Promotion Boards

The 90% CAPT Promotion Opportunity and a Promotion Board Math Review

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People are very excited about the 90% promotion opportunity for the recently concluded FY19 Staff Corps O6 promotion board. But it is easy to misinterpret this opportunity. It does not mean that 90% of CDRs will be selected for CAPT. Let’s review promotion board math…

Where Does the Promotion Opportunity Come From?

The short answer is from manpower projections. How many physicians are getting out or retiring? What is the current Medical Corps manning level for that rank? What are future needs anticipated to be? What is the size of the promotion zone?

The answers to all of these questions determines the promotion opportunity and guides PERS and BUMED when they are making their decision.

As you can see here, the promotion opportunity varies from year-to-year:

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19
LCDR 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
CDR 80% 80% 70% 70% 65% 75%
CAPT 60% 60% 60% 50% 70% 80% 90%

Historical promotion opportunities for FY13-19.

But as you can see here, the percentage who are promoted from the in zone group is substantially lower:

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19
LCDR 97% 89% 90% 93% 88% 85%
CDR 58% 66% 49% 53% 44% 40%
CAPT 55% 43% 47% 39% 34% 37%

Historical percentage of in-zone candidates selected for promotion for FY13-18.


FY19 O6 Promotion Board Math

The FY19 lineal list shows that there are 74 CDRs in the FY19 zone. If you take the 90% promotion opportunity and multiply it by 74, you’ll see that they could have promoted 67 CDRs to O6 during the board:

90% opportunity X 74 people in zone = 66.6 (rounded up to 67) people they can pick for O6

These 67, though, could have been picked from CDRs who were below zone, in zone, or above zone. Usually, there is one person picked from below zone, and a number from the in zone and above zone categories. The exact mix won’t be known until they release the results in May.


The Bottom Line

I’d much rather have a 90% promotion opportunity for O6 than the 50% in FY16, but the actual percentage of CDRs who were picked from this year’s zone won’t be known until May. If I had to guess, the 90% promotion opportunity will lead to approximately 40% of those in zone being selected, but my guess could be way off. We’ll just have to wait and see.

FY19 O6 Promotion Board Members Released

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PERS always releases the members of the promotion boards. They used to do it as soon as the board started, but after the E-9 board had to be cancelled last year they now do it after the board is over. Here are the members of this year’s O6 board:

FY19 Active O6 Staff Corps Board Membership

90% Medical Corps Promotion Opportunity for FY19 O6 Board

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Here is the FY19 O6 Promotion Board Convening Order, which was just released on this website. On page 2 you can see that the promotion opportunity is 90% for Medical Corps, the highest it has ever been in recent times:

Historical Promotion Opportunities for Medical Corps

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19
LCDR 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
CDR 80% 80% 70% 70% 65% 75%
CAPT 60% 60% 60% 50% 70% 80% 90%


What is a “Don’t Pick Me” Promotion Board Letter? Why Would You Send One?

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If you go to the Navy Active Duty Officer Promotions Page, you’ll find this at the bottom:

Sample “Don’t Pick Me” Letter to the Board

Removing the introductory portion, here is what the meat of this letter says:

1. Per reference (a), please remove my record from consideration by the FY-1X Active Duty (Grade) (Competitive Category) Selection Board.

That’s it. All it says to the promotion board is, “Don’t pick me.”

Why would or should a physician send a letter requesting NOT to be considered by a promotion board? Here are a few reasons:

  1. You are an O4 or O5, know that you are resigning, and that you will not be joining the Reserves – If you are just paying your time back and getting out, do your fellow officer a favor and remove yourself from consideration. It is hard enough to promote to O5 and O6 nowadays. Having one less person to compete with helps out those who are willing to stick around. Yes, if you are picked and get promoted soon enough you could get some extra pay for a little while before you resign, but I’d say the general karma of letting someone else get the promotion outweighs that small financial benefit.
  2. You are an O4 or O5 who is retiring but you know that if selected for promotion you won’t accept it – Why would someone not accept a promotion? Because a promotion to O5 or O6 obligates you for 3 more years if you intend to retire. And the Navy isn’t letting anyone get out early anymore. If you want to get out as fast as possible with a 20 year retirement, taking a promotion to O6 in year 18 means you must stick around until year 21 at least.

