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July 2014

CAPT Robert Tortora


Unrestricted Line Officer Promotions
Best and Fully Qualified?

The single competitive promotion category that consists of the Navy Unrestricted Line (URL)
communities does not meet the community requirements of the Aviation, Surface Warfare,
Submarine, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Naval Special Warfare communities. Statutory
URL promotion results have repeatedly contributed to shortages in most of these communities
and fail to correct long-standing imbalances within these communities. Inequities will continue
until changes are made to this competitive category.

The function of promotion selection boards is to consider officers for promotion to meet the
needs of the Navy with the standard of best and fully qualified. Department of the Navy policy is
to establish officer competitive categories to provide for separate promotion consideration and
career development of groups of officers with related education, training, skills, and experience
needed to meet mission objective of the Navy that make separate career management desirable.
The governing instruction for promotion categories (SECNAVINST 1400.1) calls for periodic
review of competitive categories when needed to meet the mission objectives of the service.
After more than thirty years of competing as a group, it has become increasingly evident that the
combined group of communities in the URL competitive category can no longer compete on an
equitable basis to meet the needs of the Navy. Differences in authorizations and retention differ
significantly across the URL communities whereas promotion timing and opportunity are the
same within this competitive category. Changes in force structure, relative size imbalances of the
URL communities, and differing community milestones, career paths and timing have
overshadowed reasonable consideration as a group and surpassed the ability of the promotion
system to deliver officers from these communities in appropriate ratios to meet their separate
requirements and the mission requirements of the Navy. It is past time for a periodic review of
the URL competitive promotion category.

Service promotions are regulated by law, including the Defense Officer Personnel Management
Act (DOPMA), as well as policy established by the service secretaries. A key aspect for statutory
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promotions in DOPMA is the direct relationship to the established competitive categories for
officer management and promotions. The Navy has 24 competitive categories defined by the
Secretary of the Navy that span all the officer designators by community. Each community has
discrete designator control grade (LCDR, CDR, and CAPT) authorizations that are central to
promotion planning. The Aviation, Surface and Submarine communities have additional non-
discrete 1000 and 1050 coded requirements (Line Officer Billets) that have been allocated to
their authorized requirements on a 40-40-20 percent ratio. Promotions in each competitive
category seek to fill projected vacancies created by retirements, separations and promotions out
of grade for these funded requirements. Most of the Restricted Line and Staff communities have
their own separate competitive category by designator where promotion planning enables
management of promotion zones and opportunity to satisfy each communitys requirements to
meet the manpower needs of the Navy. The URL competitive category does not.

Unrestricted Line Competitive Category
The Unrestricted Line category is unique among the competitive categories. It combines the
requirements of the five URL communities to develop the number of promotions by grade to
select from the pool of eligible officers in the aggregate. The promotion process is a time-based
system carefully governed by law and policy to select on a fair and equitable basis with the
standard best and fully qualified to meet the needs of the Navy. The Secretary of the Navy is
afforded legal authority to provide further guidance to address shortfalls for specific skill sets,
critical requirements and competencies. In practice, this supplemental guidance has been limited
to giving due consideration to performance and expertise in specific areas and has not addressed
explicit shortfalls or overages in each of the URL communities. As a result, board results
indicate that relative community proportions bear an overwhelming influence on promotion
outcomes by community.

The URL selection boards are comprised of a mix of senior officers from all represented
communities to select those that the majority believes are best and fully qualified without regard
to individual community requirements. Composition of the URL selection board members is
governed by policy to include a minimum of five Aviators, four Surface Warfare Officers
(SWO), three Submarine Officers, one Naval Special Warfare Officer (SEAL) and one Explosive
Ordnance Disposal Officer (EOD). Selectivity for promotion varies by community and
significantly by grade, but generally follows community milestones with the most emphasis on
success in operational command path assignments. The absence of supplemental requirement
guidance by designator, along with the diverse composition of the selection board members,
leads to board results that are biased towards fair share and do not contribute to closing the gaps
to requirement that most of the communities maintain.

