Officials offer peek into officer promotion boards
By Jon Hanson, Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs
/ Published August 18, 2011
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials offered a peek into the officer promotion board process recently to explain how they are conducted.
"The promotion system is clear-cut and extremely fair," said Col. Ramona Dolson, chief of the Air Force Selection Board Secretariat. "The Air Force has done a great job in making the promotion process transparent, fair and equitable."
Every board begins the same way with extensive Secretary of the Air Force approved training covering all aspects of the board process. This includes going over the board authority and organization, whole-person concept, scoring scale, selection record content, communication guidelines and other statutorily and policy driven board activities.
The makeup of the board is limited to colonels and above, ensuring members are senior to the eligible officers. It will include a reserve officer if a reservist is eligible. Air Force policy dictates board membership reflects the eligible population of officers in term of command of assignment, career area, aeronautical rating, race, ethnicity and gender.
After the training, the board president reads the SECAF's memorandum of instructions and then the board secretariat administers the oath that binds the members to perform the duties imposed upon them without prejudice or partiality. The MOI outlines the secretary's specific instructions for each board.
The board president, always a general officer, is assisted by the recorders of the selection board secretariat. The recorders are certified by the SECAF to assist board presidents in ensuring boards are conducted in accordance with established laws, directives and secretarial instructions.
The board then participates in a multi-faceted trial run exercise. The exercise allows members to see the range of quality they will see in the live records, the colonel said. It exposes them with some situations they might come across as they assess the records. It also helps each member to establish his or her own scoring standard.
After the exercise, secretariat officials facilitate a debriefing for board members to collectively discuss Air Force considerations that may assist them while scoring the records. An example of this could be discussing how getting a letter of reprimand as a young lieutenant might be viewed differently than a major getting one later in his or her career, said Lt. Col. Rose Jourdan, the chief of operations at the Air Force Selection Board Secretariat.
Before the board members can score their first live record, they must acknowledge they understand the process and their role in the process, and are comfortable with the scoring scale and content of the selection records, she said.
Once the last record is scored, the board establishes a preliminary order of merit. Records that are close to the promotion quota cutline fall into the "gray zone," Jourdan said. The board then conducts a series of quality reviews to resolve that gray zone. Afterward, they rescore all those records to establish the final order of merit to assign the remaining available quota.
At this point, the board has a preliminary list they must verify are "fully qualified" in accordance with Title 10, U.S.C., Section 616. This step allows the board to acknowledge that all members recommended are not only the best qualified, but are also fully qualified for promotion.
Once they have verified those on the list are the best, fully qualified officers, they will complete other remaining board actions, if necessary, such as selective continuation. The board will then certify it complied with the SECAF's instructions and adjourn.
The boards typically run about two weeks, but may run longer to ensure board members have enough time to ensure each officer's record is given fair and equitable consideration.
Are boards fair?
Board members have specific do's and don'ts they have to follow. These include what board members can and cannot reveal about board procedures and processes. At no time are board members, recorders and administrative assistants ever allowed to reveal board proceedings.
The board is briefed that they are not allowed to engage freely in conversations with other board members in regard to any particular officer or record. Additionally, board members cannot introduce or discuss information not found in an officer's record.
"The Air Force has pledged that officers will be made aware of all information in their records that will be presented to the board," Dolson said. "If board members were permitted to gather information on the side or introduce information not in the record, the Air Force would violate that promise. To ensure this doesn't happen, a selection board secretariat recorder must be present for all board room discussions."
Preparing for the board
Lieutenant colonels and below should review their records located at the Air Force Personnel Center. These officers can request copies of their records over the phone, via e-mail, or in person during permissive temporary duty to Randolph AFB, Texas. Officers can also call 210-565-2693 or DSN 665-2693 to speak to selection records staff.
Officials encourage officers to not wait until the last minute to request a copy of the selection record as it may take up to 45 days to process the request. If they are checking on a single document, there's no need for a full records request; they can contact customer support direct at 210-565-2998 or DSN 665-2998.
A telephonic review of records can be done at any time. Every attempt should be made to accomplish a records review or request the appropriate copies well before the board meets.
"By being proactive and practicing due diligence, promotion eligibles can ensure a complete and accurate record is seen by the board," Jourdan said.
Colonels should contact the Air Force Colonels Matters Office, AF/DPO, at 703-571-3423 or DSN 671-3423.
For more information on the board process refer to AFI36-2501, Officer Promotions and Selective Continuation.