About 2,000 sailors a year move up via the Command Advancement Program. Here, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Yesenia Yasay gets pinned after her 2009 CAP advancement while serving on the aircraft carrier Nimitz. (MC3 Patrick Heil/Navy)
If you’re afleet sailor, your skipper can show up unexpectedly at morning quarters and spot advance you to the next petty officer rank — a surprise that brings many shouts and tears.
Command advancements are among the fleet’s favorite initiatives, where commanding officers can instantly promote any sailor at any time during the year. Those lucky sailors — 2,000 a year, typically — make rank without having to go through the monthslong testing and ranking process.
Personnel officials are closing in on an overhaul that will rein in who can get promoted and when through this process, but will save the program from the trash bin.
And the brass are also pushing the fleet and recruiting commands, which also use CAP advancements, to expend all of their quotas to promote the best. As it stands, 1 in 3 quotas go unused every year.
The chief of naval personnel wants to change that and says more CAP usage may lead to more quotas.
“There may be changes to the numbers of CAPs,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran said in an interview with Navy Times earlier this year. “If those changes do happen, I would suspect that additional CAPs would be given for some commands — there is no plan to reduce the number of quotas for any commands.”
Handing out more CAPs and possibly upping the CAP quotas down the road is the good news.
The bad news? New rules will restrict the advancements to a three-month window, and those chosen will have to meet eligibility requirements and be in properly manned ratings.
Officials say these changes, which are still being hammered out, are necessary to rescue a popular, 35-year-old program that personnel insiders claimed worsened the overmanned ratings, a situation that led to the loathed 2011 enlisted retention boards.
“I do think that CAP has been misused in some cases in the past, where we have given out direction from the headquarters that says you cannot advance in [certain] rates because they are overmanned,” Moran said in the late February interview. “We have not had complete fleet buy-in to that notion in the past, and so it has exacerbated the problem in some rates.”
The overhaul is expected to be announced next month. It is looking at the CAP quotas and weighing whether to expand them to other shore commands. Officials are eyeing larger changes beyond the forthcoming overhaul.
“I am a fan of getting as much authority to commanding officers to influence advancement for their sailors,” Moran said. “CAP is one of those programs that gives authority directly to COs. I am a fan of it from that aspect.”
The new rules limit the advancements to a “CAP window” and may also tighten eligibility criteria, said Capt. Karan Schriver, head of enlisted plans and policy for CNP.
“We’re working to make sure that all those advanced through the CAP program meet eligibility requirements,” Schriver said in a June 5 phone interview. “But also, we need to manage it so we don’t disadvantage other sailors out there and close advancements for certain communities.”
Personnel officials have griped that COs randomly advancing sailors throughout the year contributes to overmanning. The overhaul gives NPC’s community managers, who already oversee the non-CAP enlisted advancements, more control over spot promotions.
Officials aren’t yet able to specify how the new rules may restrict eligibility, but it is possible the changes could bar sailors in overmanned ratings from receiving a spot promotion.
The current program extends to the fleet, Navy recruiters and the recruit training commands; it is off-limits to the rest of shore commands.
Two other programs also offer spot advancements, but the numbers are small and officials didn’t include them in the overhaul. The Combat Meritorious Advancement Program offers advancements for valor under fire, and the Navy’s Sailor of the Year program nets the top five sailors from around the service a promotion to chief.
If approved, the new rules will kick in Oct. 1. No quotas from the old program will carry over. Instead, COs will get a new slate of quotas — though how many is up in the air.
Next year, COs can only advance sailors during the “CAP Season” from July 1 to Sept. 30.
“This will enable us to know all of the CAPs that the COs are awarding, prior to our quota build [for the fall advancement cycle each year], so this will enable us to better manage our advancements overall,” Schriver said.
And whether some COs might get more CAP quotas is under review. The formula is based on the command’s authorized strength, but officials say it’s being reviewed based on the usage data found in recent studies, which shows that 33 percent of available CAP quotas go unused. The worst offenders are believed to be at recruiting commands.
Officials were unable to say why these quotas were going unused.
Moran, officials say, wants to go much further than the new rules and says the program could expand more and that nothing is off the table.
“So I think the first step will be let’s adjust when we do it, see how it goes, see if we get the right results and then maybe look at doing it differently later,” Moran said.