On June 23, the deputy commanding general for Army Training and Doctrine Command pushed out a Twitter poll asking, “Should official photographs be eliminated from promotion boards?”
The answer, as it stands, is overwhelmingly yes.
Though the poll is still active, around 75 percent of those who voted believe that official photos should not be used when considering soldiers for promotions. As of Tuesday afternoon, the poll had more than 2,100 responses.
This comes just days after Defense Secretary Mark Esper addressed issues of diversity and inclusiveness in a prerecorded video message released on June 18.
“I have directed the civilian and uniformed leadership of the Pentagon to bring me ideas in the next two weeks – by the end of June – that we can begin implementing now, such as removing photos from promotion, school and command selection boards,” he said. “This is something I pushed as secretary of the Army, as we worked to overhaul our personnel system.”
The Twitter post, which is connected to an account for Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, TRADOC’s deputy commanding general, has received many comments from troops and civilians alike.
“Nothing in a photo reveals talent,” Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith, military assistant to the Army assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, wrote below the survey, adding, “Love that the Army is committed to taking it on. A blend of art and science to try to see the whole person. Potential is an even more ambiguous concept.”
An anonymous Twitter user also pointed out that unlike with promotion boards, in the civilian job market, photographs are neither required nor attached to resumes when applicants submit them to potential employers.
TRADOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
How this will play out has yet to be decided. Currently some promotion boards are being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amid other related changes such as the temporary suspension of military education requirements and alterations to schedules for weapons and fitness test qualifications, Army Times previously reported.
“As the COVID-19 environment continues to evolve, the Army will continue to review its policy exceptions every 30 days and make any necessary changes,” according to an Army release. “The modifications will be in place until Sept. 30.”