A new Air Force plan would overhaul how officers are promoted

"A new promotion category structure would allow us more developmental agility to meet evolving needs so that we don't have this one-size fits all process."
Jeff Schogol Avatar

The Air Force has announced a major proposal to change how it evaluates, promotes, and retains officers.

Currently, about 87 percent of Air Force Specialty Codes — the service’s equivalent of a Military Occupational Specialties, ratings, or designators — fall in one “Line of the Air Force” promotion category.

In practical terms, that means the vast majority of Air Force officers — with the exception of Judge Advocates, chaplains, and medical personnel — go before the same central selection board, which determines whether they advance to the next rank. (In other words, officers such as pilots, security forces, and acquisitions are all judged together and by the same criteria.)

Now the Air Force has a draft plan for creating new categories for air operations and special warfare; space operations; nuclear missile operations; information warfare; combat support; and force modernization so that officers will compete for promotion against their career field peers and be evaluated by senior officers from similar AFSCs.

“A new promotion category structure would allow us more developmental agility to meet evolving needs so that we don’t have this one-size fits all process,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy Air Force chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “You’re looking at a different development path. You’re building a different space officer. You’re building a different cyber officer. You’re giving them the developmental freedom to build them the way we need that might be constrained today.”

After soliciting feedback from officers and commanders over the summer, service officials will present the Air Force’s secretary and chief of staff with a final plan by Aug. 30, an Air Force news release says.

Should Air Force leadership approve the plan in September, the first promotion board to use those categories is expected to meet in March 2020, Kelly told reporters on Wednesday.

The proposed plan could be tweaked based on input from the field, including changes to the number of promotion categories and which AFSCs are in each category, said Shon Manasco, assistant Air Force secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

“The way the categories were put together really was based on a lot of common traits that you begin to see in some of these AFSCs – logical career paths within them,” Manasco told reporters. “But there’s a chance that through the analysis we just missed something. We don’t know that we have but this is the sign of a mature organization and a mature set of leaders that is willing to go out and allow the force to grade our homework a little bit.”

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