Relatively Similar Opportunity
A primary legal requirement which must be met within a given competitive category is to
maintain relatively similar opportunity for promotion within the competitive category and grade
over a five-year period. For the URL competitive category, this means that all officers in zone,
regardless of designator, are legally required to have relatively similar probability of promotion.
Meeting the needs of a community that requires more or fewer promotions requires deviation
from what is their proportionate fair share based on the relative opportunity. If the community
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CAPT Robert Tortora

with shortages were a standalone separate category, the size of the zone and the opportunity
would be adjusted within DOPMA flow point and opportunity constraints to achieve the required
number of promotions to meet the individual community requirements. Any community within
the URL competitive category that is short by a significant number of officers cannot promote at
a higher rate than the other URL communities to make up the gap.

A common measure of effectiveness to URL selection board outcomes is how well a
communitys promotions measured against the relatively similar opportunity. This is known as
fair share or board rate. This focus on board rate is tacit acceptance that fair share from the
selection board is the best a community can and should do while entirely disregarding the
primary function of the selection board - to meet the requirements and competency needs of the
Navy. In simplest form, these requirements and competencies are defined as the communitys
funded billets known as Officer Program Authorizations. A much more appropriate metric for
the URL should be an assessment of how well each communitys annual losses/vacancies,
aligned with each communitys existing shortages, were met by the promotion board.
This is the key factor applied to planning for all the other competitive categories that gets lost in
the combined URL promotion plan. More often than not, due to relative size differences of the
communities, URL promotion outcomes have been insufficient to meet annual vacancies in
grade, let alone begin to reduce existing shortfalls to requirement for four out of the five
communities. Achieving or exceeding board rate in the competitive category is inadequate to
meet community requirements for each community and does not begin to overcome or reduce
longstanding shortages. The underrepresented communities therefore carry a continuous shortage
in the control grades without relief from the system designed to meet Navy needs. Shortages
have persisted in the SWO, Submarine, EOD and SEAL Communities. No URL community can
begin to close their historic gaps without attaining better control of promotions to meet
community requirements.

URL Promotion Zones
Navy Officer promotions are centrally managed by the Chief of Naval Personnel working with
the community managers to develop the annual promotion plan. The calculation of the number to
promote to vacancy is the most important planning factor. The zone is then defined from the
number to promote divided by the desired opportunity and the result is applied to the lineal list.
Officers in zone are then selected with the best and fully qualified standard along with the
authorized percentage to select for each competitive category. For the URL, the zone includes
whatever combination of officers from each community that is contained within that lineal list.
There is no relationship between the representative mix of URL community officers in zone and
the promotion requirements of these communities. On the other hand, the Restricted Line and
Staff categories have their zones and opportunity sized to satisfy each communitys
requirements. In the current URL competitive categorys fair and equitable basis, the combined
zone provides quantitative advantages to larger communities and hinders the smaller
communities. Smaller communities have an insufficient number of eligibles in zone to support
promoting at fair share or board rate to meet community requirements, particularly when trying
to recover from persistent shortages. This condition results in perpetuating shortages and
continuing overages without change to the status quo despite the best efforts of the individual
communities to improve retention and better prepare eligibles for the promotion competition.

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CAPT Robert Tortora

2014 CAPT CDR LCDR Total
SWO -88 -125 -308 -521
SUB -57 -188 -309 -554
SEAL 5 -29 -74 -98
EOD 10 -7 -11 -8
AVN 41 237 354 632
URL -89 -112 -348 -549
URL Inventory to BA - APR14
Shortages in the Unrestricted Line
The URL is composed of the Surface Warfare, Submarine, EOD, SEAL and Aviation
Communities in a single competitive category for promotions. All the URL communities have
and maintain shortages to billet requirements in the control grades (LCDR, CDR and CAPT)
with the prominent exception of the Aviation community. The Aviation community has carried a
surplus of control grade officers to the detriment of all the other communities. Additionally, the
URL on the whole has a shortage of officers in all of the control grades that has been created by
centralized management of promotions outside the influence and control of the individual URL
communities and their leadership. These shortages have continued through many years of
promotion cycles without improvement. The shortages have had a restraining effect on
individual community health, career paths and flexibility, and deliver a scarcity of the required
skills and competencies to meet the needs of the Navy and the funded requirements of the
individual URL communities.

