Redesigning the US Army’s Branching Process: A Case Study in Minimalist Market Design

Discussion Paper

Kyle Greenberg, Parag Pathak, and Tayfun Sönmez

March 2023

The authors present the proof-of-concept for minimalist market design as an effective methodology to enhance an institution based on the desiderata of stakeholders with minimal interference. Four objectives – respecting merit, increasing retention, aligning talent, and enhancing trust – guided reforms to US Army’s centralized branching process of cadets to military specialties since 2006. USMA’s mechanism for the Class of 2020 exacerbated challenges implementing these objectives. Formulating the Army’s desiderata as rigorous axioms, the authors analyze their implications. Under their minimalist approach to institution redesign, the Army’s objectives uniquely identify a branching mechanism. The authors design is now adopted at USMA and ROTC.