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Reference:  SECNAVINST 1400.1 (Series)
                  SECNAVINST 1412.6 (Series)
                  SECNAVINST 1412.8 (Series)
                  SECNAVINST 1420.3 (Series)​

The key to success on the job and when being considered by  promotion boards is sustained superior performance in a variety of challenging assignments -- the same criteria that got the LDO or CWO selected in the first place.  The officer who continually strives for, and achieves, outstanding performance in all assignments can expect to have a satisfying and rewarding career.

This page provides useful technical information on the promotion system.  Read it carefully and refer to it often as you progress in your officer career.  Discuss your career with your CO and other officers, including senior LDOs or CWOs, and with your detailer.  You must then make your own decisions based on all of these inputs and your personal considerations.

LDOs compete for promotions with all other LDOs in the same competitive category, regardless of designator.  LDOs are grouped into he following competitive categories:

     a.  LDO Line, consists of Surface (61XX), Submarine (62XX), Aviation (63XX), and General Line (64XX)

     b.  LDO Staff, consists of CEC (653X)

CWOs compete for promotions with all other CWOs in the same competitive category, regardless of designator.  CWOs are grouped into the following competitive categories:  Surface (71XX), Submarine (72XX/740X), Aviation (73XX), General Line/Staff (74XX/75XX) and Information Warfare (78XX).

SECNAV convening orders identify minimum vacancy shortfalls by designator, but no quotas are assigned by individual designator.  Selections may be made even though a designator is overmanned in that grade, or even if there are no billets in that grade for a particular designator.  In short, it is the selection board's responsibility to select the "best and most fully qualified" from among all eligible officers, regardless of designator, but taking into account skills and critical shortfalls when applicable.

The Chief of Naval Personnel schedules appointments of all newly selected LDOs and CWOs.  Selectees are appointed according to this schedule and a "constructive percentile number" based on the rank order of selection by the board recommending their appointment.

Approximately one year after commissioning, precedence numbers (commonly referred to as "lineal numbers") are assigned to all ensigns.  CWOs are normally assigned precedence numbers within a few months after appointment.  CWOs selected for LTJG are promoted on 1 October of the year selected and assigned new precedence numbers.  LDO and CWO precedence numbers are based on the following criteria, in descending order:

- Grade
- Date of rank
- Percentile number
- Acceptance date (if other than date of rank)
- Date of birth
- Alphabetically

One purpose of the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) of 1981 was to establish a uniform promotion system within the Department of Defense (DOD).  To comply, DOD developed certain guidelines regarding promotion "flow points."  This guidance, combined with Navy policy regarding promotion opportunity (percent opportunity for selection), form the basis for annual promotion plans.  Actual selection opportunity and flow points may vary in the annual promotion plan.


To Grade          Promotion Opportunity       Flow Point (Avg) (Yrs Comm Svc)
O-6                        40-60%                                   21-23
 O-5                       60-80%                                   15-17
 O-4                       70-90%                                   9-11
 O-3                         AFQ                                          4
 O-2                         AFQ                                          2
 CWO5                 *As announced                      *12-13 typical
 CWO4                 *As announced                             *7
 CWO3                      AFQ                                        *3
   * = CWO years time in grade
   AFQ = All Fully Qualified
   WO1 to CWO2 - Refer to SECNAVINST 1412.8 (Series)

CWO5, Lieutenant Commander, Commander and Captain are "control grades" -- the number that the Navy can have in each of these grades is set by law and cannot be exceeded.  As such, promotions into these grades are driven solely by requirements -- the fewer vacancies, the fewer promotions.  Control grade limitations directly affect flow points, described below in detail.

Limited Duty Officers assigned to off ramp designators do not compete for control grade promotions. These officers must complete requirements for re-designation into their parent RL designators.

Understanding promotion flow points and how they are derived are critical to LDO and CWO career planning.  Changes in promotion flow points can very easily determine what an officer's "terminal grade" might be at retirement.  As indicated above, control grade limitations dictate actual flow points; the individual has no control over flow point fluctuation.

A flow point is the point at which an officer is promoted to the next higher grade and is calculated from ENS date of rank for LDOs, and for CWO2 date of rank for CWOs.  Under current law, LDO LCDRs and below (including CWOs) must retire after thirty years combined enlisted and commissioned service.  However, once promoted to CDR, the maximum tenure allowed by law for an LDO is 35 years total active naval service, or twice failing of selection for promotion to CAPT, whichever occurs first.  An LDO CAPT can serve to 38 years total active naval service.  A CWO5 can serve to 33 years total active naval service.

The following illustrates an example of how a change in flow points can affect an LDO's career progression.  The example illustrated is that of an LDO with 13 years enlisted service at time of commissioning.