Proportional URL Promotion Outcomes
The desired end state in the URL promotion plan is in closing the projected vacancies for the
combined URL communities without regard for their separate requirements. Strength and
promotion planners meet this requirement and consistently deliver results that are relatively
proportional based on the size of each communitys share of officers in zone. There is a direct
correlation between ratios in zone and promotion outcomes by community within the URL with
certain biases for the communities at different grades. Fair and equitable promotion outcomes
approximately correspond to the ratios of officers in zone without regard to each communitys

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Review of historical selection board results shows the following biases:

The Surface Community generally promotes at or above board rate for CDR and CAPT
and at or around board rate for LCDR. Shortages persist at LCDR, CDR and CAPT.
Submariners generally promote at board rate for LCDR and CDR and above rate for
CAPT. Shortages persist at LCDR, CDR and CAPT.
EOD and SEALs promote above board rate at all ranks. Shortages persist at LCDR and
The Aviation Community does worse than board rate at all ranks. Overages persist at

Despite these apparently positive outcomes towards achieving equilibrium to requirements for
the URL communities, the imbalances have remained. Community shortages or overages are not
corrected through URL promotions as the gains or losses above or below board rate are
insufficient to resolve the disparities.

Excess Officers
As the collective URL promotion planning process seeks to fill projected vacancies for the
combined URL communities, the community specific overages and shortages balance out in the
planning equation for vacancies. This masks individual community requirements and restricts the
allowable number of promotions for the entire URL. The most prominent reason for these
excesses in the URL control grades is the retirement protection provided under DOPMA and
Navy policy. Officers that are promoted in the control grades are afforded the opportunity to
remain until mandatory retirement of 20 years for LCDR and 28 years for CDR. Less
competitive officers that have been promoted and then fail to make administrative community
milestone screenings, such as department head, executive officer or commanding officer, are
most likely passed over for promotion to the next grade, but remain eligible to stay on active
duty to their statutory retirement. Many of these officers continue on active duty and count
against URL vacancies for future promotion boards. As of June 2014, there are 427 LCDRs and
455 CDRs that have twice failed to select for promotion that remain in the URL inventory.
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URL Promotion Zones
The legally defined zone is constrained to the lineal list for each competitive category. For the
URL, it is comprised of whatever assortment of designators has achieved longevity to be in zone.
This zone is not sized to meet individual URL community requirements within DOPMA flow
point or opportunity guidelines or to fair share as selections are zero-sum within the URL. In
many cases, the combined zones bring forward fewer eligibles than necessary to meet the
community requirements. It is therefore impractical for any community to achieve much more
than their fair share of promotions without specific shortage or minimum guidance in the board
precepts. Gains over fair share would be at the expense of the other URL communities and
counter to the requirement for relatively similar opportunity within the URL category. Promotion
planning for the other competitive categories of the Restricted Line and Staff shape promotion
zones and opportunity to achieve each communitys requirements.

LCDR Promotions
A first step to correcting disparities in the URL control grades should include review of the URL
LCDR competitive category as it demonstrably does not contribute to meeting the control grade
needs of all the URL communities. Control grade inventory issues in the URL begin with the
LCDR zone that is dominated by Aviators due to longer minimum service requirement (MSR)
and the large number of Aviation Lieutenant operational billets. On average, about 600 (62%) of
the LTs in zone for LCDR are Aviators. The large number of Aviators floods the combined
URL promotion zone and crowds the lineal list; contributing to a reduced number of eligibles in
zone from all other communities. In many promotion years, the number of annual vacancies
added to their existing LCDR deficit is much greater than the number in LCDR zone for these
communities. From this constrained zone, fair share promotions selects around 450 Aviators per
year at slightly below board rate against the firmly fixed number of URL selections for that
board (average 766 per year). Not all of these Aviators are necessary or desired to meet the post
LCDR promotion Aviation Department Head requirement of 350 per year and approximately
30% of the Aviators selected for LCDR will not screen for department head. All of these newly
promoted non-screened LCDRs are entitled to remain in inventory as excesses until their
voluntary separation or retirement. These annual excess count against the URL LCDR
authorizations, constrain vacancies for the combined URL promotions, and are not competitive
for the Commander board.

