New Army OERs upcoming in 2014

Jason Perry

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Very interesting. As with anything, the key will be to how they implement it. Just like the current system, I see a lot of potential for boiler plate OERs and saving "top blocks" for officers in the promotion zone. Only time will tell.
My initial thoughts were "oboy here we go again", and to a certain point I still think that. The Army as I know it has gone thru its growing pains like our society has. Chew on this for a moment; I was a CW2 many moons ago at a dining in; a WO1 decided that he would get snotty with a CW4. This guy (the W4) was a Cobra pilot, 3 tours in 'Nam, multiple DFCs/Air Medals/etc.... Anyways the senior asked junior to step outside (remember this is a dining in, dress blues etc) and literally 30 seconds later junior comes back into the O club with a busted nose and dress blues spotted with blood. OK so that incident might be a little extreme to make my point but wow have times changed. Now its grab the "Hurt Feelings Report", the group hug, and the "why can't we all just get along" text.

I see a couple things that might make the OER system somewhat better: first the raters main focus is on performance and has the responsibility of adding substance as opposed to the standard cut and paste fluff (I interpret that as what did the officer really do), and also holds the rater accountable similar to the senior rater profile. As for senior raters the "stick man" profile remains (I bet the time capsule the founding fathers buried way back when had the senior rater profile concept as well), but the one thing that sticks out for me is the senior raters responsibility to specify/groom officers for assignments. This is not so much an issue for warrants, but lets face it; not all officers are cut out for command. The senior rater therefore can influence the best direction to utilize the particular officer's skill sets and recognize those officers that will be effective commanders, not just someone needing a ticket punched. This concept has been brewing for years and I am glad that it finally has been implemented.
I served as a Company Grade officer for several years before I got to a unit that actually executed performance counseling and evaluations correctly. For my first several years the OER was an event that happened once, when you signed the cut and pasted evaluation. Almost everyone who was not hated got similar evaluations and there was almost a "lockstep" blocking from the senior rated based on time in grade and who was in the zone of consideration for promotion.

When I reported to the, 507th CSG, 7th Trans. Bn ("On Time, On Target"), I finally was exposed to real performance counseling and evaluations. My BDE commander met with all of the Captains, provided a copy of the Yearly Training Brief, a copy of Initial Counseling (which was filled out after initial counseling, with actual agreed on performance goal- (yes, I know, "agreed on" is a loose term; obviously, the BDE Commander's expectations were the baseline) and we had quarterly meetings to follow up with benchmarks, issues, recommendations for improvement and updated goals documented along the way. The actual OERs issued seemed to accurately reflect both performance and potential at the end of the rating period. (This was, of course, taken up by me and implemented for my junior officers, but also was concurrently executed for NCOER's by the CSM, my 1SG, and the junior NCO's. We actually did performance counseling for everyone E4 and above). This was a real eye opening experience for me and it showed in the excellence of the unit (from BDE on down). Instead of being an "administrative requirement" done once a year, the counseling program actually functioned to develop leaders and was an effective tool. (That experience, and my time in that unit was by far the best experience I ever had in the Army).

(I contrast this experience with what happened after I transferred to the JAG Corps. The counseling program my entire time in the JAG Corps was laughable. I remember being rated against 5 Captains. The SJA asked who wanted the Trial Counsel billet- which is typically the "hottest" job for Company Grade JAGs. I stuck my hand up- my peers all demurred, saying, among other things, that they were not sure they wanted to spend the time, were not sure they wanted to stay in the Army, or had other lame excuses. I got the job, did well....and got a less stellar OER than one of my peers who had declared he wanted to resign. When I asked the SJA what was up with the ratings, he said, well, "I wanted to motivate the other Captain...I know you are going to stay and don't have a promotion board for another year, plus if I give you a great evaluation this year, I won't have any room to give you a better one next year- you will look the same over successive years, and it will help you to show improvement year over I gave him a better rating even though you did better and more work...don't worry, I will take care of you next year." My take away from that was the performance did not matter- ratings were based on BS projections of trying to position people for promotions or trying to entice lower performers to stay in. Instead of a motivating tool, the evaluations became essentially meaningless for a performance measure).

My take away is that evaluations are only as good as the raters who administer them and need to be used correctly, as a development tool, not an "event" that needs to be accomplished.
Your initial comments had me thinking about a similar situation way back in the day: new Battalion Commander fresh from the pre-command course at Rucker. He had eaten the "Blue Pill" meaning he believed in the PowerPoint Presentation as to how to rate/senior rate your officers and by golly he was going to implement it to the letter. At the time I had an additional duty as the unit Admin Officer and my "go to" guy used to be the branch chief of Warrant Officer Branch (another long story). The unit commander really meant well however against our recommendations subsequently hurt several up and comers with what he perceived as stellar OERs but in reality were really mediocre. The proof was in the pudding when he had an assignment at DA years later and was able to compare apples to apples. I am still of the belief that we have the best system in place of taking care of our own. The "system" has its faults for sure, but in the end I think we win the battle for the most part.
All interesting comments and as a senior Commissioned Officer, I had similar experiences during my Company grade and Field grade assignments while in the U.S. Army.

From my experiences, I have witnessed and been involved in several "New Army OERs" system implementations. That said, "performance" and "potential" were definitely key factors for success. But, it was dependent upon the quality of the Rater's and Senior rater's writing abilities to include how their "subjective" thinking applied within their Command during the ranking of officers for OER senior-rater profile projections.

As with all of the previous 'New Army OER" systems, the overall intent of the new Army OER will prevail for a couple of years. To that extent, throughout implementation of the new Army OER system, it shall become saturated with non-distinctive top-block OER reports. Therefore, the nominal Army "RAR" suddenly appears for implementation to give Senior raters the "subjective" opportunity to their make top-block OERs true top-block OERs within the 49% limitation. When that time arrives, it's time for the implementation of another "New Army OER" system.

Thus, possessing well-informed knowledge is truly a powerful equalizer.

Best Wishes!