volunteered to participate, about 816 were invited to Fort Knox for the five-day evaluation program.
The program features a series of physical and cognitive assessments. Participants undergo tests on written and verbal communication and interview with behavioral psychologists.
Out of about 770 officers who participated in BCAP, 25 were found not ready for command.
When compared to the current selection process, however, the BCAP-selected officers demonstrated that they were more physically fit, had higher levels of cognitive ability, communicated better and exhibited fewer counterproductive leadership traits.
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Photo caption: Battalion Commander Assessment Program participants must work together to negotiate several obstacles at Alex Field Leader Reaction Course on Day 3 of the Army's new talent management initiative. (U.S. Army photo/Eric Pilgrim)
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