FORT KNOX, Ky. — The Army is moving forward with plans to launch a new NCO Evaluation Reporting System on Jan. 1 that is sharply different from past systems, and that will take dead aim at the inflationary tendencies of the current NCOER.
Some near-term initiatives related to the debut of the new system include the continued train-up of thousands of leaders and soldiers in units throughout the Army, and the fielding in November of a new five-page counseling form that should be used for evaluations submitted after Jan. 1.
The new system will consist of three rank-specific evaluation reports, and one counseling form, according to George Piccirilli, chief of Human Resources Command's evaluations, selections and promotions division.
Counseling under the new system should be conducted twice during the rating period by the senior rater, normally an official who rates the rated NCO's rater.
For many sergeants, that likely will be their platoon sergeant or platoon leader.
Because the new system will apply to the three components — the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve — HRC's evaluations branch will process close to a million reports annually once the system matures, Piccirilli estimated.
National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers have been trained on the new system, and beginning Jan. 1, NCO evaluation reports for Guard soldiers will be processed here at HRC, rather than at state organizations.
Under current procedures, only officer evaluations are processed at HRC for the National Guard.
As approved by Army leaders, the new system will focus on three levels of NCO leadership, with separate report forms for soldiers in the ranks of sergeant, staff sergeant through first sergeant, and sergeants major and command sergeants major.
The sergeant report is designed for direct-level leaders, and will focus on technical proficiency, and the roles and responsibilities of the NCO.
In a major change from the current system, senior raters will be able to enumerate on promotion potential with box checks for most qualified, highly qualified, qualified, and not qualified.
Senior raters will not be constrained in how many top-box checks they can issue for sergeants, but they must justify their box checks with written comments.
Reports for staff sergeants and above will be subject to limits on top-box checks, as an inflation-dampening measure.
The second grade plate for the new system, staff sergeant through master sergeant and first sergeant, will focus on organizational processes and systems.
Unlike the sergeant NCOER, senior raters will have limits on the number of subordinates that can receive a top-box check for promotion potential.
Senior raters will not be allowed to issue "most qualified" ratings to more than 24 percent of the NCOs they rate at that grade.
Originally, the Army had set the top-box ceiling at 50 percent, similar to the long-standing practice in the officer corps, but reduced it to 24 percent, in recognition of the lower promotion select rates in the NCO corps.
"If you look at the recent staff sergeant select rate for promotion to sergeant first class, it was about 25 percent, or one out of four," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, commander of the Human Resources Command.
"About one out of 10 of the master sergeant candidates get selected, and with the current NCOER we haven't been giving boards much of a tool to make their selections," Seamands said.
The general said the new system will require senior raters to enumerate their ratings, so there is not a cluster of NCOs with top-box checks, like under the current inflation-prone system that was introduced in 1987.
The third grade plate under the new system, sergeant major and command sergeant major, is designed so that raters and senior raters will assess, in written comments, the leadership attributes and competencies of the rated NCO.
Promotion potential will be handled the same way it will be for staff sergeants through first sergeant, with the 24 percent top-box ceiling.
This means brigade commanders will have to monitor their rating history, called the senior rater profile, to manage the six or seven battalion command sergeants major in their formation in terms of identifying who is the most qualified, highly qualified, qualified and not qualified.
Piccirilli said it will take a few years for the NCO corps to adjust to the inflation-dampening policy that will limit top-box checks to 24 percent.
After the introduction of enumeration for officers in 1997, it took the officer corps three to four years to adjust to the fact that not everybody would receive a top-box check, and that the above center of mass rating was the promotion selection standard for most officers," he said.
"This will happen with an NCO corps used to seeing all top-block checks," Piccirilli said. "There will be some adjustments and concerns, and over time they will be seeing the results from boards."
"The biggest concern for the NCOs will be if they can be promoted with a No. 2 box-check (fully qualified)," he said.
Piccirilli said it takes three to four years for a new evaluation reporting system to start influencing board selections.
The Army will not require a close-out report under the current rating system because of the master sergeant board that meets in March for Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve sergeants first class.
"If an annual report is due during January-March, the report will have an end date of Dec. 31, and will be made on the old report form, not the new report," Piccirilli said.
Anyone who receives a report on the new form who is in the master sergeant zone of consideration probably will be receiving a bad report, such as a relief for cause or similar type of NCOER that is documenting problem behavior.
After the launch of the new NCOER in January, the Human Resources Command will not process reports into a soldier's personnel file for four to six weeks, which will provide HRC officials time to work with the rating chain in the event of problems transitioning to the new system.
"The priority will go to board reports," Piccirilli said. "These reports will be processed first and in time to go to the board."
"Leaders in the field are going to have to educate their soldiers about the new system, managing their profile and counseling," Piccirilli said.
"There is a lot of concern about this, as we move from a system that has been in place for 28 years, into something that is new."
Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Uribe-Huitron, chief of HRC's enlisted promotions branch, said the command recently has been providing information to field units regarding the specific roles and responsibilities for leaders, and what they need to be doing now to prepare themselves for the introduction of the new NCOER.
"There are several documents out there that address the system procedures, and a little bit on policy, but nothing on the 'art' of the system and the talent management of NCOs, and the need to emphasize the clear distinction between evaluating an officer and evaluating an NCO," Uribe said.
While the new NCOER has design features that are similar to the Officer Evaluation Report, the NCOER applies to enlisted soldiers who have completely different career paths than officers.
"Some senior NCOs have expressed concerns that rating officials might not make that distinction when they evaluate subordinate NCOs," he said.
Uribe said HRC will be addressing these concerns soon with guidance for rating officials.