Chief-selects head to their pinning ceremony aboard the flight deck of the dock landing ship Pearl Harbor in 2013. Before prospective E-7s can advance, they must go through a 'post-board scrub.' (MC3 Samantha J. Webb/Navy)
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If you’re picked for advancement or promotion by one of the Navy’s many annual selection boards, big Navy will no longer look at your physical fitness record before giving you its stamp of approval — that will now be up to your command.
All officers selected for promotion — and enlisted sailors E-7 and above picked to advance — go through what Navy personnel officials call a “post-board scrub.”
Officials look beyond your official military service records to search military and civilian legal and investigative databases for anything that might make you ineligible for advancement.
Adverse findings can cost you your shot at moving up — or at least put that move on hold until the issue is resolved.
Because Navy officials are already tasked with researching thousands of names each year — roughly 16,000 officers and enlisted sailors are selected by the myriad boards each year — sorting out fitness records along with all the other requirements has just gotten to be too much.
“COs are already required by regulation not to advance anyone out of physical standards,” said Captain Chris Halton, who heads career progression at Navy Personnel Command — which includes all administrative support for selection boards — in an Aug. 8 interview. “So, effective immediately, it will be the responsibility of the commands to ensure their selectees are in physical standards before they are frocked or advanced.”
Halton said inaccurate or missing data in the Physical Readiness Information Management System — known as PRIMS — accounted for 50 percent of all administrative holds preventing frocking and advancements. Of those holds, however, 90 percent of the sailors were eventually cleared by commands, the records fixed and the members advanced.
“Many sailors are missing data in PRIMS,” Halton said. “When PRIMS is not updated, Navy Personnel Command cannot determine if an enlisted sailor is currently within standards for advancement. This also affects officer promotions when [personnel command] reviews PRIMS for the monthly promotion NAVADMIN messages.”
Because NPC must go back to the commands anyway to get any fitness discrepancy adjudicated, it just made sense to give commands complete responsibility for meeting that requirement, Halton said.
Despite the elimination of PRIMS data, post-board scrubs will remain an official part of the board process. Navy Times asked Halton about the post-board scrub process. Here’s what you should know:
What is a post-board scrub?
Federal law and Department of Defense policy require the secretary of the Navy to review any adverse or potentially adverse information about officers, O-4 and above, recommended for promotion.
If adverse information is found, those facts must be forwarded to the secretary of defense and, ultimately, the president and the Senate so it can be reviewed before the Senate confirms those promotions.
“Adverse information is any substantiated adverse finding or conclusion from an officially documented investigation or inquiry or any other credible information of an adverse nature,” Halton said.
To be adverse, the information must be derogatory, unfavorable, or of a nature that reflects clearly unacceptable conduct, integrity, or judgment on the part of the individual. To be credible, the adverse information must have been resolved and confirmed by a preponderance of the evidence.
While not required by law, enlisted advancement boards attempt to mimic the officer selection board process to the maximum extent possible.
Putting enlisted boards under the same scrutiny as the legally required officer process ensures the integrity, secrecy and impartiality of the enlisted board selections.
Post-board scrubs are done after each enlisted selection board, before the results are announced. For officers, it’s done after the board, but before the names are submitted to the president and Senate for confirmation.
While not a board process, officers on the the O-2 and O-3 “All Fully Qualified List” for advancement are also scrubbed prior to being forwarded up the chain for approval.
What do they look for?
The Career Progression Department, known as PERS-8 at Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee, does the review as an extension of its support to the board process.
The department first reviews service records for any adverse and potentially adverse information.
In addition, they query the Naval Inspector General database for officers. For both officers and enlisted, they query the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and security clearance eligibility in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System databases for both officers and enlisted.
Why not the selection board?
With the exception of the service record and PRIMS, the other database systems are owned and operated outside of Navy Personnel Command.
“Additionally, these systems hold very sensitive and sometimes preliminary investigative information,” Halton said. “Giving [selection] boards access to this information would likely prejudice board members from selecting personnel with preliminary or not fully adjudicated information in the record.”
What if you are flagged?
It’s different for officers and enlisted sailors because of the legal requirements and who makes the final call on the advancement.
On the enlisted side, once the command has looked into the adverse information and any investigation is closed out, the sailor writes a statement addressing the adverse information. His CO then drafts an endorsement as to whether he believes the sailor is still eligible for advancement.
That package is then sent to Navy Personnel Command, where the commander — who is also the deputy chief of naval personnel — makes a final decision on the sailor’s advancement.
In the case of officers, their statement and CO’s endorsement are submitted to PERS-8, where a promotion package is built and routed up to the secretary of the Navy. It’s the secretary’s call as to whether the officer ultimately gets the nod to move up.
Is rejection a kiss of death?
Simply having been held up or even rejected does not affect eligibility for officer promotion selection boards or enlisted advancement selection boards, provided nothing in the adverse material impacted their eligibility for advancement.
Waiting to advance
Navy personnel officials routinely do post-selection board scrubs, a final check for adverse or potentially adverse information in service and other records before those officers are allowed to move up. Five years ago, Navy officials decided to do the same scrubs for enlisted sailors selected for chief, senior chief and master chief. Most chiefs withheld are eventually cleared for advancement. Here’s a look at how many sailors, by paygrade, were withheld from advancement each year since 2012.
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