Why is a “Don’t Pick Me” letter not applicable if you’re an O3? Because for physicians the promotion opportunity is “all fully qualified” or 100% for O4. In other words, if everyone was fully qualified they could promote every physician who is a LT to LCDR. They generally don’t, but they could. You taking a promotion doesn’t hinder someone else’s promotion like it does for O5 and O6.

So…if #1 or #2 above are applicable, consider sending a “Don’t Pick Me” letter. And remember, they are now due 10 days before a board convenes (not 24 hours like before).


My E-Mail to the Promotion Board – Private or Not? Which is it?

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Today I e-mailed a letter for my upcoming O6 promotion board. To find the instructions on how to e-mail the board, I went to this page, which happens to be the PERS page on officer promotion boards. I noted the following:

To ensure more efficient processing and for internal tracking purposes, a recommended subject line of your email is “FOUO-Privacy Sensitive Board Package: Active-Duty [Rank][Line/Staff] Board, FY-YYXXX” (where YY represents the last two digits of the fiscal year of the selection board and the XXX represents the actual 3-digit board number and you insert the appropriate parenthetical information).

I added the bold over “Privacy Sensitive” above.

Like a good Sailor, I followed instructions…only to receive an e-mail reply (as confirmation that they received my letter) that said this:


Further down:

1. DO NOT send any e­mail marked as PRIVATE. We are UNABLE to view those e­mails you will need to RESEND your e­mail submission…

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out. I guess I’ll be resending that e-mail tomorrow.

Do You Still Need to Send the Above Zone Letter?

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The standard advice has always gone something like this:

“If you are above zone, you need to send a letter to the promotion board so that they know you are still trying to promote. Otherwise they won’t pick you.”

Now that they no longer stamp officer records with “AZ” (above zone) and they look exactly the same as those records that are in zone, do you still need to write a letter to the board? Has the standard advice changed?

Reasons to Send a Letter to a Promotion Board

I addressed this in a post from a few years ago entitled “Should You Send a Letter to the Promotion Board?” I still agree with just about everything in that post, except for this:

“…you should always send a letter to demonstrate interest in getting promoted when you are above zone.”

In my opinion, you no longer need to send a letter just because you are above zone. If you have another reason to send a letter, then please do. If you are just sending one because you think you have to, I think that is no longer necessary.

The FY18 O6 board convening order states on page 2:

“…in determining which officers are best and fully qualified for promotion, you are required to equally consider both above-zone and in-zone officers.”

What if You’re Not Sure?

As you might imagine, I get asked a lot whether someone should send a letter to the promotion board. This is my standard response…

Pretend that you did not send a letter to the board, the board is over, and you were not selected for promotion. Are you going to be kicking yourself for not sending the letter? If the answer is yes or maybe, then send the letter. As long as you keep it short and sweet, there is no real downside.

Frankly, I think that when officers send letters to promotion boards they are often just making themselves feel better, and there is nothing wrong with that. You want to make sure that when the promotion board results come out, no matter what happened, you feel like you did everything you could to get promoted.

The Bottom Line

If you are above zone and want to send the letter just so there is no regret, feel free, but it is definitely not required to be considered for promotion.

New Addition to the Promo Prep – Check Your Security Clearance

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During the last Specialty Leader Business Meeting, the Detailing Update mentioned that there were about 10 cases of officers who lost their promotion due to a security clearance issue. As a result, I added a new section to the Promo Prep document. In it you can find out how to check your security clearance. Here’s what I added:

Step 8 – Check Your Security Clearance

If your security clearance is expired, you won’t promote. To check on its status, go to blocks 92 and 93 of your Officer Data Card (ODC). Here is what mine says:

Block 92 – VV1015

Block 93 – 1115

What does this mean? The letters and dates in order are the level of clearance you are eligible for, the level of clearance you have, the date your investigation was initiated (MMYY format), and in block 93 the date your clearance was granted (MMYY format).

My first “V” means I am eligible for a “Top Secret – SCI Eligible” clearance. The second “V” means I actually have one. Here is a list of the various codes you might see:

The second date in block 93, “1115” in my case, is the important one. A Top Secret clearance is good for 6 years, so I should be good until NOV 2021. A Secret clearance, which is what most of you will have, is good for 10 years.

If your security clearance will expire within the next year or you have any questions about this, you should go to your security manager to renew it. Don’t let a promotion slip by because you had an expired clearance. It happens more than you would think.