West Pointâ€™s class of 2020 will serve as the first users of a new branch assignment system this fall, which the Army hopes will help with the retention of junior officers and better assign talent.
The Army is rolling out a new â€œMarket Model branching system” that takes input from the commandants of each branch, who rank cadets as â€œmost preferred,â€ â€œpreferredâ€ or â€œleast preferred,â€ according to an Army news posting.
The number of cadets allocated into each of the three ranks depends on the branchâ€™s needs.
The program starts with West Point cadets receiving their branch assignments this November, but will eventually be used across the serviceâ€™s Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments next year.
Cadets will be judged based on a range of factors, including test scores, physical fitness scores, transcripts, personal statements and, for the first time, interviews with the branches theyâ€™re interested in.
Rankings and preferences will decide branch assignments using a variant of the same algorithm that medical school graduates use to be assigned to residency programs across the country.
This is the first time commandants from the Armyâ€™s 17 branches will have a say in which cadets come into their branches, the service said in its announcement. Previously, cadets simply ranked the branches in order of preference and received their assignment â€œbased almost entirely on their ranking in the Order of Merit List,” the Armyâ€™s posting reads.
The Army release also notes that the process allows for cadets to take on a Branch of Choice Active Duty Service Obligation, or BRADSO. This allows for West Point graduates to serve an extra three years on top of five theyâ€™re already obligated to serve in exchange for increasing the odds that the cadet will receive the branch they most desire.
BRADSO doesnâ€™t change how well the branch commandant ranks a cadet, but it does move cadets within their own ranking.
â€œIf youâ€™re cadet number 25 in that most preferred bucket, and Iâ€™m cadet number 45 and Iâ€™m willing to BRADSO and youâ€™re not, I move above you,â€ Maj. Jared Sunsdahl, West Pointâ€™s accessions division chief, said in the Army posting. â€œNow, 45 is above 25 and then depending on how many branch allocations there are, you may not have received that branch because there were only so many allocations left.â€
Therefore, it wonâ€™t take a cadet from being â€œpreferredâ€ by the branch commandant to being â€œmost preferred,â€ but it will increase their odds against other â€œpreferredâ€ cadets.
West Pointâ€™s class of 2020 will lock in their final branch rankings between Sept. 23-29. Branch commandants have to lock in their rankings by Sept. 19.