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Slaying the Manpower Dragon

The success of a manpower assessment and review is directly related to the length of time spent on meaningful preparation.

Suppose you are the commander or chief of a table of distribution and allowances (TDA) logistics activity. You receive a letter from your major Army command stating that a manpower assessment and review team is scheduled to visit your organization and validate its manpower requirements during the next fiscal year.

Your reaction may be one of sheer panic. You envision a massive reduction in personnel or perhaps abolishment of your entire organization. You and your subordinates resign yourselves to the probability that the “manpower dragon” will cut a preset percentage of spaces and that personnel losses are inevitable. As a result, you do not devote much time and effort to preparing for the assessment.

Contrary to what you may have heard, a manpower assessment and review team does not arrive at an organization with predetermined cuts in mind. Instead, its mission is to determine the minimum number of personnel required by the organization to perform all missions and tasks directed by regulation or higher headquarters. Therefore, the success of the assessment is directly related to the length of time you spend on meaningful preparation for the team’s visit. By providing detailed information that accurately portrays your organization’s workload, you can slay the “manpower dragon.”

Baseline Submission

Manpower assessment and review teams ask work centers for a baseline submission before the assessment. Elements such as teams, branches, divisions, and directorates that are set apart as separate paragraphs on an organization’s TDA usually are considered to be work centers. The TDA indicates if the spaces in the work centers are overhead, supervision, or worker positions.

Each work center involved in the manpower assessment must prepare a baseline submission. This is a comprehensive document that provides information on the work center’s mission, functions, organizational structure, workload, and manpower resources. The mission is why an organization exists and originates from regulation, public law, or other delegation of authority. A short description of the mission is usually found in the activity’s organization and functions manual.

The directive that assigns an organization’s mission, along with directives for any new missions, should be included in the baseline submission. For example, a recently received memorandum from the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, tasking the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) to provide equipment to support several Army marksmanship matches yearly obviously would increase the FORSCOM workload. Therefore, a copy of the memorandum should be included in the baseline submission.


Functions are the actual work performed. For example, functions derived from the marksmanship mission would include identifying FORSCOM sources of equipment to support the matches and providing shipping instructions. An organization chart, which shows organizational, command, and supervisory chains, should be included in the submission because it addresses command and control and operating relationships.

Workload is the major output, product, or service provided by a work center. Determining the workload is probably the most time-consuming part of developing a baseline submission. However, this element of the submission is the most critical because the manpower assessment and review team will validate workload data during an on-site audit to determine staffing requirements.

Most work centers have several different workloads. Each should be identified and data on it collected for a historical period—normally 1 year. However, this data-collection period should represent the normal period of work. For example, a resource management activity may use a 2-year timeframe because that collection period most accurately portrays the Program Objective Memorandum process.


Individual Task Sheets

To ensure that the workload is defined accurately within a work center, each employee should complete an individual task sheet. This sheet should contain —

• Office name.
• Employee name, grade, and rank.
• Position title, TDA line number, and paragraph number.
• Date assigned and date reassigned (if incumbent has departed the work center).
• Documented overtime and compensatory time hours.
• Number of hours of annual leave taken.
• Number of hours of other types of leave taken (sick leave, annual training, etc.).
• Description of duties.

The description of duties should portray the main outputs, services, or products generated by the employee. The number of tasks performed may vary by position. The employee also must indicate the frequency of outputs, number of times services and products were provided, and actual man-hours spent on each task during the data-collection period. For example, over a collection period of 1 year, an individual may process 15 credit card transactions per week, handle 10 equipment turn-ins per month, and maintain 4 hand receipts, spending 400 actual man-hours on credit card transactions, 800 man-hours on equipment turn-ins, and 540 man-hours on maintaining hand receipts. This information will provide the survey team a starting point for validating the center’s workload. Any contractor workload also must be captured and presented in a summary of the work performed and total hours devoted to each task.

Individual task sheets should be completed for positions that were vacant during the data-collection period. These sheets should describe the backlog resulting from each vacancy. Backlog is defined as those tasks required to be completed in order to accomplish the work center’s mission but are not being completed because of personnel shortfalls. The work center supervisor must explain how failure to complete these tasks adversely impacts its mission. Finally, the work center must provide the number of officers, warrant officers, enlisted personnel, civilians, and contractor personnel required, authorized, and assigned.

The work center supervisor may want to add comments about the backlog, staffing and overtime patterns, and projected future mission changes. This information will facilitate manpower and data analysis and serve as justification for additional manpower requirements in the work center.

Properly portraying your mission, type of work, output, and time spent producing that output will greatly aid the manpower assessment and review team in determining the proper staffing level for your organization. Developing this information also will help you to better understand your workload and be prepared to respond to questions the team may ask. If you do your homework, you can “slay the manpower dragon.”

James T. Delisi works part-time for a nonprofit organization. He retired from Federal Civil Service as a management analyst with the Army Forces Command. He also retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. He has a B.A. degree in political science from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania and an M.A. degree in business management from Central Michigan University.