WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Air Force officials announced a series of sweeping changes to the Enlisted Evaluation System and Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) July 31.
The changes are intended to ensure the Air Force truly makes job performance the driving factor and will be implemented incrementally beginning in August 2014 and continuing through early 2016. Additional information and in-depth articles will be made available for each of the major program changes, prior to implementation, ensuring Airmen are knowledgeable of and ready for the changes.
“What gets measured gets done,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “We want to make sure performance is the most important thing in every aspect of an Airman’s career, so the evaluation process is going to measure performance, and the promotion system is going to emphasize performance.”
Weighted Airman Promotion System
To do this, the Air Force plans to make several modifications to the Weighted Airman Promotion System. The current WAPS calculation using the last five enlisted performance reports (EPR) will be replaced by a model using a maximum of the last three EPRs, placing increased emphasis on an Airman’s most recent duty performance. Overall EPR points for WAPS will increase while time-in-grade and time-in-service points will be reduced gradually over the next few years with the goal to remove them completely. Analysis at the end of each cycle will determine if there are any unintended consequences from these changes.
This same model will be applied to the first phase of a new master sergeant promotion process scheduled for implementation next year. Airmen will complete their WAPS testing and have their test scores combined with their other weighted factors, which include EPRs, decorations, time-in-grade and time-in-service points — until the latter two are eliminated over the next few years. The top 60 percent of Airmen, by WAPS score within each Air Force specialty code, will move forward to the second phase, where their records will meet an evaluation board similar to the boards currently in place for our senior NCO promotions.
Enlisted Evaluation System
In addition to WAPS changes, Airmen will see new EPRs and new processes for completing those reports. The Airman Comprehensive Assessment introduced in July built the foundation for these changes by providing a tool and process to improve communication between supervisors and subordinates. Three new EPR forms, which closely parallel the ACA, will be introduced for chief master sergeants, senior NCOs and technical sergeants and below. The latter two EPR forms will also include a section for promotion recommendations.
“The purpose of the enlisted evaluation system is to accurately document duty performance so we can have honest performance-based discussions with our Airmen,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III. “Unfortunately, over time the system has become inflated and a great majority of Airmen have become a ‘firewall five,’ which makes it very difficult to differentiate our very best performers.”
Chief master sergeant evaluations will now be accomplished on a unique EPR form intended to capture overall performance and provide the opportunity to recommend chiefs for future roles. The new form will also serve as the senior rater’s process to nominate chief master sergeants for the Air Force’s Command Chief Screening Board, replacing the current nomination process. Initially, the Chief EPR will be a test form and used only for this year’s Command Chief screening board to be held in September, with full implementation in 2015.
To complement the new forms, the Air Force will also modify Enlisted Evaluation System policy. Static, or fixed, annual closeout dates for each rank tied to active-duty promotion eligibility cut-off dates will be introduced for all Airmen starting this November. The Air Reserve Components will follow the same static cutoff dates as active-duty personnel but will implement changes over the next 30 months due to biennial reporting requirements. This will eliminate the need for “change of reporting official” evaluations which will be replaced by letters of evaluation.
The static closeout dates also support new forced distribution and senior rater stratification restrictions. For technical sergeants and below, forced distribution will limit the number of top promotion recommendations a unit commander is authorized to give to promotion eligible Airmen; those not eligible for promotion will receive an assessment of performance without a promotion recommendation. For senior NCOs, stratification restrictions will limit the number of stratifications a senior rater may give to their master sergeant and senior master sergeant promotion eligible populations. These changes will help curb inflation and ensure accurate assessments by comparing, and ranking, an entire group of Airmen, by grade, at a single point in time.
New active-duty promotion eligibility cut-off dates for promotions to master sergeant and technical sergeant along with changes to the testing windows for those testing for promotion to master sergeant will occur this fall to support the new master sergeant promotion process and the new forced distribution requirements.
“This is the most comprehensive update to enlisted evaluations and promotions in nearly 45 years,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody. “Our enlisted leaders have worked closely with the Air Staff and (major command) commanders to design a system that truly recognizes and rewards Airmen based firmly on their performance.”
While WAPS and its forthcoming changes are exclusive to the active-duty component, the enlisted evaluation system changes are a total force initiative and will be incorporated into the Reserve and Guard components.
Additional information and in-depth articles on each of the major changes will be released prior to each program’s implementation.