U.S. Army PERSCOM LogoThe Army Branch Detail Program

by Captain Michael E. Sloane

The author explains the Total Army Personnel Command's positive approach to ensuring that branches with large lieutenant requirements are filled to their required levels.

Each year, approximately 4,000 second lieutenants are commissioned into the Active Army. The actual number is based on Army mission requirements and is subject to congressional approval. The Total Army Personnel Command (PERSCOM) distributes these newly commissioned officers to its respective branches.

The Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery, and Chemical branches have the biggest demand for these new lieutenants and receive approximately 2,200 of them to fill key junior officer leadership positions. The Aviation, Engineer, Military Intelligence, Military Police, Signal, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Transportation, Adjutant General's, and Finance branches receive the remaining 1,800 lieutenants. Although the Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, Air Defense Artillery, and Chemical branches receive more than half of the new lieutenants, they still face a shortfall.

To cover the shortfall, these five "recipient" branches borrow officers for a predetermined length of time (usually 2 to 3 years) from other "donor" branches that initially have more available lieutenants than duty positions. The donor branches are Military Intelligence, Signal, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Transportation, Adjutant General's, and Finance. (It is interesting to note that this imbalance no longer exists when the officers reach the ranks of captain through lieutenant colonel. By that time, the donor branches have more duty positions than officers, while the recipient branches have fewer duty positions than officers.)

Sample 24-Month Branch Detail Transition

  • Quartermaster lieutenant detailed to a shortage branch after commissioning.
  • Attends Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Officer Basic Course (20 weeks).
  • Serves 18 months as an ADA platoon leader.
  • Attends 5-week Quartermaster transition course.
  • Returns to same installation on which he served in an ADA unit and is assigned as a Quartermaster platoon leader or staff officer for 18 to 24 months.
  • Attends Combined Logistics Captains Career Course (24 weeks).
  • Is available for assignment to a Quartermaster unit or command anywhere in the world.

This "borrowing" process is called the Branch Detail Program. The program is administered by PERSCOM according to the provisions of Army Regulation 614-100, Officer Assignment Policies, Details, and Transfers, which establishes policies and procedures for reassigning commissioned and warrant officers between commands or units of the Army.

After commissioning, a second lieutenant participating in the Branch Detail Program is detailed immediately to a recipient branch and attends that branch's basic course. The timeline for fulfillment of the officer's donor assignment begins when he enters active duty. Ideally, the detailed officer is assigned to an installation that can support assignments in combat arms or chemical and in combat support (CS) or combat service support (CSS) branches. This will enable him to transfer to a CS or CSS position on the same installation at the end of his detail. During his assignment to the combat arms or chemical branch, the detailed officer gains valuable tactical and technical skills that will serve him well in his future assignments.

Although the recipient branches would like to keep the donated officers, the officers are counted in the officer population of their respective donor branches and are expected to fill critical positions in these branches when they return. Therefore, commanders must be aware of the importance of sending the officers back to their donor branches, and they must understand the impact on the donor branches when the officers are not returned promptly at the end of their contract period.

Exceptions to the Branch Detail Program

  • Chaplains are not detailed to other branches nor are officers of other branches detailed as chaplains.
  • Army Medical Department commissioned officers may be detailed to other branches, functional areas, or branch immaterial positions subject to the approval of the Surgeon General and the Director of Officer Personnel Management.
  • Commissioned officers in the Judge Advocate General's Corps are not detailed without the approval of the Judge Advocate General.

The recipient and donor branch assignment officers must coordinate to make sure that follow-on assignments for the officers completing the branch details help to develop their careers. To help make the transfer back to their basic branches as smooth as possible, the recipient branches schedule the returning officers to attend a branch transition course en route to their CS or CSS assignments. Each transition course provides the officers with an understanding of the policies, principles, and procedures needed to serve successfully as a logistics staff officer in a theater of operations. The branch-specific courses are approximately 3 to 10 weeks long and are offered several times a year depending on the branch.

Ideally, the transition course is scheduled within 4 months before or after the expiration of the officer's branch detail. Officers participating in the Branch Detail Program know when they are required to return to their basic branches and should coordinate with their current chains of command to make sure they are programmed to attend the transition course at the appropriate time.

These officers must be given the opportunity to attend this training before reporting to their next units whenever possible. Their donor branches expect them to be able to perform branch-specific duties upon arrival. Recipient branch commanders should plan for this training in their command operating budget to ensure that money is available to fund the transition course. Currently, Military Training Specific Allotment (MTSA) funds are used to pay for this course when officers take it en route to their next assignment. If they attend the course and return to their installations, local funds must pay for the training. Returning officers also should coordinate with their basic branch chains of command, their division G1's, and their division support command or corps support group S1's to make sure CS and CSS positions are available when they return to their branches.

The chiefs of the branches to which the officers will return send welcome letters to each officer approximately 8 to 10 weeks before the transition course begins. The letters contain the names and phone numbers of points of contact and other useful information that will help to ensure that the attending officers are well prepared for the transition courses. In addition, the staff in each branch of PERSCOM is always available to answer questions about the courses.

Following the transition course, the officers are transferred to CS or CSS units, where they spend the next 24 months gaining valuable logistics experience. At the end of this time, they are programmed to attend the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course (CLC3) or, in the case of Adjutant General, Military Intelligence, Signal, and Finance officers, the equivalent captains career course. Upon graduation, the officers are available for assignment to CS and CSS units worldwide.

For more information about the Branch Detail Program, call the appropriate branch representative at PERSCOM. ALOG

Captain Michael E. Sloane is the Future Readiness Officer for the Quartermaster Corps at the Total Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Virginia. He has a bachelor's degree in business management from Columbus State University in Georgia. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Airborne, Air Assault, and Ranger Courses.