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ATLDP study recommends 63 changes 
for warrant officers

By Gary Sheftick, Army News Service

       WASHINGTON, D.C. - An Army study recently released recommends that warrant officers be fully integrated into the officer corps, paid more, and recruited in some cases from tech schools and college ROTC programs.

      The study recommends a total of 63 changes to improve the training, manning and professional development of warrant officers.  Now these recommendations will be reviewed by an Implementation Process Action Team at the Pentagon, an official said, to determine exactly how they can be implemented.

        The study was conducted by the Army Training and Leader Development Panel (ATLDP)  over the past year with teams out of Fort Leavenworth, Kan.  More than 7,430 warrant officers and others completed survey questionnaires for the study and 2,815 soldiers and family members participated in focus group discussions or in-depth interviews conducted at 75 locations worldwide.

      One recommendation resulting from the study is that each branch establish a chief warrant officer position. Six of the 15 branches that have warrants already have such a position, according to Chief  Warrant Officer 5 John Sparkman, director of the ATLDP warrant officer study. He said the aviation branch was the latest one to establish such a position.

"The big holistic view is stronger identity as part of the officer corps, and of the branch to which they are associated."

Chief  Warrant Officer 5 John Sparkman, 
Director of the 
ATLDP Warrant Officer Study

 Change the mindset

      Sparkman said one of the biggest recommendations of the study is to change the "mindset" of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command by eliminating the separate warrant-officer education system and melding it into the officer education system.  He said warrants should attend the officer basic and advanced courses right along with lieutenants and captains.

      Combining the education systems is just part of integrating warrants into the officer corps, Sparkman said, a process begun in the 1980s but never completed.

      Since 1987, chief warrant officers have been commissioned.  But Warrant Officer 1s (WO1s) are still appointed by warrant. 

      One of the panel's recommendations is to commission warrants immediately upon graduating candidate school or their officer basic course.

      "Some will feel like we're losing our identity, but that's just not the case," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mike Adair of the Army's G-3 Training and Leader Development Division.

      "A lot of people would look at the recommendations and a knee-jerk reaction would be that warrants are becoming more generalists," Sparkman said. "That's not true at all. It's just the opposite." 

Branch-specific programs

      All education and career-progression would be branch-specific, Sparkman said, if the panel's recommendations are implemented.  In fact, the panel recommends elimination of the separate warrant officer division at Personnel Command so that all assignments would be managed by the 15 branches.

      Warrant officers would wear their branch insignia, instead of the warrant "rising eagle" on their collars.

      "The big holistic view is stronger identity as part of the officer corps, and of the branch to which they are associated," said Sparkman, who is also in the warrant officer leader development position at Leavenworth's Center for Army Leadership.

      "Many commanders and soldiers today don't know the difference between a CW2 and a CW4 and figure a warrant is a warrant," Sparkman said. He explained that establishing an education progression that officers understand will lead to commanders knowing how to better employ warrants.

      About 21,300 warrant officers are in the Army today - and they comprise about 2 percent of the total force. 

      Fifty-four percent of warrant officers are in the active force, 33 percent are in the Army National Guard, and 13 percent are in the Army Reserve. Warrant officers serve in every branch except infantry and armor. More than half of all warrant officers serve in combat arms and 48 percent serve in the aviation field as pilots, maintenance technicians, safety officers and in other aviation specialties.

 Recruiting warrant officers

      The study shows the Army is having problems recruiting warrant officers to serve in three intelligence fields, and to be Criminal Investigative Division (CID) agents. It also shows that the Army is having trouble retaining warrants in some aviation fields and in counterintelligence.

      One recommendation of the study is to recruit civilians with technical expertise for some warrant-offer technical fields.  For instance, Sparkman said law-enforcement officers could be recruited as CID agents.  And he said the Army and the ROTC Command might look to computer schools and other trade institutes to recruit for warrant officers in the signal branch.

      Increasing the pay difference between warrant officers and NCOs would also help recruiting for warrants, Sparkman said.  He explained that there was a 13-percent pay jump from staff sergeant to WO1 when he became a warrant officer.  Now there's only a 5.5 percent difference.   And he said there's no increase in pay when going from sergeant first class to warrant officer.

      When asked in a survey, "What would you tell the chief of staff of the Army is the most important change he can make to warrant officer training and leader development?" the top five responses were in the areas of the warrant officer education system, pay and compensation, the role of the warrant officer, technical/military occupational skill training, and insufficient resources.

      Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki chartered the ATLDP in June 2000.  He instructed the panel, which convened at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to examine issues affecting training and leader development, and empowered the panel to examine appropriate institutions, processes, tools and the environment.

      The warrant officer study is actually the third conducted by the ATLDP and is part of the largest self-assessment ever done by the Army, officials said.  It follows studies of the commissioned-officer and the NCO corps.

      The panel completed Phase I (Officer Study) in May of 2001, and Phase II (NCO Study) in May 2002.  The Army instituted a management process under the proponency of the Army G-3 to determine the feasibility, suitability, and acceptability of the recommendations.  The ATLDP is also continuing its mission by examining Department of the Army civilians (Phase IV).

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