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Cody: EPR overhaul will fix 'inflated system'

Sep. 18, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody said an upcoming overhaul of enlisted evaluations will produce a system that focuses on performance and improves how supervisors provide regular feedback to airmen. (Scott M. Ash / Air Force)
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The upcoming overhaul of enlisted evaluations will produce a system that focuses on performance and improves how supervisors provide regular feedback to airmen, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said Wednesday.

The Air Force is now working on a major change to the enlisted performance report system to correct a longstanding problem with grade inflation. For years, the Air Force has struggled to break a pattern of virtually all enlisted airmen receiving perfect 5s on their evaluations, no matter whether they are outstanding or mediocre.

And during a news conference at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference, Cody said that grade inflation is a problem that must be corrected.

“It’s reality,” Cody said. “It’s an inflated system. It’s clear in the numbers.”

Since nearly all airmen get 5s, Cody said, the EPR score plays little role in determining who should get promoted, and other factors end up carrying more weight. Time in grade, time in service, and specialty knowledge test scores are some of the other factors that are weighed during promotion evaluations.

“Today, it is the other factors that we evaluate that discriminate,” Cody said. “Performance is not the great discriminator. The new system will be very clear that it’s about performance. If you are not a performer, we are not going to really look at the other things, at all.”

Cody said that it is too soon to say exactly what the new system will look like, but said it will also include a “significant adjustment” in how Air Force supervisors provide regular feedback to their airmen.

“If you want the [performance] report to be right, you need to get feedback right,” Cody said. “It has to be real, it has to be meaningful. We want our airmen to understand what the expectations are, and then work towards those expectations and improve on the things they need to improve on, and keep doing the good things they are doing.”

Cody stressed that feedback and the performance report “are going to be tethered together pretty tightly.”

“They’re tethered today, but not tightly enough,” Cody said.

Command Chief Master Sgt. Rick Parsons of the Air Combat Command on Monday said the upcoming change “has the potential to be the biggest single change we’ve ever had in the enlisted corps.”

But the changes probably won’t fully be in place until mid-2015 at the earliest. Parsons said the earliest the Air Force could release a new policy would be in six months. It would then take another year or so to transition to the new system, he said.

“It’s going to be a long transition,” Parsons said.

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