LDO Case #1
GRADE                                        ENS          LCDR            CDR       **      CAPT 
FLOW POINT (FROM ENS)               0              10               16                    22
TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE             13              23              29         30        35
** Mandatory retirement point for LDO LCDRs and below.

In this case, the LDO has an opportunity to make CDR before reaching 30 years total active service.  If selected and promoted to CDR, it is possible for the individual to remain on active duty to 35 years total active naval service, with an opportunity for selection to captain prior to statutory retirement after 38 years total active naval service.

LDO Case #2
GRADE                                   ENS      LCDR       CDR        CAPT
FLOW POINT                             0          11          17           N/A
TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE        13          24      **30

In case #2, the flow points increased by two years, making it likely that the LDO will reach the 30 year mandatory retirement point before being considered for CDR.  As a result, and assuming selection to each higher grade, the terminal grade changes from CAPT to LCDR.  Remember, the above examples are based on an LDO being commissioned with 13 years enlisted service and flow points within DOPMA/DOD guidelines.

The following illustrates an example of how flow points can affect a CWO's career progression.  The example illustrated is that of a CWO2 with 17 years enlisted service at time of commissioning.

CWO Case #1
GRADE                                    CWO2      CWO3      CWO4      CWO5
 FLOW POINT (FROM CWO2)        0              3             7            13
 TOTAL YEARS OF SERVICE         17            20           24            30

In this case, the CWO has an opportunity to make CWO5 before reaching 33 years of active service.  If selected and promoted to CWO5, it is possible for the individual to remain on active duty to 33 years total active naval service.

Planning for each fiscal year promotion plan begins in September and finalizes in mid-December.  Promotion zones for the upcoming fiscal year are announced annually (December) in an ALNAV with the subject of  "NOTICE OF CONVENING FY-XX PROMOTION SELECTION BOARDS".  Officers approaching selection board eligibility should make it a point to read this message to see whether or not they are in the promotion zone.

The promotion plan is initiated by the applicable officer community manager (i.e., LDO and CWO Community Manager) and is forwarded through the chain of command to the Chief of Naval Operations, and ultimately to the Secretary of the Navy for approval.  At each level, the plan is carefully reviewed to ensure that promotions meet the needs of the service and that, whenever possible, promotion opportunity and flow points conform to DOPMA/DOD guidelines.

Three principal factors combine to determine the number of authorized promotions and, therefore, the number of officers that may be placed in zone:
     a.  The number of officers authorized for that grade within a given competitive category.  Officer authorizations are adjusted yearly to reflect changes in the size and shape of the Navy.
     b.  Projected vacancies.  Projected vacancies are determined by taking the number of officers currently filling authorized billets (or selected for and awaiting promotion to that grade), minus projected losses (retirements, redesignations, reversions and promotions to the next higher grade).
     c.  Selection opportunity.  Promotion opportunity, expressed in percent, is applied to the number of authorized promotions, to determine the size of the promotion zone.

For example: If there are 63 vacancies for lieutenant commander and opportunity is 70%, the 90 most senior lieutenants in the same competitive category (regardless of designator) who have not yet been considered for promotion will be placed in zone (70% of 90 equals 63).

"Promotion zone", or "in zone", consists of those officers who have not previously been considered for promotion for the next higher grade and who are eligible for promotion by virtue of their relative seniority within their competitive category, based on lineal number, which is explained in Section 503.  The senior officer in the promotion zone is the "senior in zone", and the junior officer in that zone is the "junior in zone".  The promotion zone is the foundation of the promotion plan described above.

"Above zone" refers to those officers who have previously been considered for promotion to the next higher grade by a selection board, but were not selected.  Above zone selection opportunity is not limited by policy or law; however, each selection from above zone reduces the number that may be selected from in zone or below zone.  "Senior eligible" refers to the senior officer eligible above zone.

"Below zone" refers to those officers who are junior to the junior officer listed in zone, but who have been determined to be eligible for promotion.  Whenever possible, each officer is given two below zone or "early looks" before going "in zone" for promotion.  Promotions from below zone are restricted to no more than 10 percent of the total authorized promotions.  As in the case of above zone selections, each selection from below zone reduces the number that may be selected from the in zone or above zone eligibles.

A common misperception is that year groups have a direct bearing on promotions.  Many LDOs expect year groups to go into promotion zones as a whole, but that has not been the case for several years.  A year group is simply a convenient way to refer to officers with original dates of rank in the same fiscal year.

As indicated above, officers are placed in promotion zones based on vacancies and their relative seniority, instead of by year group.  One of the community manager's top priorities is to maintain flow points and percent of opportunity within certain guidelines.

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