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Promotions to stay steady despite plan for end strength cuts

Nov. 14, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Army ended fiscal 2013 on Sept. 30 with 531,635 soldiers, which means that at least 42,600 soldiers will be taken off the active rolls by Sept. 30, 2015.
The Army ended fiscal 2013 on Sept. 30 with 531,635 soldiers, which means that at least 42,600 soldiers will be taken off the active rolls by Sept. 30, 2015. (Army)
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Some enlisted ranks will be trimmed to meet the target for the Army’s newly accelerated drawdown blueprint, which calls for the active component to reach 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2015, two years earlier than originally planned.

Some soldiers who remain in uniform will find a new career timeline that allows them less time to move up to the next rank.

The Army ended fiscal 2013 on Sept. 30 with 531,635 soldiers, which means that at least 42,600 soldiers will be taken off the active rolls by Sept. 30, 2015. Further cuts of 70,000 may be required between 2018 and 2023 because of sequestration, but clarity on that issue will not be possible until Congress maps out a long-term budget strategy, presumably early next year.

Promotion totals for sergeant through sergeant major will hold steady in 2014, despite a planned reduction that will see the Army’s active-duty rolls reduced by at least 24,000 soldiers over the next 12 months.

Despite these drawdown programs, Pentagon personnel officials expect there will be 44,258 promotions to sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, master sergeant and sergeant major in 2014, a reduction of 240 advancements over the noncommissioned officer promotion total for fiscal 2013.

The annual promotion forecast developed by the Office of the Army G-1 (Human Resources), calls for 655 advancements to sergeant major, an increase of 121 over last year; 2,291 to master sergeant, an increase of 96; and 6,320 to sergeant first class, an increase of 494.

Promotions to staff sergeant will total 11,480, a decrease of 707 from 2013, while advancements to sergeant will total 23,512, which is 244 promotions fewer than last year.

The forecast was developed in early October and could be revised if retirement and separation projections change.

The Army’s underlying management strategy for NCO promotions is to promote a sufficient number of soldiers to fill actual and projected vacancies. That is a difficult task given the drawdown and the reorganization and inactivation of many units.

Changes in pin-on points

Promotion pin-on points, which reflect the years and months of service for soldiers advancing to the various NCO ranks have held relatively steady in recent years but will change in 2014 and 2015 to support a new NCO career timeline that will give soldiers more time to attend school and participate in leader development activities between promotions.

Officials predict that in 2014, soldiers will have about 23˝ years of service, on average, when advancing to sergeant major, 19 years for master sergeant, 13˝ years for sergeant first class, eight years for staff sergeant and 4˝ years for sergeant.

By the end of 2015, those averages will have extended to 24/25 years for sergeant major, 20 years for master sergeant and 14 years for sergeant first class. The average timing for sergeant stripes will remain at 4˝ years, and at eight years for staff sergeant.

These include a planned change in the retention control points for specialists and corporals who are on selection lists for promotion to sergeant and staff sergeant.

Under a change tentatively scheduled for Jan. 1, the RCP for promotable specialists will be reduced from 12 to eight years, and for promotable sergeants from 15 to 14 years.

The change supports the new NCO career timeline that will be implemented by the end of 2015, while synchronizing these tenure limits with the RCP changes made for the other ranks in recent years. The changes will be grandfathered for currently serving promotable specialists and promotable sergeants.

For the past five years, overall (primary and secondary zone) select rates for the senior NCO ranks have averaged slightly less than 12 percent for sergeant major and master sergeant, and 21 percent for sergeant first class.

Personnel officials expect that select rates for boards that meet in 2014 and beyond will be lower because the demands for NCOs will be less as the Army gets smaller.

During the drawdown of the 1990s, each of the senior NCO grades experienced one year of sharply reduced selection rates, and that is possible again, according to information provided by the Office of the G-1. However, because promotions are viewed as a key retention incentive for the all-volunteer force, “the Army is making every effort to preserve promotion opportunities,” a Pentagon official said.

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