BACK TO RESEARCH

New Findings

Mechanism Design Meets Priority Design: Redesigning the Us Army’s Branching Process

Working Paper

Kyle Greenberg, Parag Pathak, Tayfun Sönmez

June 2021

Army cadets obtain occupations through a centralized process. Three objectives – increasing retention, aligning talent, and enhancing trust – have guided reforms to this process since 2006. West Point’s mechanism for the Class of 2020 exacerbated challenges implementing Army policy aims. We formulate these desiderata as axioms and study their implications theoretically and with administrative data. We show that the Army’s objectives not only determine an allocation mechanism, but also a specific priority policy, a uniqueness result that integrates mechanism and priority design. These results led to a re-design of the mechanism, now adopted at both West Point and ROTC.