The Impact of OPMS XXI

on MI Officers

by Lieutenant Colonel John M. Custer 

Twenty-first century technology is changing our Army. What type of officer will we need for Force XXI? To answer this question, General Dennis J. Reimer, the Chief of Staff of the Army, chartered the Officer Personnel Management System (OPMS) XXI Task Force (TF). Implementation of the revised OPMS began on 1 October 1997 and will occur gradually over the next five years.

The options reviewed by the TF ranged from simply "tweaking" the current system to organizing the Army Competitive Category into four distinct career fields (CFs)--Operations (OP), Information Operations (IO), Institutional Support, and Operations Support--and assessing officers from point of commission into these career fields.

OPMS XXI on the Internet

There is a wealth of information available on the Internet that describes OPMS XXI. The basic OPMS XXI uniform resource locator address (URL) on the Internet is This site offers a comprehensive briefing with 49 detailed slides, a section with many of the most frequently asked questions, information by year group, and point of contact lists.

Impact on MI Officers

Approximately 37 percent of newly selected MI branch majors will serve in other than the Operations CF. This percentage already includes those designated for the Army Acquisition Corps. Those officers who remain in the OP CF (SC 35) will serve in branch assignments (as S3s, XOs, battalion and brigade commanders, etc.) and functional integrator (branch immaterial) jobs. If you go into the OP CF, your time with troops will certainly increase, probably to three years as a major in an operational unit and up to 24 months in an S3 or XO position.

MI officers slotted into a career field other than the OP CF will serve in their previously designated functional area (FA). These officers will alternate between assignments in their functional areas and immaterial positions. Because of the technical nature of the jobs, the OPMS TF anticipates that many MI officers will desire to work in the IO CF in FAs 30, 34, 40, and 53. These officers will perform a variety of IO missions in both table of organization and equipment (TO&E) and table of distribution and allowances units.

The creation of FA 30 (IO) transcends today's nascent doctrine and describes talents the Army of 2010 will require. FA 30 will develop an officer who is familiar with planning and operations concepts and can provide the integration skills necessary to bridge the gap between the technical aspects of IO and the practicality of combat operations. The essence of the IO officer's responsibilities will revolve around the building and execution of an information operations campaign plan which optimizes both information systems and each of the battlefield operating systems.

FA 34 (Strategic Intelligence) will provide the Army with officers for positions requiring long-term background knowledge and study of particular geographic, political or demographic areas worldwide, and specific intelligence or communications systems knowledge. The creation of FA 34 will allow the Army to correct its critical shortage of field grade MI officers by allowing officers from all other branches to fill these billets.

FA 40 (Space Operations) will develop officers with expertise in space-related policy, technology, and operations in positions dealing directly with space issues on a daily basis. Access to, and use of, space-deployed systems will become an increasingly critical issue for Army 2010.

The current FA 53 (Automation Systems Officer) will dramatically expand to incorporate an Information Systems Management Officer, and an Automation Systems Engineer. The 53A would have responsibility for the technical synchronization of all information platforms within an organization's systems architecture. The FA 53B and 53D will be more technical areas of concentration.

Impact on Promotions

One change under OPMS XXI is that each officer will compete for promotion to lieutenant colonel and colonel only against other officers in their respective career fields. Promotion opportunity to LTC will be about equal between the career fields and slightly better than today. Promotion opportunity for former battalion commanders (OP CF) to O-6 will be less than it is today; in the other CFs it will be less than that of the OP CF, but significantly greater than it is today. Since all Command Selection List commands are in the OP CF, command opportunity will exist only for OP CF officers. Because a reduced number of MI officers will be considered for command, selection opportunity for both battalion and brigade command will significantly increase.

Implementation of OPMS XXI

The Army will not implement every piece of the new officer development system this fall. The implementation schedule proposed for CF designation boards and promotion boards operating under the career field-based Officer Development System can be found on the OPMS XXI website.

Lieutenant Colonel Custer is currently a student at the National War College. He has served in a variety of command and staff positions. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and the Postgraduate Intelligence Program. Readers can contact him via E-mail at