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New OERs for jr., field grade and sr. officers

Mar. 27, 2013 - 07:32AM   |  
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A new officer evaluation system featuring separate reports and rating techniques for officers of different ranks is on track to be fielded with the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve in December.

The new Web-based system will call on junior leaders to rate their subordinates to an extent they never have before.

The Officer Evaluation Reports will be prepared and submitted electronically to Human Resources Command.

Under this second round of changes to a rating system that was last revised in 1997, the Army will introduce a rater profile technique similar to the inflation-dampening system now in effect for senior raters.

A distinct feature of the new system is a delineation of responsibilities for the rater, a person who serves as an officer’s first-line supervisor, and the senior rater, normally a person who rates the rater.

Raters under the revised system evaluate an officer’s job performance, while senior raters evaluate an officer’s potential for promotion and increased responsibilities.

While that has been a general feature of past systems, raters and senior raters have performed both of these functions under the current system, according to Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mustion, commander of HRC.

HRC, which includes the Army’s evaluation, selections and promotions division, has worked with senior leaders on the design of the new system and will oversee its implementation.

The new system “will provide a distinct separation and focus of responsibilities for raters and senior raters,” Mustion said.

“We’ll put the senior rater in a position to comment on an officer’s potential for promotion with observations and an assessment of that officer,” he said.

A second major feature of the new system is separate evaluation reports for company-grade commissioned and warrant officers, field-grade officers in the ranks of lieutenant colonel and chief warrant officer 3 through 5, and strategic leaders in the ranks of colonel and brigadier general.

Major generals, lieutenant generals and generals will not be rated under the new system.

As of mid-March, the Army had developed draft versions of the company-grade and field-grade reports.

The strategic officers report has yet to be approved by senior leaders but should be available for training purposes this summer.

In related efforts, the Army also is reviewing the Academic Evaluation Report and the OER support form to determine if those documents need updating.

The academic report is used to document periods when soldiers are attending schools and do not receive regular officer and NCO evaluation reports.

The OER support form is being redesigned so that it will reflect current leadership doctrine.

Once fielded, the support form will be mandatory for officers in the ranks of second lieutenant through colonel.

Rater profiles

Another key feature of the new system will be a rater profile technique similar to the system now in effect for senior raters.

Under that system, which will be retained with the new OER, senior raters are prevented from putting more than 49 percent of all rated officers of the same grade in the top box.

As of mid-March, it appeared unlikely that the Army will adopt, as previously indicated, a “top 10 percent box” for senior raters to clearly identify exceptional officers at the ranks of lieutenant colonel and colonel. However, senior leaders have not made a final decision.

The rater profile for company-grade and field-grade officers being incorporated into the new system will track the rating history for each officer, by rank, regardless of component, in the assessment of overall performance.

Raters will be asked to provide narrative comments of three or four sentences each on six leadership and performance attributes.

The new report will omit the 22 box checks dealing with Army values and leader attributes in the performance evaluation section of the current report.

The rater section of the report will include a box check, similar to the senior rater box check, in which the rater assesses an officer’s overall performance as “excels,” “proficient,” “capable” and “unsatisfactory.”

To allow raters to use the “excels” box for their top box during the initial round of ratings, regardless of small rating populations, raters will receive a startup rater credit of three “proficient” blocks.

Once a rater’s profile is established, the profile will follow the rater for the duration of his or her government service.

Restarts will not be allowed for rater profiles.

The rater’s profile will be displayed at the bottom of the box check so that board members reading the assessment can put a particular rating into the context of a rater’s previous evaluations for that grade.

Making these kind of calls will be a new experience for junior officers, as they will be required to assess and rank-order their subordinates to a degree never before required.

Training and Doctrine Command will help prepare officers for these duties by including OER preparation in professional military education courses.

Assignment recommendations

In another change from the current system, raters will provide assignment suggestions for majors and lieutenant colonels.

Such suggestions will focus on appropriate operational and broadening assignments for the rated officers.

Broadening assignments involve duties outside the traditional career tracks for a branch or functional area, and are seen by senior leaders as something that helps prepare officers for service at the strategic level.

Under the Army’s personnel management doctrine for officers, operational assignments are with field units, not training organizations.

Mustion said the Army is asking that raters be rather specific in their recommendations for operational assignments.

For example, raters who want to designate an officer for executive officer duties should indicate what kind of units would be appropriate for the officer.

Mustion said these recommendations not only will be seen by selection boards, but will be viewed by career management branches as part of the assignment process.

“This will be a great tool for us,” said Mustion, whose command includes the officer assignment branches.

Senior rater profile

The senior rater system will retain the four-box profile, but the rating categories of “above center of mass,” “center of mass,” “below center of mass — retain” and “below center of mass — do not retain” have been relabeled as follows:

Most qualified: The officer has strong potential for below-zone promotion selection and command. In terms of potential, the officer rates ahead of peers.

Highly qualified: The officer has strong potential for promotion with peers.

Qualified: The officer is capable of success at the next level, and should be promoted if requirements exist.

Not qualified: The officer is not recommended for promotion.

The new categories of “most qualified” and “qualified” are seen as providing stratification to senior raters who make the critically important call on promotion potential, according to Mustion.

The “highly qualified” rating equates to the current “center of mass,” rating, while the “qualified” rating is not considered an adverse evaluation.

As under the current system, the top box (most qualified) will be the control box, and will be limited to 49 percent of the rated officers in a particular rank.

To support the profile restriction for raters and senior raters, HRC is developing an information technology tool that will be built into the OER software that will not allow rating officials to exceed the 49 percent ceiling for top-box ratings.

The Army will continue to mask senior rater box checks for lieutenants and junior warrant officers after promotion to captain and chief warrant officer 3.

This means that missteps and less-than-stellar ratings as a lieutenant or WO1 will not plague an officer for the rest of his or her career.

Senior rater profiles in the current system will be transferred to the new system without change.

This means there will not be any profile restarts, and no close-out reports.

“We just don’t believe close-out reports on 92,000 officers would benefit the Army,” Mustion said.

“Back in 1997 [when the current system was implemented], we generated a massive number of reports that covered only 30, 60 or 90 days, and essentially were of no value.”

Mustion said it will take about two or three years for the new OER system to mature and provide a track record for trends.

Historically, the narrative portions of an OER system have played a prominent role in the early phases of a new report, as opposed to the block checks.

“It is our intent to make the narratives just as important [as the block checks] during the tenure of the report,” Mustion said.

“As our current senior rater profiles have become mature, we may see the inverse happening in the above-center-of-mass block check in that it is not as important as the words.

“Selection boards are telling us today that the words [as opposed to the block checks] are the most important,” Mustion said.

Implementation of the new OER system Dec. 1 will be supported by a servicewide training program involving mobile training teams from HRC.

That training will begin in the summer with visits to installations and commands throughout the Army.

A revised OER regulation and pamphlet providing detailed rules for preparing and processing reports will be published around September, according to Mustion.

If HRC officials feel that the system is not ready for launch Dec. 1, “we will go to the senior leadership to ask for a delay until it is ready to launch,” Mustion said.

Important events in preparing for the launch are the development of the IT tool for the rater and senior rater box check sections, and a fully trained force of officers in the active and reserve components.

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