LCDR Insignia


I don’t know; ask the skipper.

Perhaps you recall the aviation bloodbath that was the Fiscal Year 2015 O-4 (Line Officer) promotion board? Other warfare communities fared quite well. Those whose officer careers began with a stint in Pensacola did not fare so well. We wrote about this debacle extensively, starting with Throwing Blind Darts, here in this particular ready room. The ensuing discussion lasted for weeks.

As a reminder:

To say that the outcome is staggering is a massive understatement. Kinda like saying “the sun is hot”. The selection rate for Naval Flight Officers was 49-percent. The selection rate for Naval Aviators? They fared much better at 56-percent.

Using the Navy’s criteria for determining selection rates, this is how the other warfare communities broke-out.

1110 (Surface Warfare) – 93-percent

1120 (Submarine) – 96-percent

1130 (SEAL) – 90-percent

The sub community had 62-percent of its above-zone eligibles select for promotion. In summary, you were better off at this board as a once-passed-over submariner than you were as an in-zone Naval Aviator or Naval Flight Officer.

As another reminder, please note that the O-4 promotion board is not a force shaping tool. Line officers compete openly with other line officers in different communities. No one stands at the front of the room and says, “Okay, folks. We need 350 aviators to make O-4 in order to fill all of next year’s aviation Department Head vacancies.” It is possible, however unlikely, that every eligible officer from one community would select for promotion while zero eligible officers from another community would select for promotion. This has nothing to do with minimum service requirements, retention, or the Designated Hitter rule. It took us an eon to get out that rabbit hole previously.

If you are one who believes the Navy got it wrong, and I am, you’re not alone. Someone noticed.

The Navy has made some changes to its officer promotion board process following complaints and criticisms that the most recent board disproportionately failed to promote aviators from lieutenant to lieutenant commander — compared with promotions of submariners and surface warfare officers.

The service is working to ensure they identify the right number of vacancies for lieutenant commander positions and solidify the number of billets available, said Cmdr. Chris Servello, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel.

I’m not quite ready to celebrate like it’s 1999, but this is positive movement. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step, right? Identifying vacancies and solidifying billets sounds good. What impact it will have remains to be seen. Surely we have a good estimate for these numbers going into the board, or one would think.

However, the Navy plans to promote a higher percentage of lieutenants in the upcoming selection board. The average promotion of lieutenants over the last two years has been right around 70 percent, Servello said. “Next year will be 80 percent to get some of those that we missed.”

In addition to more informative and insightful community briefs delivered with hurricane force, an 80-percent selection rate will be a tremendous boost. Although I’m not convinced it will be enough to pick up all the talent left on last year’s cutting room floor, it’s a good start, and one we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate, even if mildly.

This entry was posted in Navy by The Skipper.