The Air Force announced Thursday it will adopt a more predictable officer evaluation system that better compares airmen to their peers — a change in the making since 2016.
Under the new plan, officers in each rank will be on the hook for an annual performance report at the same time, rather than staggering their evaluation due dates throughout the year. The singular due dates per rank are known as “static closeout dates.”
Rank-specific due dates “deliver improved predictability to our officers, raters and units, while also providing a synchronized comparison of performance within peer groups,” Air Force personnel boss Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly said in a press release. “This arms officers with a more complete understanding of their performance assessment, their strengths and weaknesses, and where they stand amongst their peers.”
The Air Force first tried out the idea among enlisted airmen in fiscal 2015. Throughout the year, due dates for submitting an enlisted performance review began to line up with the last day people in each rank were eligible for promotion.
Airmen initially weren’t fans of the change, but officers began asking for the same in their own evaluations soon after, Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, then the Air Force’s personnel chief, noted in 2016.
Officials hope the shift will also avoid excessive, non-standard evaluation and training paperwork, and shrink the need for policy exceptions or massive workloads on airmen with less predictable schedules.
The service plans to transition active duty officers, Air Force reservists and Air National Guardsmen to the new dates by grade in 2022 and 2023. The first new dates are Oct. 31 for first and second lieutenants; Feb. 28, 2023, for colonels; May 31 for lieutenant colonels and majors; and Aug. 31 for captains.
“No … date is 100% perfect, but we believe the established dates provide the best options for our Air Force considering all factors,” Kelly said.
Officer and enlisted evaluations will both close out monthly throughout the year.
The complete schedule of close-out dates:
- Jan. 31 — staff sergeants
- Feb. 28 — colonels
- Mar. 31 — senior airmen
- May 31 — chief master sergeants, lieutenant colonels and majors
- July 31 — senior master sergeants
- Aug. 31 — captains
- Sept. 30 — master sergeants
- Oct. 31 — first and second lieutenants
- Nov. 30 — technical sergeants
Civilian reports are due March 31 and Sept. 30. No evaluations will close out in April, June or December.
Officers who are already picked for promotion will use the more senior grade’s due date, the Air Force added.
Some evaluations that are on the horizon or have passed will proceed as normal, depending on an officer’s previous closeout date. Certain airmen will have an interim due date, while others will wait until the first static closeout date.
Air Force headquarters is likewise doing away with the need for fresh assessments when a new supervisor takes charge, known as “change of reporting official” evaluations, the service said. Those reports will go away in phases for each grade, several months before their first performance review closeout date, the Air Force said.
“This change eliminates the need for nearly 29,000 airmen [change of reporting official] reports annually and removes the unscheduled workload,” the service added.
The Space Force, which also falls under the Department of the Air Force, will not use static due dates because it is still figuring its own new evaluation process.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.