The Air Force is reviewing its enlisted promotion system. Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody said the service needs to make sure it is promoting its top performers as the service gets smaller. (Scott M. Ash / Air Force)
Right now, enlisted airmen earn points for promotion based on how long they have been in the Air Force and how long they’ve been at their current rank — but that could change.
As part of an ongoing review of the enlisted promotion system, the Air Force is looking at whether promotion scores should include points for time in service and time in grade, said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
The Air Force needs to make sure it is promoting its top performers as the service gets smaller, but points for time in grade and time in service can both outweigh points given for job performance under the Weighted Airmen Promotion System, Cody said in a Dec. 10 email.
Time in grade and time in service “do not automatically lead to greater performance and experience,” Cody said. “So we have to look at that and see if there are ways we can reduce the weight TIG and TIS has on promotion, while still ensuring every airman has an equal opportunity for promotion.”
The RAND Corp. and Air Force Personnel Center are both looking into the impacts of not including points for time in grade and time in service, he said.
Any changes to time in grade and time in service would be part of a larger move to update the enlisted promotion system, which is expected to be announced some time next year. The changes are all the more important because the Air Force is looking at a “fair amount of reduction in the force,” Cody said.
If budget cuts continue, the Air Force may have to cut up to 25,000 airmen over the next five years, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told Congress in September.
“If you’re going to be an airman in our Air Force in the future, you’re going to have to be good at your job,” Cody said in a Dec. 9 interview. “I think that’s always been the case but in previous years we might have had the luxury of allowing more airmen to do better over time than we may be able to in the future.”
Cody did not specify when the changes to the promotion system will come, but he does expect an announcement in late spring or summer about whether the Air Force will hold promotion boards for master sergeants.
In September, then-personnel chief Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones said it would take a year to get the boards fully in place if the service goes that route.
“I think we might be looking at promotion boards for master sergeants in the future,” Jones, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in a Sept. 4 interview. “It has great promise. I think within the next six months, we'll have an idea whether we want to press ahead with this or not.”