The Army’s latest guidance on junior noncommissioned officer promotions, signed by Army secretary Mark W. Esper on December 7, is a game-changer, seemingly starting off an “up or out” policy in the middle of a growth period for the rest of the service.
Army Directive 2017-28, titled “Sergeant and Staff Sergeant Promotion Recommended List,” appears to place the burden on company-level officers and NCOs to develop their youngest leaders and make them ready for a promotion board appearance as soon as they reach the primary zone for promotion. If the board recommends the soldier, they’ll be integrated into their respective promotion list. If not, they will be potentially barred from continued service.
The directive also does away with the controversial Command List Integration (CLI) program, where troops who were in the primary zone for promotion with a certain amount of time in that grade were automatically integrated onto the promotion list with a minimum number of promotion points. The Army is not only changing the name – from CLI to “mandatory list integration” – but is changing the requirements.
Soldiers added to the promotion list through the MLI will compete for promotion with all the promotion points they have earned through military and civilian education, awards, and soldier-focused tasks like PT tests, rifle marksmanship, and the like.
Some of the changes also impact commanders. Beginning in May, commanders no longer have the ability to deny integration onto the promotion list. The directive now orders commanders to use the Bar to Continued Service as an administrative tool to identify soldiers with little or no potential for continued service or leadership. The bar must include counseling that gives the soldier solid guidance on areas to improve – and if those improvements are made, soldiers can compete for promotion with all of their points. If they don’t improve, they will not be allowed to reenlist.
Although much of the onus falls on local commanders, big Army has its own part to play in this new policy. Once the policy is in effect, officials will place a HQDA Bar to Continued Service on troops who don’t complete their Structured Self Development (SSD) requirement prior to entering the primary zone for promotion. According to the memo, the Bar “puts a Soldier on notice that his or her continued service may not be in the Army’s best interest.”
Once “on notice,” commanders will have the option to separate soldiers involuntarily after a year if they have not yet qualified themselves for a board appearance after being eligible for MLI.
“These changes will enhance Army readiness by aligning individual capabilities with the Army’s needs while optimizing human performance and engagement,” Army secretary Esper wites. “The changes recognize and capitalize on the unique talents every member of the Army team possesses and employs each member to maximum effect.”
USAWTFM has reached out to senior Army leaders for comment. This story will be updated with new information as we get it.
Jay Springer is a reporter and the Editor in Chief for the USAWTFM! online publication
In its 36-year history, it has trained some of the most talented young musicians in the country, performed for the Queen's diamond jubilee and wowed audiences across the land. But the National Children's Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) has been plunged into disharmony over allegations that its management has pushed through damaging changes without consulting parents and staff.
Thousands of people have backed a revolt against David Leakey, the former British military commander who serves as the Queen's representative in Parliament, where he is known as Black Rod.
In an increasingly bitter row, more than 2,000 names have been added to a petition set up by "OurNCO", which describes itself as a concerned group of parents, volunteers, music and social staff, former pupils and funders and is campaigning to oust Leakey and other trustees.
Vivienne Price, the former music teacher who founded the NCO in 1978 and who claims to have been sidelined by Leakey and other board members, says there has been a chronic failure of governance at the NCO. "I am saddened almost beyond words that a small number of trustees have abandoned respect and consensus and have recklessly driven NCO to such a terrible situation."
The campaign alleges Leakey and an "inner board" among the board of trustees have pressed ahead with a programme of radical change without mandate and consultation with the wider organisation. "For several years, we have tried patiently and reasonably to address the causes of growing anger and distress within the NCO, but those few trustees will not listen to anyone," said Price. "The musicians, staff, volunteers, parents who have made us what we are have been ignored, criticised and bullied. I have been excluded from board decisions. Extraordinary spending decisions have been made behind closed doors."
She added: "Dissent from board decisions is not tolerated. Trustees attend concerts behind roped off 'VIP' areas."Communication and co-operation, harnessing the efforts and goodwill of the many, have given way to secrecy, discipline and rule by the few."
Most controversial of all are plans to move its headquarters from Somerset to Birmingham, which are viewed as a cover for a reduction in existing staff.
A spokesperson from the National Children's Orchestra said that the board and trustees were leaving Somerset to move closer to musical organisations of national and international renown so that it could share resources, raise its profile and reach more children. It said it was acting in the long term best interests of the charity. Leakey's management style, which was described by critics as "dictatorial", has aroused particular anger from the campaign, which also alleges that hard, painstakingly raised funds have been squandered on hiring a new managing director rather than supporting the core work of the NCO with children. The NCO rejects the accusations.
Price, a music teacher who saw the need for talented children aged under 14 to have their own symphony orchestra, established the NCO in her front room. It has been credited with starting a life-long love of music in thousands of children and launching the professional careers of some of Britain's finest musicians, such as Nicola Benedetti, who has backed the campaign.
The NCO brings together hundreds of seven to 13-year-olds from across Britain, running courses and operating five national age-banded orchestras as well as a number of regional ones.
When asked about the grievances and Leakey's allegedly dictatorial style, a spokesperson from the NCO said that the board and trustees had sought extensive feedback in the past six months from staff, parents and stakeholders to consult on plans to relocate to Birmingham. "The NCO will be leaving a location where we work in isolation on an industrial park in Weston-super-Mare, to move close to musical organisations of national and international renown, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham Town Hall/Symphony Hall," she added.
"Being based at the heart of a thriving arts and cultural environment will enable us to share a pool of resources and seek new opportunities through a wider network and raised profile. Being more visible to funding agencies, closer to a range of transport networks and with easy access to many major regional centres will enable us to reach more children each year."
"The board and trustees of the NCO strongly refute any allegations that they have made any decisions that are not in the best interests of the charity for its longer term success."
But parents of children who have played with the NCO and others including former workers have left comments on a Change.org online petition alleging that the trustees are not acting in accordance with the organisation's founding principles. Among them was Ian Johnson, from Reading, whose two daughters have played with the NCO and who has worked for it as a volunteer. "The original objectives of the NCO seem to be being lost. What set it apart was that it really was a family environment. You knew your children would be well looked after and really helped to achieve," he said. "That ethos was built up over many years., but the fact is that you now have people on the board of trustees who elect themselves, are answerable to no one and make decisions behind closed doors."
Another, David Bastin, from Gloucester, said he believed that the NCO was losing its soul. "I have been associated with NCO for the best part of 30 years as parent, social staff and course manager. I find it extraordinary that such a wonderful organisation which gave our two daughters such a valuable musical and social experience that helped to launch them on their respective musical careers, is being run at trustee level by seemingly mostly non-musicians."