Navy leaders will be rewarding more top-notch sailors with merit-based advancements this year.

The service will take a “substantial step forward” in expanding its Meritorious Advancement Program (MAP) by giving more commands the opportunity to promote their top talent, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, head of manpower, personnel and training and education, wrote in a service-wide message released last week. The program allows leaders to identify and advance the best enlisted sailors in their commands.

Leaders took sailor feedback to ensure commands have as much latitude and flexibility as possible to promote top-performing talent, Burke wrote. The goal is for the Meritorious Advancement Program to account for one in every five promotions to E-4 through E-6 this year, according to the Navy administrative message.

“The MAP is intended to empower commanding officers (CO) and their command triads to identify and advance the most talented, experienced and proficient Sailors within their commands based on first-hand demonstrated performance and ability,” he wrote.

As part of that expansion, meritorious advancements will be split into two seasons that align with the Navy-wide advancement exam (NWAE) cycles. That way, Burke wrote, leaders will use their meritorious advancement quotas on the right people.

“This change will require command triads to select their most-qualified Sailors for MAP, without regard to the NWAE results, and does not relieve Sailors from the need to prepare and study for the technical rating information tested by the NWAE,” he said.

The first Meritorious Advancement Program season will run from March 1 through the end of April. The second starts Sept. 1 and runs through Oct. 31.

The MAP quotas will be split between those two seasons.

Just because leaders will see bigger quotas this year doesn’t mean they should promote sailors who are undeserving.

“It is important to note that the primary focus remains to recognize the most deserving Sailors; therefore, commands are encouraged to exercise their best judgment and return quotas as appropriate,” Capt. Angela Katson, branch head of Enlisted Force Shaping Plans and Policies, said in a news release about the changes. “Returning quotas will not impact allocation of future year quotas.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said last year that the Navy must offer flexible career paths that focus on leadership development to recruit and retain the best personnel.

“We’re doing some tremendous things to update and modernize our personnel system to really focus on leadership development,” Richardson said. “We’re moving from a more traditional, conveyer-belt up-or-out type of an approach toward a conditions-based, up-and-stay or up-and-return approach.

“[That provides] a lot more flexibility in terms of the options we offer our people while keeping the training and certification standards very high,” he said.

For full details on the changes, check out NAVADMIN 031/19 here.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at@ginaaharkins.

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