The current officer management system was designed to meet the challenges of the cold war. With the disappearance of the United States' only global rival and the end of the cold war, members of Congress and senior leaders in the Defense Department began to question whether a career management system designed for the cold war could also serve the nation's security needs in the new environment. Some evidence suggests that it cannot. The current system, largely the result of the 1980 Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA), did not prove itself a good management tool in the turbulent period following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Furthermore, the changes in the size and missions of the armed forces suggest a need not so much for a different type of officer as for more different types.
In response to these concerns, RAND's National Defense Research Institute (NDRI) completed an earlier study on officer career management systems for the future (see MR-470-OSD). That study determined a likely range of future officer requirements, defined a number of alternative career management systems, and evaluated them. Its purpose was to provide policymakers a toolbox from which they could select needed policies to address goals for future careers. However, that study did not attempt to define a “best” system, because one of the key components for designing a system—the objectives it was to accomplish—was missing.