Secretary of the Air Force Regular Air Force Field Grade Generic Memorandum of Instructions 18 January 2023

I. Authority and Requirements

Your task is to recommend the best-qualified Air Force officers for promotion, and to ensure that all selected individuals are fully qualified for that promotion.  You must act in the best interest of the Air Force, and not in the interest of any particular command, specialty, or group.  You must consider all eligible officers regardless of promotion zone without prejudice or partiality, having in view the special fitness of the officers under consideration and the efficiency and effectiveness of the United States Air Force.  Equal opportunity is an essential element of our selection system.  Your evaluation of all officers must afford them fair and equitable consideration.

In order to encourage officers to broaden their assignments and remain competitive for increased responsibility, you shall not consider time in grade or year of commissioning in your evaluation of best qualified for promotion.

II. Considerations in Evaluating Records

You will apply the whole-person concept to assess all factors in the officer’s record that bear on promotion potential or continuation of service.  These factors include job performance, professional qualities, leadership, depth and breadth of experience, job responsibility, advanced academic and developmental education, and specific achievements.  Of these factors, given officers equally committed to Air Force values, job performance is the most important. 

You are prohibited from considering an officer's marital status, civilian employment, religion, or volunteer service activities, or any information regarding an officer’s spouse.  You are further prohibited from considering an officer’s previous decision to opt out of a promotion selection board or to participate in the Career Intermission Program.  If you see such information in the records you review, you will disregard it.  Give no weight, whatsoever, to an officer’s age.

A. Performance, Core Values, and Exemplary Conduct

I charge you with selecting officers who demonstrate commitment to integrity, service, and excellence.  An evaluation of an officer’s performance must rest on a foundation of commitment to our core values as demonstrated by an officer’s conduct.  I will only accept officers for promotion who have distinguished themselves through their job performance and who are models of exemplary conduct. You are required to deliberately review any information raising questions about departures from our core values and incidents casting doubt on an officer’s ability to set the example to lead others to live in accordance with our core values.

Officers recommended for promotion must excel in four key performance areas:

  1. Officers must execute their assigned mission.  They will have mastered their craft and accomplished assigned tasks consistently and persistently with a high degree of skill and dedication.    
  1. Officers must lead people effectively.  They will have inspired confidence in subordinates and fostered good order, discipline, teamwork, and trust.  They must foster a climate of dignity, respect, and inclusion and set the example for a culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence or unlawful discrimination of any kind.
  1. Officers must display proficiency at managing resources.  They will have been exemplary stewards of manpower, funds, equipment, facilities, and time.
  1. Officers must improve their unit.  They will have demonstrated the ability to identify needed improvements and led positive change so that the unit is better than they found it.

Excelling in these four performance areas is built on values and high professional standards, a healthy command climate, and personal conduct that is above reproach.  You will only recommend officers for promotion who are disciplined and lead by example on and off duty.

With this understanding, during your board deliberations, you may review records containing adverse information.  You should carefully weigh the adverse information against the officer’s complete record of performance and potential to serve in the next higher grade.  You should give the information appropriate weight, neither ignoring significant information nor giving excessive weight to minor infractions or to matters of slight significance.  In examining adverse information, consider its severity, repetition, timing within the officer’s career, the amount of time passed since the incident, the officer’s performance since, and the senior rater’s assessment of the officer.  These factors may indicate whether or not the officer has demonstrated the potential to serve in the next higher grade.   In particular, you should first make the judgement in each case whether the matter has served as a learning experience or is symptomatic of carelessness or character flaw, and then consider whether or not the incident should be a bar to promotion.  While we need to avoid creating the perception of a “one mistake Air Force,” you should not recommend any officers for promotion who have demonstrated through their conduct that they do not have the demonstrated potential to serve in the next higher grade.

To recommend an officer for promotion or continuation, including those who have adverse information in their records, you must find that the officer meets the needs of the Air Force consistent with the requirement of exemplary conduct set forth in Title 10, United States Code, Section 9233.    Section 9233 requires all commanding officers and others in authority in the Air Force and in the Space Force:  to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices, and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Air Force or the Space Force, respectively, all persons who are guilty of them; and to take all necessary and proper measures, under the laws, regulations, and customs of the Air Force or the Space Force, to promote and safeguard the morale, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the officers and enlisted persons under their command or charge.

B. Specific Experiences and Qualifications

I have approved career briefs for use by the boards for each core Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) and/or functional community.  The brief includes typical career progression milestones, developmental guidance, and other unique considerations.  The briefs are provided to give you a baseline understanding of the career area.  Strict adherence to career progression norms outlined in the brief is not a prerequisite for promotion.

