Active Duty Officer Promotion Boards and Selection Panels: A look inside the boardroom

Coast Guard Cmdr. Shana Donaldson, a member of Air Station Detroit, kneels down so that her children can put on her new shoulder boards during her promotion ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Jacon Naum

For several months a year, the officer boards and panels staff dedicate their full attention to the promotion board and selection panel ‘season.’ The boards and panel staff consists of four officers and one enlisted member within OPM-1. Every year, the ‘season’ starts in July, with most boards and panels complete by November. During this time frame, we process over 4,200 officers through 23 promotion boards and over 900 officers through selection panels for PG/Adv Ed programs.

While there are a number of officers that have been members of a promotion board or post graduate/advanced education (PG/Adv Ed) panel, the whole process is one that may be little understood by the rest of the officer corps. In an effort to make this process more transparent, we invite you to continue reading for our most frequently asked questions.

How do I know if I am in-zone for promotion?

Every year, based on law and the commandant, the Department of Homeland Security determines the total number of officers to be promoted by each rank for the upcoming year. These numbers become the ‘zone-sizes’ for the group of senior officers of each rank on the Active Duty Promotion List (ADPL). Once this number is published in the Officer Corps Management Plan (OCMP) written by CG-126, OPM-1 will release a promotion year kick-off message with the zone estimates. At this time, you are able to look at your place on the Register of Officers, which is published by OPM-1. If it looks like you will be in-zone for promotion for the upcoming season, it is prudent that you ensure your record is up to date. Thirty days prior to each promotion board, OPM-1 will release a candidate announcement message to identify officers going before the board. It is important to remember that this list could change up until the day the board convenes, due to personnel movements in and out of the ADPL.

How are the board members selected?

In accordance with Title 14, U.S. Code 2107, the promotion board shall consist of five or more officers on the ADPL who are serving in or above the grade to which the board may recommend officers for promotion. Additionally, no officer may be a member of two successive boards convened to consider officers of the same grade for promotion. OPM-1 diligently combs through the officer corps to build a membership that represents a wide range of backgrounds, skills, accession sources, units, and geographic areas. All board memberships are approved by PSC-OPM.

Can I volunteer to be on a board or panel?

Yes! Sitting on a board is a great opportunity to learn how the whole process works. Please see below for the eligibility requirements for board members:

1. Must be on the ADPL (includes regular officers and Reserve Officers on EAD contract).
2. Should be O-3 or above (note, there are very few opportunities for O-3s – most of the opportunities are for O-4 and above).
3. Be a strong performer who is currently not above zone for promotion.
4. Not be in-zone for promotion during the same promotion year (waived in some cases).
5. Not have a pending or approved separation request submitted to CG PSC.
6. Be in compliance with max allowable weight standards.

Volunteering for board membership will include all types of boards – requests to sit on specific boards are not considered as the needs of the service are the primary consideration. Your name will be added to a list of volunteers and will remain current for two years. It is not necessary to contact CG PSC to ask about the status of your selection for a board.

You may volunteer by sending an email to OPM-1. In your request, please include:
-Full Name
-Unit/ Location
-Primary Specialty

What items in my record do the board members see?

Officer boards and panels will see the board/panel view of a member’s record. This view will mask any personal data, in addition to a member’s race and gender. More specifically, the board will see the member’s Employee Summary Sheet (ESS) and Electronically Imaged Personnel Data Record (EI-PDR). For more information about the items viewed from your EI-PDR, there is a complete list in COMDTINST 1410.2.

It is important that members in-zone for promotion verify their record is up to date. Adding new documents to your record may not happen instantaneously, so doing this well ahead of the board is critical. Click here to request a copy of your record and for procedures for entering new documents.

Did my most recent OER make it into my record?

Ultimately, it is each member’s responsibility to ensure their own record is complete. However, due to the timing of the OER deadlines and the promotion boards, you may not be able to get a copy of your record with your most recent OER. Due to this short turn-around time, OPM-3 ensures every member going before a promotion board or selection panel has their most recent OER in their record. Furthermore, if the board or panel see’s that a member is missing their most recent OER, they will notify the OPM staff, and we will do everything we can to correct the issue.

This means that there is no need to contact OPM to verify that your OER has been validated and entered into your record before the board. If you are missing your most recent OER in your record, you will be contacted by the OPM-3 staff.

What guidance does the board use to make their determinations?

Every board and panel is guided by a signed precept, the Commandant’s Guide to Boards and Panels, and Officer Accessions, Evaluations, and Promotions (OAEP) (COMDINST M1000.3). For all of these reference documents, check out the OPM-1 Reference Library. Common selection criteria, outlined in the OAEP, are Performance, Professionalism, Leadership, and Education (commonly referred to as ‘PPLE’). At the beginning of each board, the board members decide how they will define and weigh these criteria, and build a unique score sheet that is used to evaluate each individual record.

The board members will make their selections based only on matters of record. No decision will be made based on rumors or hearsay. If it is not in your record, it will not be discussed by the board.

What about submitting communications the Selection Board?

The purpose of communications to the board is to invite attention to any matter in your record that will appear before the board. The letter can only address matters of record, and cannot criticize any officer or reflect on any officer’s character, conduct or motive. Amplifying information on communications to the board can be found on the OPM-4 portal page. For specific questions regarding communications to the board, please contact OPM-4.

I want to apply for Post Graduate/Advanced Education Opportunities. When do I need to be on the look-out for information?

The FORCECOM Training Allowance Billet (TAB) allocation message typically comes out late-February. This message is the official start to the PG/Adv Ed season. Several weeks later, the PG/Adv Ed Process Guide is published (late March). This guide will have all the information you need from deadlines to eligibility requirements to waivers. When the specific program solicitation messages are posted, you may begin applying to the PG/Adv Ed programs.

Am I competitive for a PG/Adv Ed Program?

While the number of programs and TABs changes slightly every year, there are around 65 different PG/Adv Ed Programs, which means there is a good chance there is a program for you! There are a number of eligibility requirements, outlined in the PG/Adv Ed Process Guide, but the most competitive applicants will be tour complete, have an established officer specialty, and are coming off an operational tour.

Why is career timing so important?

Managing and executing a long-term career strategy is arguably the single most important personal responsibility of any officer. With a few exceptions, your first two to three tours as an officer largely define your career track and are critical with respect to establishing a specialty.

It is imperative that PG/Adv Ed is appropriately integrated into career timelines based on the particular specialty profile. A solid understanding of timing-based PG/Adv Education implications is important as the first few tours of a junior officer’s career is focused on gaining operational experience, professional growth, and acquiring technical competencies.

If you would like to know if your career is on-track, you are encouraged to reach out to OPM-4 and request career counseling. They will also go over your record with you to ensure it appropriately reflects your career and qualifications.

More information regarding reserve officer promotion boards and panels is available here.

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