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New OER to stress character

HRC commanding general visits JBLM to outline the new value-based Army officer evaluation system

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:13PM April 4th, 2013
New OER to stress character

Christopher Gaylord/Northwest Guardian

Maj. Gen. Richard Mustion talks with JBLM officers about upcoming changes in the Army’s current OER.

According to the Army’s senior commander for personnel and human resources, a new officer evaluation system scheduled to take effect in December will require leaders to pay more attention to detail and specificity while assessing their subordinates.

Major General Richard Mustion, commanding general of U.S. Army Human Resources Command, discussed the new system, which he referred to as a complete culture change, with JBLM officers March 27 and 28 at Carey Theater on JBLM Lewis Main.

The shift in Officer Evaluation Reports, which Mustion said has been under review for three years, better aligns officers’ evaluations with the traits expected of them and outlined by the Army in its official leadership guidebook, Field Manual 6-22.

“One of our attributes and competencies is character,” Mustion said. “Our OER today doesn’t require (an) assessment of an officer’s character; it’s a yes or no box check.”

The Army’s current OER has been in place since 1997. Mustion called it a “more generalized assessment of performance” that doesn’t capture the detail of FM 6-22.

Army leaders should lead with character, presence and intellectual capacity, the manual says, and should continually develop and achieve. The Army refers to this behavior as “attributes and core leader competencies.”

“That’s the basis of our officer corps, and that’s what we should be evaluating against,” he said. The new guidance is also intended to increase the accuracy of officer reports, which directly affects promotion potential, forcing raters and senior raters to make tough decisions.

“You’re going to have to look young officers in the eye and say, ‘you’re proficient, but you’re not as good as your peers,’” Mustion told more than 100 field grade officers March 28, attacking the inflation that creeps into the current system and sets up underperforming officers for career progressions they don’t deserve.

The new reporting system also draws a clearer separation between raters and senior raters, placing the responsibility for assessing an officer’s performance solely in the hands of his or her direct supervisor. An officer’s potential will be evaluated by an officer two levels or more above the rated individual.

Raters and senior raters currently comment on performance and potential. Splitting them, Mustion said, will provide more accuracy by allowing each rater to focus exclusively on one thing instead of two.

In the future, different evaluation forms will assess officers in three rank groupings. These “grade plates” will use separate forms for company-grade officers, warrant officers and chief warrant officers 2; majors, lieutenant colonels and chief warrant officers 3 through 5; and colonels and brigadier generals.

During the next eight months, the Department of the Army will update approximately 92,000 officers on the new system with its revised evaluation form. The training, Mustion said, will start with an online video. And starting in June or July, the Army will send mobile training teams to the field to conduct training and answer questions.

The Army will soon release a new regulation to govern the changes to officer evaluations.

“If we need to, we’ll delay the start of this to make sure we have it right,” Mustion said. “It’s really focused on making sure we get it right and we don’t rush to implementing a system that’s not the right thing for our Army to do or will be more destructive to our Army as we get into our future.”

Mustion said the Army plans to also unveil modifications to its Noncommissioned Officer Evaluation Reporting system next year that will reflect the Army’s leadership doctrine in similar detail.

“We’re on a parallel path, but just a little bit later,” he said of the proposed NCOER changes.