You should take into consideration not all officers follow a common career path.  In particular, we need officers who have experience beyond their core specialty.  Career broadening assignments enhance the strength and professionalism of the officer corps, and officers with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives drive our competitive edge.  The Air Force needs officers with both professional depth in their core skills and officers with a breadth of experience that will enable effective leadership at higher levels.

Formal Instructor and Recruiting Duty.  You will evaluate the records of officers who have performed, or who are performing, instructor and recruiting special duties to build our next generation of Airmen leaders.  You should consider recruiting and developing a high-quality workforce as essential to warfighting success and many of the officers who are filling or who have filled these roles were competitively selected. While this is not a pass-fail item, officers who perform a successful instructor and/or recruiting assignment gain valuable enterprise perspective that increase their skill sets and future leadership potential.

Joint Experience.  Joint Duty Assignment experience is also an extremely important consideration for promotion for Line of the Air Force officers. The law and Department of Defense policy require the qualifications of officers assigned to joint duty be such that:

1. Officers who are serving on, or have served on, the Joint Staff or within the Office of the Secretary of Defense are expected, as a group, to be promoted at a rate not less than the rate for officers in the same grade and competitive category who are serving on, or have served on, the Service headquarters staff; and

2. Officers who hold the grade of major or above who have been designated as a Joint Qualified Officer are expected, as a group, to be promoted at a rate not less than the average rate for officers in the same grade and competitive category.

Advanced Degrees.  The unmasking of advanced degrees for consideration for promotion to Major or Lieutenant Colonel was announced last year and effective this year.  It is not the intent to make advanced degrees a requirement for promotion to these grades, and boards should not use the absence of an advanced degree as a discriminator for promotion to Major or Lieutenant Colonel.  You should consider positively technical degrees that are of value to the Air Force, especially those that directly support an officer’s career field. Officer Career Development Briefs include examples of technical degrees but should not be considered as an all-inclusive list.  Of particular significance, the DAF faces multiple competitors from vastly different cultures than our own. Degrees in fields that specifically enhance the Air Force's ability to meet these challenges should be valued by the board. 

Acquisition Workforce.  Air Force acquisition officers work in a variety of career fields leading and supporting the development, procurement, and sustainment of materiel and weapon systems vital to our Nation’s defense.  Moreover, an understanding of acquisition matters is an important quality for officers called to serve in leadership positions.  The law requires that the qualifications of commissioned officers in the acquisition workforce are such that those officers are expected, as a group, to be promoted at a rate not less than the average for the same grade and competitive category both In-the-Promotion Zone.

III. Merit-Based Reordering of the Promotion List

You shall recommend officers of particular merit, from those officers recommended for promotion in each competitive category, to be placed higher on the promotion list than seniority alone dictates. “Officers of particular merit” are those whose records contain documented performance consistently superior to the performance of others. 

You shall consider the recommended order to be the relative standing of each officer selected for promotion, as determined by board record scoring.  Your report will include a separate roster, in recommended order, of all those officers determined per the guidance above to merit higher placement on the promotion list.     

For All Competitive Categories

Together with the rest of the Department of Defense, the Air Force needs to continue to foster a culture that encourages and rewards creativity, innovation, intelligent risk-taking, and critical thinking throughout the Department.

The effectiveness and efficiency of the Air Force, and the rest of the Department of Defense enterprise, will continue to demand excellent executive management skills.  It is therefore essential that service leadership be well grounded in business practices.

To remain competitive, the Department must have members from the entire spectrum of qualified talent available in the United States.  Accordingly, the Department of Defense needs to make every effort to encourage service by individuals from all backgrounds by providing for the equal treatment and equitable consideration of all personnel considered for promotion.

Air Force personnel who have performed duty in or are performing duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region, and other areas of the world have developed or are developing combat, international partnering, and coalition-building skills that need to be retained and utilized for future application.    

Deployment information, critical language skills, and assignments in the Indo-Pacific region may be reflected in various documents in an officer’s record.  You should not make this a pass-fail item in your assessment.  There are officers who have not had the opportunity to deploy or have not been assigned to the Indo-Pacific region.  However, a successful tour in a deployed environment or assignment in the Indo-Pacific region, especially as a commander, provides insights into an officer’s potential for assuming the next higher grade.

Foreign Area Officers (FAO) directly influence our efforts to sustain coalitions, pursue regional stability, and enable security cooperation. FAOs contribute to multi-national operations through regional expertise, foreign language proficiency, cultural understanding, and political-military experience. Successful performance of FAO duties enables the Air Force to engage globally and is a significant indicator of potential for promotion.  In addition, you should consider that these officers, because of the needs of the Air Force and unique career development requirements, do not follow the traditional career progression of their peers in other AFSCs.

