THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, March 13, 1995 TAG: 9503130052 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY DALE EISMAN, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: WASHINGTON LENGTH: Medium: 73 lines
For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of good sailors who've seen their hopes of advancement fall victim to a superior's understated praise, Adm. Mike Boorda promises that help is on the way.
And for mediocre sailors who've gotten ahead because their bosses were overly generous with compliments, the Navy's top officer has another pledge: no more.
Boorda said last week that the Navy is revamping its fitness reports for officers and chief petty officers and the evaluation forms it uses to grade the performance of enlisted men and women.
In both cases, he said, senior officers will be required to provide specific, detailed information about the achievements, and mistakes, in evaluations. Descriptive phrases like ``great leader'' that might help an officer now ``are not going to sell,'' Boorda promised; leadership traits will have to be documented.
In his first year as the Navy's boss, Boorda said he's met too many sailors who believe ``they profit or lose by how well their reviewer writes.'' Because the current system places a high value on written comments, there's a strong feeling that those with reporting seniors who write distinctively have an advantage before promotion boards.
Boorda said the current forms give a good picture of performance over time, but promotion boards look for signals in the written comments to decide who gets priority for advancement.
A superior's simple use of a catch phrase - ``flag officer potential'' for example - might give the officer being reviewed an advantage over someone equally qualified but with a reviewer who writes more tersely, Boorda said.
To cure that, new forms will demand specific examples of things a sailor has done to earn high marks or incur low ones.
The forms also will change some things on which officers and enlisted personnel are graded. There will be no more marks for speaking or writing ability, for example, though Boorda said he expects that those qualities will be demonstrated in scores of things such as leadership and job accomplishment.
The current forms have been in place, with only minor revisions, for more than 20 years. And over time, ``we got real inflated'' in grading, Boorda argued. As chief of naval personnel in the late 1980s, he was interested in the problem, he said, but wasn't able to really get a fix on how to solve it.
As a guard against inflation, the revised forms will limit the number of candidates for promotion who can receive the top overall ratings - ``early promote'' and ``must promote.'' Each senior officer evaluating first-class petty officers, for example, will be allowed to place only 20 percent in the ``early promote'' slot.
Boorda said he expects the largest group of sailors generally will fall into a middle category: ``promotable.'' Those will be people doing a good job, perhaps deserving of advancement but not necessarily - by their performance - demanding it.
They also will be the tough calls for promotion boards, the admiral acknowledged, because the Navy's continuing need to have people move up will mean that higher-scoring candidates will almost always be promoted.
Boorda signed off on the concept for the new system this month and said last week that ``they're doing formology'' in the Bureau of Naval Personnel to put the ideas on paper.
``I would like to have had it yesterday,'' he said of the new forms, but it likely will be several months before they're completed and reporting officers have been trained to use them. ILLUSTRATION: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SYSTEM
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