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NEWS | March 29, 2013

New Army OER means fewer boxes, more accountability for raters

By xxxC. Todd Lopez Army News Service

By December, Army officers will be rated under a new evaluation system -- one that is designed to both strengthen rater accountability and reflect current Army leadership doctrine.

The new system will affect officers in all branches and all components of the Army, said Maj. Gen. Rick Mustion, commander, Army Human Resources Command. Additionally, he said the new Officer Evaluation Report, or OER, system will be preceded by deployment of mobile training teams Army-wide to help officers become accustomed to the new system.

One change to the OER is emphasis on a clear delineation of responsibilities between raters and senior raters, Mustion said.

"Raters discuss performance, and senior raters discuss potential," Mustion said. Right now, he added, that distinction is not being made.

There will also now be three separate evaluation forms based on grade. Those three "grade plates" include one for company-grade officers, warrant officers and chief warrant officers two; one for field-grade officers as well as chief warrant officers three through five; and one for "strategic leaders," which includes colonels and brigadier generals.

The Army will also implement a rater profile for the company and field-grade officer plates; emphasize recommendations for future operational and career broadening opportunities on the field grade plate; redefine the senior-rater box check; and limit the use of intermediate raters to special branches and dual-supervision situations.

Gone from the OER will be the "outstanding performance, must promote," "satisfactory performance, promote," and "unsatisfactory performance, do not promote" boxes. Instead, raters will now choose from "excels," "proficient," "capable" and "unsatisfactory," Mustion said.

The online tool that will allow officers to rate other officers will limit the number of "excels" ratings they can offer a particular grade to less than 50 percent. During an officer's career, the system will ensure the rater rates less than 50 percent of captains, for instance, as "excels." Such information about a rater's rating history will be part of his or her "rater profile." Right now, raters do not have a "rater profile," while senior raters do.

For senior raters, the "above center of mass," "center of mass," "below center of mass, retain" and "below center of mass, do not retain" blocks will be replaced with "most qualified," "highly qualified," "qualified" and "not qualified" check boxes.

With those ratings, a senior rater will also be limited to less than 50 percent of rated officers being marked "most qualified."

Mustion said the Army has no intention of restarting senior rater profiles with the change to the new system. The "mass"-based ratings will transition to the new "qualified"-based ratings.

For company grade officers, what Mustion calls the "Rubik's Cube of attributes and competencies" will also disappear. The current DA Form 67-9, included about 16 "yes" or "no" check boxes for a rater to answer an array of questions about an officer's mental, physical and emotional characteristics; their conceptual, interpersonal, technical and tactical skills; and, among other things, their ability to communicate, make a decision or develop their subordinates.

In place of that matrix of yes and no check boxes, raters will instead evaluate an officer in six distinct areas -- and it won't be multiple choice to complete the section.

"What our raters will do is write three to four sentences, documenting the officer's performance, not potential, in line with each of the attributes and competencies," Mustion said. Raters will be asked to write about an officer's character; "presence," which includes professional conduct, intellect, leadership ability, ability to develop subordinates and ability to achieve their mission.

For field grade officers, raters will instead provide narrative commentary that demonstrates an officer's performance regarding "field grade competencies."

"It reverts back to a narrative description, similar to what we have today, except it is a documentation of performance in line with the attributes and competencies," Mustion said. "What it reflects are those things that our field grade officers and warrant officers should be able to accomplish."

Mustion said among those attributes are the ability to adjust to an ambiguous situation, for instance, and the ability to manage resources.

Career Broadening
A key part of the new OER system will be to ask raters to make determinations about what an officer is capable of, and what suggestions there might be for how the officer can be better developed -- both for his or her sake, and for the sake of the Army.

Mustion said the Army is asking leaders to identify future and broadening assignments for officers who are rated.

"In our Army we have a lot of requirements that are outside the operational Army," he said. "We have opportunities that range from fellowships here in the [Pentagon] to teaching at ROTC, to the operations controllers at our National Training Center, to joint staff positions -- which are very important to building officers that can operate at the strategic level -- and that's the construct of broadening."

Preparing for the new OER
The new OER system will start Dec. 1, 2013. All ratings that take place before that date will use the old system. Ratings with THRU dates after that date will use the new system. Mustion said there will be no close-out reports required before switching to the new system.

To prepare officers for the new OER system, Mustion said the Army will deploy mobile training teams this autumn. Additionally, he said the new version of Army Regulation 623-3, which explains the OER process, will be available 30 days before implementation of the new system. The regulation should be available from Army publishing sometime in November.