Now Hear This - Let Talented Officers Opt-In for Early Promotion

By Captain Ronald R. Shaw Jr., U.S. Navy

A professional naval officer should have this same consideration, within reason and in keeping with the best interest of the service. Instead of increasing the administrative burden of a selection board by requiring the review of a greater number of junior records, the board would consider only candidates two years below the current zone who have achieved their professional requirements for the next grade and have opted-in by declaring their intent to be considered for early promotion.

The benefits of an “opt-in” approach are clear to an officer who is seeking early promotion. The officer would retain control of his or her career path based on self-reflection and mentor discussion, and be assured of receiving serious consideration for early promotion. For example, a senior lieutenant commander with a strong leadership record may decide to forgo a lieutenant commander XO tour in favor of early selection.

Conversely, an officer may decide that a leadership tour is needed for either promotion or a subsequent command/milestone tour screening opportunity and opt to be considered at the traditional time interval. If a future decision were made to more closely examine all qualified candidates junior to the current promotion zone, an officer may very well be reluctantly deep-selected for promotion. Previously, the only recourse would be to write a letter to the promotion board and explain why promotion is not desired at this time, which may negatively affect an officer’s reputation. With an opt-in system, an officer would log-in to the BUPERS online website and access a promotion preparation screen. When qualified, either by completing a particular community milestone/command tour or achieving a certain additional qualification designation, an option would be enabled for the officer to opt-in for consideration as a below-zone promotion candidate.

Since it is assumed that most officers desire to promote as soon as possible, an argument could be made that this system would not significantly reduce the number of below-zone candidates and therefore overburden a selection board with candidates. However, there are many legitimate reasons that an officer may elect to not opt-in for early promotion. An increasing amount of officers are married to fellow officers, a fact that greatly complicates geographic assignments and career timing. Exceptional Family Member enrollees also are limited in career choices due to family medical situations. Additionally, family-planning decisions may affect officer sea-shore rotation and assignment timing. All of these scenarios would greatly benefit from a system where the officer retains more control of their career progression. Without an opt-in system, increased consideration of below-zone candidates would create more instability and unpredictability, degrading an officer’s ability to plan a successful career.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stated, “To fight and win, we need a force that draws from the broadest talent pools . . . provides flexible career paths, and prioritizes merit over tenure.” Providing our officers with more control of their career progression through an opt-in style program will contribute to the secretary’s vision and be a valuable tool in retaining our talented naval officers.

Captain Shaw is the commanding officer of the Naval Oceanography Operations Command. He previously completed a tour as a senior detailer at Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee.




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