The Air Force could make major headway on several changes to how enlisted airmen are evaluated and promoted in 2021.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Joanne Bass, who in August became the service’s 19th top enlisted leader, said in an October interview with Air Force Times that she is eyeing a series of short, intermediate and long-term changes to the enlisted personnel system.
Bass pledged to reverse a move in recent years to drop airmen’s experience from the list of factors considered when evaluating them for promotion. The Air Force used to give airmen points based on how long they had served in their current grade, and how long their overall service has been, but finished a multi-year phase-out of those points in 2018.
But while Bass is certain she wants to restore the practice of giving airmen credit for experience in promotions, it’s less certain what that will look like — whether the Air Force will restore the old time-in-grade and time-in-service system, or find a new method.
Bass said the Air Force also could give airmen credit for the skills they already bring into the service, such as professional certifications for certain trades.
“We value experience,” Bass said. But “we want to go forward in a smart way, that there aren’t second- and third-order effects to how we bring that back.”
Also under consideration: The fate of Weighted Airman Promotion System tests for promotion to staff sergeant or technical sergeant.
The Air Force in 2019 dropped those tests for senior noncommissioned officers — master, senior master, or chief master sergeant. At the time, Bass’s predecessor, Kaleth Wright, said it would make it less likely that the wrong SNCOs would end up in leadership positions, just because they were good at taking tests.
Wright also said in 2019 that the Air Force was considering doing the same for NCOs, but wanted to study the matter first to make sure there would not be any unforeseen consequences.
Bass said in October that her office is looking for ways to improve talent management, but had net yet decided what to do with WAPS tests for NCOs.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.