The United States, and specifically the Department of the Air Force, are facing foreign competitors that include the most technologically capable and well-resourced competitor we have ever confronted.  To compete with China, Russia, or other potential threats, Air and Space Force officers must have a deep expertise in emerging technologies and their applications to military operations and be able to incorporate new technology more rapidly and effectively than our competitors.  Advanced education and technical experiences in science and technology specialties including, but not limited to engineering, physics, aeronautical and aerospace disciplines, cyber security, artificial intelligence, and information operations aid in our ability to develop new capabilities and drive innovation to meet and deter these highly technical threats.

We are also confronted by multiple competitors from vastly different cultures than our own. Officers must have a deep understanding of the culture, history, motivations, doctrine, and thought processes of our potential adversaries.  You should consider that experiences and education that contribute to this understanding, develop broader cultural awareness, and enable better communication in a global operating environment are crucial underpinnings to support strategic national interests. Such expertise and associated critical thinking skills are developed from many sources and experiences, including advanced academic degree programs. 

Undergraduate and advanced academic degrees are displayed in all competitive category records being considered for all grades. However, you should not make this a pass-fail item in your assessment. The Department of the Air Force considers it essential that our officers have the knowledge and competence to accomplish the mission but will continue to value both operationally and educationally derived experience and expertise. However, completion of advanced academic education and the value of specific advanced academic degrees, like other whole-person factors, must be assessed within each developmental category in terms of how the education enhances performance and potential, and contributes to the mission and effectiveness of the Air Force.  

While Developmental Education should not be a pass-fail item in your assessment of an officer’s potential for promotion, the Air Force considers Developmental Education important and encourages its officers to complete it.  [The completion of Developmental Education, or lack thereof, will not be considered in assessing the potential of an officer until in- and above-the-promotion zone.]  In addition, because officers who are listed as a “SELECT” to attend Developmental Education in-residence have no control over when they attend Developmental Education and are also precluded from completing it by any other method, Developmental Education “SELECT” status will be given equal weight to Developmental Education “COMPLETE” status for the same level of Developmental Education.

No undue weight should be given to multiple training reports or few performance reports for officers currently enrolled or recently completing Air Force-sponsored graduate education programs.  These officers were competitively selected for these opportunities, which meet a specific Air Force requirement.

No undue weight should be given when officers have short duty histories because they entered active service with constructive credit for education or civilian experience.

For Air Operations and Special Warfare

Officers with experience in Remotely Piloted Aircraft operations possess unique skills critical to national security and to our success in today's global environment.  In addition, successful performance of Remotely Piloted Aircraft flight duties, especially under demanding, high-stress conditions, is a significant indicator of potential for promotion to the next higher grade.  Some of these officers have been required to remain in place for extended periods of time, or return prematurely from other assignments to contribute directly to combat and contingency operations.  You should consider that these officers, because of the needs of the Air Force and combatant commanders, may not have received the same development opportunities and normal career progression as their peers.]

For Health Professions

You will consider the records of officers in clinical, scientific, or functional specialties assigned to fill critical requirements in direct patient care or education and training.  Because of the needs of the Air Force, these officers may not have a traditional career path or assignments commensurate with their grade.

When considering Health Professions officers, clinical/functional skills or medical proficiency are important factors in assessing job performance.  For Health Professions promotions to the grades of major and lieutenant colonel, you must give consideration to an officer’s clinical proficiency and skill as a health professional to at least as great an extent as you give to the officer’s administrative and management skills.

For promotion to colonel only, you will consider that the professional development of Health Professions officers can emphasize progression along a path focused on executive leadership, clinical/functional proficiency, and/or academic prowess, each of which are highly valued and are important factors in professional development. 

Board certification in a career field-related professional organization is considered an important accomplishment for promotion, except for Biomedical Sciences Corps officers.

For Line of the Air Force – Combat Support

The Aerospace Physiologist (AFSC 13H) is a medical specialty which recently transitioned from the Biomedical Sciences Corps (BSC) competitive category to Line of the Air Force – Combat Support (LAF-C) in FY22.  These officers may not have received the same developmental and career progression opportunities as their LAF-C peers and will have different promotion timing, dates of rank, duty titles, and constructive service credit, and will have had limited opportunity to attend in-residence PME.  As you evaluate each officer’s record, you are to take these unique factors into consideration when assessing each officer’s promotion potential.

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