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Moving up faster

New advancement formula shrinks seniority's importance, clears path for younger sailors

May. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Seniority no longer gives sailors much of anedge when it comes to making rate.

Officials downgraded the importance time in paygrade plays in the advancement formula, clearing the way for hard-charging sailors to climb the petty officer ranks faster.

“This is a significant improvement,” said Capt. Karan Schriver, head of enlisted plans for the chief of naval personnel. “It moves toward rewarding performance and away from rewarding longevity, so those hot-running sailors who study hard and get great marks on their evaluations will do well under this system.”

The advancement overhaul — the first since changes seven years ago to include college degrees — levels the playing field for sailors up for E-4 through chief and changes the weight substantial factors play into the advancement formula, known as the final multiple score, which is used to decide which eligible sailors are selected — or, when it comes to aspiring chiefs, who reaches the selection-board stage. The biggest changes:


E-4, E-5. The weight of advancement exam scores were boosted, while evaluation marks and service in paygrade were dropped.


E-6. Exam and eval scores increased in importance; service in paygrade was sharply reduced.


E-7. Evals were upped in importance. Test scores were lowered.

The new rules also increased the importance of awards while removing the Good Conduct Medal and the Reserve Meritorious Service Medal, medals that are so commonplace that officials say they don’t help find better sailors.

The new rules take affect for the upcoming fall cycle and will affect more than 100,000 sailors a year. Each cycle, in March and in September, an average of 80,000 take a Navywide exam for E-4 through E-6. Another 25,000 sit for the chief’s exam each January to compete for a spot in front of the E-7 selection board. The changes also apply to the Navy Reserve.

'Performance carries the day'

The overhaul reformulates the factors that go into choosing sailors via the final multiple score — the numeric rating calculated based on test scores and evals, awards, paygrade longevity and points given for passing previous exams, but missing the cutoff to advance.

The changes released May 15 come after a study prompted by Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Navy’s No. 2 officer, who challenged officials to find ways to better reward performance in advancing sailors.

“VCNO asked us to take a look at our advancement policies and look to move towards more of a performance-based culture,” Schriver said in a May 13 phone interview. “We put together some working groups and started looking at how they could rework the current scoring system to emphasize performance in both the standard score percentages or the performance mark average.”

The studies concluded that performance should be calculated differently, Schriver said. Junior paygrades, such as E-4 and E-5, should be weighted toward rating knowledge; E-6 and E-7candidates will be measured more on the performance mark average in their evaluations.

“Performance carries the day, [whether] that’s their technical knowledge through tests or their on-the-job performance,” Schriver said.

The yearlong studies had fleet input, and all the changes were OK’d by senior enlisted leaders in the fleet.

Two elements of the advancement formula stayed the same: education (2 percent) and individual augmentation (1 percent).

Officials are also planning to rework the Command Advancement Programs, the popular authority by which commanding officers can spot advance top sailors in the fleet or at recruiting stations. The changes would restrict when skippers can advance sailors, but may yield an uptick in the number of sailors CAP’d.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens said the changes were carefully evaluated.

“Changes in the advancement system are among the most difficult to make and are only done after very careful consideration,” Stevens said in a May 15 phone interview. “What we want is to make sure that the most qualified sailors at any given time are the ones being advanced.”

Test score

Officials say what should set E-4 and E-5 hopefuls apart is how well they’re learning the skills of their trade — whether that’s taking an oil sample, treating a head wound, plotting navigation fixes or using a marlinspike. The best way to measure that, they say, is the advancement test.

“We’re weighting the advancement exam higher because we want to capture rating knowledge at those more junior paygrades, but the performance mark average is still a large portion of the score,” Schriver said. “It’s a rebalancing, with a little bit more going to the standard score of the test.”

The new formula increases the weight of the exam for E-4s and E-5s, making it the largest factor in the FMS.

MCPON believes that the test is the best way to measure your rating knowledge, and these changes make it even more important.

“I just don’t buy the idea of being bad at taking tests,” he said. “What you lack in test-taking ability, you can make up for in study effort.

“I wasn’t a very good test-taker, but I studied more to make up for that. It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be.”

On the other hand, the weighting of test scores dropped for E-6 and chief candidates.

Evals

Sailors up for E-6 or chief will be ranked more heavily on their evaluation scores, with the thinking that these jobs are based more on management skill that will be reflected on periodic reports.

“We really wanted to account for performance differently depending on paygrade,” Schriver said. “We are really hoping at E-6 that sailors start displaying the leadership ability to be khaki, E-7 and above. We feel those skills are displayed primarily through the evals and have made adjustments accordingly.”

To make E-6, half of your score will depend on your evals — the single largest factor.

To be sure, test scores also increased in weight, a reflection that officials also believe rating knowledge is important at this level.

On the other hand, the weight of evals was substantially reduced for E-4 and E-5 advancements.

Making chief

There are only two factors that play into a hopeful chief’s FMS: evals and test scores. The E-7 formula was altered from a 50-50 split to lean toward evals. Officials believe this step will better measure the leadership that is expected of chief candidates.

Unlike the other ranks, the FMS is not the final arbiter. Chiefs must go to a board that screens their record, which includes awards and college education and other things factored into a sailor’s FMS.

The E-7 FMS is used to select the candidates who will go to the board, which is annually held in the summer. Typically, only 60 percent of those who take the January advancement test make it to the board.

This puts an onus on commands to highlight the best sailors in evaluations.

“It empowers the COs,” Schriver said.

Time in paygrade

Seniority has been gutted.

Seniority in your paygrade used to count for 7 percent of the FMS. Now, it’s 1 percent for those competing for E-4, E-5 and E-6. It narrowly survived being dropped altogether.

“We feel we’re capturing longevity now more in the [passed, not advanced] points,” Schriver said. “We did examine removing it altogether; however, we did feel it was important to keep it in at a very low percentage, 1 percent, and this will help serve as somewhat of a tiebreaker now.”

Passed, not advanced

PNA points were created years ago to reward sailors who have difficulty taking tests or are in tough ratings. But now, these points will be tougher to get.

The old rules broke down the points by test score: 1.5 points to those in the top 25 percent, one point to those from the 25th to 50th percentile, and half a point for those from the 50th to 75th percentile.

Under the new rules, only those in the top 25 percent will receive PNA points, which still factor into the FMS. Test scores in the top 25 percent yield 1.5 points and eval performance mark averages in the top 25 percent receive 1.5 points; three points is the max for each cycle.

What isn’t changing: Sailors can accrue up to 15 PNA points, and points stay valid for five cycles.

If you have a critical mass of these points, don’t worry — you can keep them until they expire normally, personnel officials clarified.

Awards

Nearly every award and medal offers points toward advancement. But officials are eliminating two medals from their list: the active-duty Good Conduct Medal and the Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal. Officials say both have become too commonplace to serve as a way to measure sailors.

“[These] are awarded at such frequency that they no longer are useful in discriminating and rewarding top performance,” the message said.

The rest of the list of awards points stays, leaving 25 different awards ranging from a flag letter of commendation that nets a single point up to the Medal of Honor, which nets 10 points.

The maximum number of points you can collect remains the same: 10 points for E-4 and E-5; and 12 for E-6.

But the new changes also increase the weight of those awards for those competing for E-4 and E-5, the weight rising to 6 percent.

“The whole reason to increase the percentage is to strengthen the input the command has,” Schriver said.

“It places more emphasis on performance awards, such as flag letters of commendation, the Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.”

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