The Navy will be trying out an array of new ideas for evaluations and fitness reports, setting the stage for the personnel system’s biggest changes in more than two decades.

The Navy’s aim is to get better metrics to gauge sailor performance and eliminate the unwritten rules that reward seniority over merit.

Officials are still hammering out details, but the Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told Navy Times that he wants a transition in place soon.

“We believe that it is time to develop a different system to measure sailors’ performance,” Burke said. “We want to have an objective measure of the sailor’s performance and have meaningful and frequent and useful feedback given back to the sailors.”

Changes could include less emphasis on — or even elimination of — the written test for enlisted advancements, and possibly even overhauling the pay system to include merit-based compensation. But that can’t happen without a more accurate system of measuring sailor performance.

Burke outlined several of today’s practices he’d like to see go, including:

  • The practice of “forced distribution,” requiring individual commands to “rack and stack” sailors, ranking them within paygrade “peer groups” when divvying up coveted promotion recommendations
  • Ending Navy-wide evaluation periods and making them specific to the sailor by rating sailors only after they’ve been at a command for one year and each year after that. In addition, implementing expanded counseling between evaluations will provide sailors with a better measure of how they stack up
  • Eliminate the old trait averages with new grading criteria, as well as changing the current five-point evaluation into one that expands to nine points, customizable to individual pay grades.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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