You Should Care About Promotion Board Precepts and Convening Orders

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Whenever a promotion board starts, the members are provided two items to guide them as they decide who to promote, the board precept and the convening order. These documents are available on-line and should be used to figure out how to promote and write your fitrep.


The Board Precept

The precept is released in December and can be seen anytime afterwards. For example, if you go to the FY19 O4 Staff Corps Promotion Board page and click on the link marked with an arrow, you’ll get the board precept even though this board hasn’t started yet:



The Convening Order

The convening order for a promotion board is not released until it starts. If you monitor the board page closely, you’ll usually be able to get it within 1-2 days after the board begins. You just click the link that reads “Board Convening Order”:

Convening Order

Incidentally, this is how I always find out the promotion opportunity for all the boards and post it on the blog. It is in the convening order.


Why You Should Care

You should care about the precept and convening order because they tell you how to promote to the next rank. Go to this page and download them from the most recent boards of your next rank. You can see all the different boards circled in red here:


Click on the board for the next rank you’ll be competing for, and download the precept and convening order. If the board hasn’t happened yet (like the FY19 O4 board), then you’ll have to look at last year’s convening order (FY18).

Use these documents for two things. First, to figure out how to promote. For example, I deconstructed a past O6 convening order here.

Second, use them to come up with wording for your fitrep bullets, as discussed here where I showed you how to pull phrases for your block 41.


The Bottom Line

  1. Go to this page.
  2. Get the precept and convening order for your next rank. You might have to go to last year’s board for the convening order if the board hasn’t started yet.
  3. Use them to figure out how to get promoted and for writing your fitrep.

FY19 Medical Corps Promotion Opportunity 85%

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Here is the just released FY19 Active O5 Staff Corps Promotion Board Convening Order. The promotion opportunity was 85%, the highest in a long time:

  FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19
CDR 80% 80% 70% 70% 65% 75% 85%

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.

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%


10 Years of O5 and O6 Promotion Rates by Specialty

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The Non-Surgical Detailer and I are working on a research project to take a deep dive on how all the various career factors affect the ability of physicians to promote. One of the first products of our preliminary research is a spreadsheet that shows 10 years of promotion rates to O5 and O6 by specialty. I’m sure the audience would enjoy checking it out, so here it is:

CAPT and CDR (2100) Selection Rate by Specialty

There are multiple tabs, one for each fiscal year as well as the first tab, which is an overview.

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.