The remaining 300 promotions are distributed at roughly board rate to the other four URL
communities. These communities all actively carry LCDR shortages in addition to their
projected losses. All need to promote many more than fair share from their constrained number
of eligible in zone to make up deficits and projected vacancies. As a result, the relatively smaller
communities are routinely disadvantaged within the equitable framework of URL promotion
opportunity and their under representation in the zones beginning with the LCDR promotion
cycle. This disproportion carries through for the higher grade boards.

FY15 LCDR Selection Board Results
The recently published URL LCDR results are very inconsistent with past results detailed above,
but highlight a key aspect of the competitive category failing to meet the needs of the individual
communities. This board selected non-aviation officers above 90% opportunity at the expense of
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CAPT Robert Tortora

Aviators that selected at 55% overall with the category board rate approved at 70%. While the
result is helpful for the four communities that have LCDR shortages, it is doubtful that these
results are beneficial to the Aviation community as the community requires an annual flow of the
appropriate mix of type, model and series officers to fill their 350 department head requirement.

Command Path and Community Values
A contributing factor to equitability in the URL competitive category stems from the significant
differences between career milestones and administrative screenings among the communities.
Each community has a dedicated career path with screening and milestone timing that vary with
respect to promotion timing. Individual community briefs are provided to the selection boards to
inform the diverse board members of the community values for each rank and board. These
briefs highlight milestone achievements and skills necessary for promotion competitiveness and
illustrate differences in respective career paths and timing by community. While there are many
factors that contribute to promotion viability and selection, administrative screenings are key
indicators used by promotion board members to determine the general competitiveness of a
given record.

All the communities except Aviation have department head or equivalent screening well before
eligibility for selection to LCDR. Most of the officers in zone will have completed or are in their
department head assignment and have performance marks in those milestone assignments. These
milestone achievements have been detailed in the community briefs and provide a clear message
to the selection boards of which officers are best and fully qualified based on department head
screening and performance from these communities. The Aviation officers at this stage have not
screened for or served as department heads. The Aviation community values presented to the
board are thus limited to successful initial sea and shore tours, and attainment of warfare
qualifications in a wide variety of type, model and series platforms. The late timing of the
Aviation Department Head Screening leaves LCDR selectivity and viability of the diverse group
of 600 in zone Aviators up to the assorted group of board members to determine; enabling
around 100 Aviators to be promoted annually and ultimately not screen because they are less
competitive to their Aviation peers or are of the wrong type, model and series to meet Aviation
Department Head requirements. In the zero-sum URL competitive category, this results in 100
fewer promotions for the other communities that all have LCDR shortages. These excesses will
occupy URL vacancies for future LCDR promotions.

Commander Promotions
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CAPT Robert Tortora

A more complicated milestone comparison plays a role in Commander promotions. The XO
administrative screening and completed standalone XO tours for Submarine, EOD and SEAL
Officers provide the selection board with milestone screenings and clear operational performance
indicators to distinguish from. The Surface Communitys move to the CO/XO Fleet-up model
similar to Aviation has largely eliminated the traditional standalone XO tour before the
Commander Selection Board. SWOs will have two administrative command screening reviews
before the officers are in zone. The variety of SWO administrative screening results (CO/XO
Afloat, XO Afloat, CO or XO Special Mission and XO Specialty Career Path) provide a
distinguishing hierarchy of quality in the SWO eligibles and a community culling of
competiveness for the selection boards. The SWO community emphasizes including specific
language in FITREPs that indicates administrative screening milestones to provide statutory
board members the means to distinguish screening status from the records.

