Officer Promotion System Gets a Make-Over

MilitaryTimes is reporting Congress is expected to authorize much greater flexibility in the Officer promotion system.

Specifically, the changes would include:
  • Ending some of the up-or-out rules that force officers to leave military service if they fail to be promoted along rigid timelines.

  • Allowing for mid-career civilians with high-demand skills to enter the military up to the rank of O-6.

  • Allowing promotion boards to move high-performing officers higher on the promotion list regardless of their time in service.

  • Allowing service secretaries to create “an alternative promotion process” for specific career fields.

None of this is mandatory, but it will give the services more options for Officer Personnel Management.

We will have to wait and see if application of the new latitude will be for good or evil.

“Manual Health Records Put Coast Guard Personnel at Risk”–GAO

The Federal Times is reporting that a GAO study found that two years after a failed $59.9M effort to produce an Electronic Health Record system,

“…the service continues to rely on a paper management system. That poses serious risks for personnel, a new Government Accountability Office report argues.

“According to the report, Coast Guard regional managers and clinic and sick bay administrators warned the GAO they are “unable to adequately track vital information such as medications,” which puts personnel at risk of medical complications.”

I will just note that, I have Kaiser, and they already have an excellent Electronic Health Record system. Maybe we could use theirs.

Does DOD have a system, maybe we could use theirs.

MEDICAL DOCUMENTATION OF ASBESTOS AND LEAD EXPOSURES ON COAST GUARD CUTTERS CONSTRUCTED PRIOR TO 1991

The Coast Guard is directing the documentation of possible exposure to asbestos and lead on ships that were built before 1991, which of course means most of them.

HEALTH, SAFETY AND WORK-LIFE SERVICE CENTER TECHNICAL DIRECTIVE 2017-009, HSWLSCTD 2017-009 14 December 2017

This TD applies to all Coast Guard members currently and previously assigned to CG cutters that were constructed prior to 1991. Documentation is for the purpose of identifying potential exposure to low levels of asbestos and lead below the Medical Surveillance Action Level (MSAL) required for enrollment into OMSEP. Medical documentation of these exposures may facilitate the processing of future Veterans Administration disability claims.

This is primarily aimed at active duty personnel, but an entry on the Coast Guard Retired Facebook page indicates an intention to also document possible exposure of those no longer on active duty.

New Coast Guard Officer Evals Don’t Go Far Enough–USNI

US Naval Institute has a discussion about how the new officer evaluation report (OER) might be improved.

This was always my least favorite part of being in the service. Frequently it seemed if you were honest and followed the instructions, it was the kiss of death–damning with faint praise.

Ultimately I came to believe we would be best served if the evaluation was a simple choice of three check boxes.

___ Make this officer Commandant

___ Does OK

___ Fire the SOB

Possible Checks/Alternatives to BMI as Weight Standard

I have to say I screwed up. I didn’t look up the current instruction before writing this.

The current instruction is COMDTINST M1020.8H “COAST GUARD WEIGHT AND BODY FAT STANDARDS PROGRAM MANUAL.” change 1, dated 17 April, 2015.

The current standards go beyond BMI and are more exhaustive than my suggestions.

1. General. Coast Guard body fat standards are mandated by reference (a), which states: “All the DoD components shall measure body fat using only the circumference-based method with one set of measurements (males: height, neck circumference, and abdominal circumference at the naval; females: height, neck circumference, waist circumference at the thinnest portion of the abdomen, and hips). This standardization avoids unnecessary confusion and perceptions of unfairness between services. No substitute methods of assessment are permitted.”
2. Standards for Separation. All members who exceed both their maximum allowable body fat (MABF) percentage by more than eight percent and exceed their maximum screening weight by more than 35 pounds are subject to separation. Screening weights and MABF percentages are listed in enclosure (1)

My original post is below.

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Last October I wrote a post about why Body Mass Index (BMI) should not be used as a sufficient indicator of excess weight for the service to forcibly discharge an individual, because it does not differentiate between fat and muscle, and because it unfairly penalizes taller people.

I related how it resulted in the discharge of a very fit petty officer whose only crime was that he had spent too much time in the gym building muscle mass.

BMI has only one overriding advantage–it is easy to determine.

Recently found this article, “Calling BS on BMI: How Can We Tell How Fat We Are?” which provides two simple and quick alternatives that, in fact, reflect fat content rather than simply weight.

  • “For adults, Laursen suggests getting out a tape measure. Measure your circumference at your belly button. If your waist circumference is half your height or less, you are at a healthy fat level, if you are over that number, your fat could put you at risk for ill health.
  • “If you want something even simpler, look at your hip to waist ratio. It’s something even a doctor could eyeball quickly. “If the waist is bigger than the hips, it tells me that the risk carried with that weight is much higher for that person for premature death,” Lopez-Jimenez said.”

These two tests, which might be used in combination, give a better indication of fat content (and fat, particularly belly fat, is really what we should be concerned with) than BMI. Additionally it insures that the individual will look reasonably “military” in uniform, something BMI does not do.

If we consider meeting these two criteria sufficient, BMI would no longer useful for setting upper weight limits. Lower limits perhaps, but I believe there are better standards for that as well.