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Changes to academic degree and developmental education expectations

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) -- Air Force officials announced actions designed to set clear expectations, restore Airmen's time and refocus officer promotions on job performance.

The Air Force has addressed long-standing perceptions that to be promoted, officers must complete an advanced academic degree, and those officers selected by a promotion board to attend developmental education in-residence, are expected to first complete that same level of developmental education by correspondence.

"My number one priority is taking care of people and these initiatives aim to do just that," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.

"Our intention is to set clear expectations and ensure that, where possible, we give time back to our officers," continued Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

Effective Dec. 1, advanced academic degrees will no longer be considered for officers meeting line of the Air Force promotion boards below the grade of colonel. Additionally, information provided to all promotion board members will only show the "completed" level of developmental education or whether the officer is a "select" to attend in-residence. The method and year of completion will no longer be displayed.

"The change does not prevent officers from completing an advanced academic degree, which is important to officer development," Welsh said.

In fact, officers are expected to have an advanced academic degree for promotion to colonel. The changes allow the officer to focus on job performance and acquire an advanced academic degree at a time best suited for their life, career and family without worrying about possible effects of not having an advanced academic degree at ranks lower than colonel.

"Since job performance is the most important factor when evaluating an officer for promotion, the decision to delay completion of an advanced academic degree will not affect their ability to serve a full career in the Air Force," Welsh said.

Another long-standing perception is that officers selected to attend professional military education in-residence must also complete the same level of professional military education by correspondence. This perception was based on the belief that officers who complete PME by distance learning early are demonstrating more initiative and are therefore more competitive for future opportunities and/or promotion.

The Air Force wants to debunk this perception by refocusing on job performance and Airmen's time.

"We realize how valuable time is and want to give that time back to our officer corps," Welsh said.

Officers chosen as "selects" on promotion boards will be prohibited from completing the distance learning course unless they are subsequently designated to attend a program requiring the distance learning course to obtain full Joint PME credit. In addition, boards will be instructed to consider those with "select" status as having completed PME thereby eliminating any timing concerns for those "selects" meeting promotion boards prior to attending PME in-residence.

The Air Force also enacted an important change for captains. Every active- duty captain will have an opportunity to attend Squadron Officer School in-residence and criteria for selection to attend will be based on the officer's date of rank, duty requirements and family situation rather than whether or not they have already completed the distance learning course. In fact, they will no longer be allowed to complete the distance learning course unless operationally deferred and within one year of meeting the promotion board to major. The distance learning course will remain available for Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officers.

"We understand our Airmen are challenged every day to accomplish the mission with limited time, manpower and resources," Welsh said. "By eliminating these perceived expectations, we hope to remind our officers that job performance is what we value most and that we want them to have a life away from work."

“A balanced force is a healthy force and these changes strive to promote equilibrium in our Airmen’s lives,” James said.

The new policy modifications will be captured in the Air Force Guidance Memorandums to Air Force Instruction 36-2301, Developmental Education and AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems. The first promotion board to implement the new policy will be the Major's (LAF) Central Selection Board scheduled for Dec. 1.

(Information courtesy of Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

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