The career paths of the Surface, Submarine, EOD, and SEAL communities thus naturally provide
the selection boards with a community message of performance amongst peers. On the other side
of the equation, Aviation officers will have just completed their department head tours and do
not administratively screen for Commander Command until after selected for promotion. The
late timing of the Aviation Commander Command Screening in relation to the other community
milestones again leaves it up to the diverse selection board members to determine the best and
fully qualified from all of the Aviation post-department heads without the benefit of an Aviation
administrative screening review. Historical results indicate that of those Aviators selected for
promotion, 30-40% will not administratively screen for Commander Command at the post
selection command screening board that screens for a wide variety of squadron and shore
commands. This result equates to nearly 60 non-competitive Aviators selected to Commander
annually at the expense of the rest of the URL in the zero-sum competitive category. Similarly to
the newly promoted LCDR Aviators that do not screen, these excess non-competitive Aviator
Commanders constrain annual promotions for all the other communities and are entitled to
remain in inventory as excesses until their voluntary separation or retirement; constraining future
promotion numbers by occupying the combined URL.

Captain Promotions
Captain promotion dynamics are most strongly aligned with milestones with success in
Commander Command a prerequisite for all communities. At this stage, competitive officers
from all URL communities have completed the Commander Command milestone. Although not
a requirement, an important goal in the central promotion planning process is to ensure that there
are a sufficient number of URL Captain promotions for all successful Commanding Officer
Afloat served officers in zone. To date, this benchmark has been achieved and there have been
more promotions planned to vacancy than successful operational commanding officers. These
successful officers compete very well at the statutory boards. Those Commanders that have
administratively screened and successfully served in non-operational or shore commanding
officer assignments have much lower opportunity for the small number of remaining URL
Captain selections. These include many Commanders that have performed well in of some of the
most challenging tours and have competency and skills that are desired in URL Captains and
leads to continued under representation of those communities in the Captain ranks.

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The number of operational commander command billets with their associated tour lengths varies
by community. These two factors combine to form annual fills that directly contribute to the
number of officers flowing into zone for Captain by community and their corresponding
opportunity for selection. Longer command tour lengths enable continuity in command and
perfection of professional skills while limiting the number of operational commanders flowing
into zone for Captain.

Includes all Commander Commands
As URL Captain promotions have developed to predominately select from the successful post
operational commanders, a communitys proportion of operational commander commands plays
an important role in the ratios of commanders selected for Captain. Those communities with
fewer of operational command officers in zone or more non-operational command requirements
achieve fewer selections regardless of their requirements and inherent shortages.

URL Strength Planning
Centralized planning of the URL competitive category leads to one size fits all solutions for
meeting overall URL strength concerns, managing relative opportunity and meeting DOPMA
constraints for flow point and opportunity by grade. Overall URL inventory to strength is the key
component for calculating the combined number of selections by grade for the URL to meet
projected losses. Changes in force structure, billet realignments, drawdowns or strength increases
all have an impact on URL promotion planning. Caution about retention rates, unemployment,
the economy, policy decisions, uncertainty about future authorized strength and other factors also
contribute to ensure that end strength is not violated for the combined URL. Centralized planners
necessarily are conservative in the overall approach to URL promotions and have made
conscious decisions to accept risk with reduced numbers of promotions in order to ensure that
financial or strength controls are met. These factors have led to current and past shortages in the
overall URL control grades and directly impact the ability of those communities with persistent
shortages to get healthy through promotions; as well as limit the number of promotions and size
of the zones for the entire URL.

Managing URL Shortages
The URL officer inventory is insufficient to ensure every funded billet is filled with an officer
meeting all the billet requirements. Shortages in individual communities further stress the
distribution system and necessitate prioritization of the scarce resources in personnel available to
meet requirements. Navy Personnel Command (NPC) strives to minimize the impact on
readiness and to officer development of gapped billets created by these shortages. The NPC
personnel distribution system compensates for these control grade shortages by establishing
billet fill priorities, minimum manning levels and by filling the non-discrete Surface and
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Submarine requirements with excess Aviators and RL/Staff Corps where applicable. Billet fills
are prioritized to GSA/IA Billets, operational billets, attach billets, Joint Warfighting,
SECNAV, OPNAV, non-HQ joint billets, 4-Star staffs, schoolhouse staffs and students, and then
all other staffs and funded requirements.

