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Army expands involuntary separations of problem NCOs

May. 1, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
U.S. Infantry Troops Return From Afghanistan
The Army has issued new rules for the Qualitative Management Program, meaning thousands more soldiers could face involuntary separation or early retirement. (Ralph Orlowski / Getty Images)
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QMP exceptions

Not all soldiers with red flags will face QMP. Soldiers will not be subjected to the process if they:
■ Have an approved retirement.
■ Previously were retained by a QMP board, and no new derogatory information has been added to their file since that last determination.
■ Hold the rank of sergeant major or commander sergeant major and are within two years of the retention control point for that rank.
■ Are in promotable status, and no new derogatory information has been added to their file since they were recommended for promotion.

The Army is casting a wider net to identify problem soldiers and give them an unceremonious boot-kick out the door.

Under new direction signed by Army Secretary John McHugh, staff sergeants with black marks in their record since being promoted to E-6 will be considered for involuntary separation, whether they are retirement eligible or not.

The service also is targeting senior noncommissioned officers who have failed to complete required NCO Education System Courses.

The changes fall under the Army’s Qualitative Management Program. While it is not technically a drawdown tool, the program is helping in the Army’s efforts to shrink by 30,000 soldiers over the next 18 months.

QMP is a quality control process that can result in the involuntary separation or retirement of Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve) soldiers who fail to comply with Army standards for behavior and/or performance.

In other words, it helps the Army keep the best soldiers — by weeding out less desirable ones.

Variations of QMP have been used in years past, but they were put on hold during the force buildup for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. QMP was reimplemented in 2009, and since then, 1,534 retirement-eligible Regular Army and 226 Active Guard and Reserve soldiers in the ranks of sergeant first class through sergeant major have been screened by QMP boards.

Those reviews, held in conjunction with senior NCO promotion boards, have resulted in the involuntary retirement of all but 250 of those soldiers.

Soldiers will be selected for involuntary separation or early retirement when their moral or ethical conduct is deemed incompatible with the values of the NCO corps and the Army ethic, or when they lack the potential to perform NCO duties in their current rank.

They also are subject to involuntary separation if they have a decline in efficiency and performance over a continuing period, as evidenced by adverse evaluations or failure of NCOES courses; recent or continuing disciplinary problems as evidenced by court-martial, non-judicial punishment or administrative reprimand; or other discriminators, such as a commander’s bar to re-enlistment, inability to meet Army physical fitness standards, or failure to comply with Army weight control measures.

QMP should not be confused with the Qualitative Service Program, which was introduced in 2012, and targets soldiers in overstrength specialties who otherwise are fully qualified for retention. In the past two years, 1,145 soldiers have been separated as a result of QSP.

Another 880 soldiers are expected to be separated in 2015 as a result of QSP screenings to be conducted this year by senior NCO promotion boards.

Screening soldiers

In screening soldiers for possible involuntary separation, QMP boards will review the contents of their official file, the board version of their Enlisted Record Brief, the official photograph and, as appropriate, any mitigating information submitted to the board president by the soldier.

The board also will review any documents in the restricted section of the official file that generated the referral to QMP. The board will not review any restricted documents unrelated to the QMP referral.

Documents in the restricted folder of a file are not available to career managers and commanders, and only rarely are seen by centralized selection boards.

“Because commanders do not have access to the [official file], past matters of indiscipline or [poor] performance that occurred during a previous assignment, or under a different commander, are not taken into consideration when new instances occur,” said an official in explaining the QMP policy on restricted documents.

“This lack of visibility may inadvertently result in retention of NCOs whose conduct or performance is inconsistent with the profession of arms, and this expansion of QMP addresses that,” the official said.

Items in the restricted folder might include Article 15s and other Uniform Code of Military Justice actions that have not been set aside, Department of the Army Suitability Board filings of unfavorable information, and punitive or administrative letters of reprimand, admonition or censure.

Next steps

While the new policies were approved April 10, they will be implemented in phases so as not to disadvantage soldiers who may want to submit mitigating correspondence to a QMP board regarding derogatory information in their official file.

It is Army policy to notify soldiers of a QMP review at least 30 days in advance of their board. Soldiers then have the option of submitting letters of mitigation to the board in hopes of avoiding early separation.

Retirement-eligible soldiers who are identified for QMP processing have the option of submitting a voluntary retirement request in lieu of being screened for involuntary retirement.

Such requests must be approved no later than the results of the QMP board are approved by the director of military personnel management in the Office of the Army G-1 (Human Resources).

Soldiers who are denied continued service by a QMP board have the option of appealing that decision. But they must indicate their intention to do so no later than seven days after being notified of the board results.

Appeals must be filed within 30 days after the QMP notification, and must be based on newly discovered evidence, missing documents or material error in the file reviewed by the QMP board.

All command sergeants major, sergeants major, first sergeants and master sergeants affected by the new policies will be subject to review by the QMP panel held in conjunction with the active and reserve sergeant major training and selection boards that convene June 3.

Sergeants first class affected by the new policies will be reviewed for retention by the master sergeant promotion boards that meet in February 2015 for the Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve.

Staff sergeants who are designated for QMP processing will be reviewed beginning with the sergeant first class promotion boards that meet in June 2015.

In future years, soldiers designated for QMP processing will be screened by the next selection board, regardless of rank level, provided they can be given at least 30 days’ advance notice of the screening.

The policy changes ordered by McHugh will be incorporated into an upcoming revision to Chapter 19 of Army Regulation 635-200 (Active Duty Administrative Separations).

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