Managing the shortages of control grade officers calls for a comprehensive effort to balance the
distributable inventory to best meet often competing requirements. Shortages directly pressure
the ability to fill all community discrete billets in addition to the mandatory, career development
and community support billets. Lower priority requirements are either gapped, filled by a lower
paygrade or an excess officer if a non-discrete requirement. The prioritization of billet fills,
together with overall inventory shortages and limited distributable personnel results in under
representation of Surface Officers and Submarine Officers throughout Navy and Joint Staffs.
This also leads to little community flexibility in career progression as a competitive officer must
navigate successfully through command path operational requirements and the important
individual and community career milestones such as JPME, Joint Duty, D.C. and subspecialty
experience tours. Officers that are not achieving these milestones in synch with promotion timing
or are on slightly divergent paths are commonly not promoted in the URL competitive category
regardless of experience and potential.

URL Promotion Solutions
The analysis above discusses several observations of many of the issues in the URL competitive
category that lead to community imbalances and question the concept of the best and fully
qualified selection standard of the category to best meet the needs of the Navy. The promotion
system is not designed or managed to produce outcomes that deliver the right mix of officers in
the right designators in any competitive category that carries a variety of communities of
different size and divergent career paths. The fair and equitable comparison of the combined
URL communities in singular competition for a finite number of selections for differing
requirements is not working to the benefit of any of the URL communities. Proper balance of
community requirements calls for executive governance of the promotion mechanism to ensure
promotion results benefit all the communities. Balancing the needs of the Navy for the URL
communities can be achieved within DOPMA legal constraints.

The first method to enable each community to achieve their requirements is through specific skill
guidance by designator provided for the URL competitive category in the promotion precepts.
This method requires no changes to existing laws, only existing practice. Title 10 U.S. Code (
615) authorizes The Secretary of the military department concerned shall furnish each selection
board convened with. . . (4) information or guidelines relating to the needs of the armed force
concerned for officers having particular skills, including guidelines or information relating to
the need for either a minimum number or a maximum number of officers with particular skills
within a competitive category. In practice, the Secretary of the Navy provides similar guidance
for the Marine Corps competitive category and the Navy Limited Duty Officer competitive
category. For the URL competitive category this guidance has been limited to board guidance to
select those officers who are best and fully qualified and give consideration to the needs of the
Navy for officers of particular skills without regard for the existing critical shortages of the
individual communities.

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The second method also requires no changes to existing laws. Balance to requirements for the
URL communities can be achieved by separating the URL competitive category to distinctive
categories for each community on par with the separate competitive categories of the Restricted
Line and Staff Corps. Separation of the URL into five separate categories removes the disparate
apples to oranges comparison among the communities; allowing boards comprised of officers of
the same designator to accurately apply the best and fully qualified selection standard to meet
the requirements of that community. The most direct result of separate competitive categories is
enabling promotion and career management to meet community requirements. Promotion plans,
zones and opportunity would be sized appropriately to enable sufficient selections to vacancies
in order to balance inventories to authorizations for all of the individual communities. Over time,
community governance of their own category will achieve inventories that meet requirements
and can more actively apply adjustments within the community to most effectively manage
officers with authority and accountability.

Commander Snodgrasss retention study, Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon, highlighted
several concerns related to statutory promotion boards that have been further deconstructed in
this study to show the cause and effect of some of the issues affecting the URL competitive
category. It is clear that community requirements are not being met through the statutory
promotion system with second order effects on career management, community health,
community flexibility and in achieving the right balance among competencies desired or required
from the warfare communities. Divergent community management concerns cannot easily be
corrected within a shared competitive category while meeting the constraint for fair and
equitable selections across those various communities. The results of URL selection boards, year
over year, continue to be inadequate for all the URL communities. Review of this category is
therefore warranted with the goal of aligning the URL promotion system to efficiently select the
appropriate combination of the Best and Fully Qualified to meet the mission requirements of
the Navy.