By law, the Navys promotion system is
vacancy-driven. Annually, promotion planners on
the CNOs staff develop plans to determine the
projected need (or vacancies) for officers in each
grade within each of the competitive categories.
The development of these plans starts the promo-
tion system cycle, within which are three major
elements: promotion opportunity, selection for
promotion, and promotion.
Obviously, all officers cant reach the
top of the pyramid. However, they all have
the same promotion opportunity as their
contemporaries in their competitive category.
Promotion opportunity is the product of three
factors: authorized officer strength, promotion
flow point, and promotion percentage.
The Navys authorized officer strength is the
total number of officers authorized to be in the
Navy at the end of each fiscal year. Since the
authorized officer strength sets a limit on how
many officers the Navy may have each year, it
affects the number of promotions that can be
Promotion flow point is a predetermined
number of years of commissioned service at
which most officers would be promoted to the
next higher grade. The first step in promotion
opportunity is based on how many vacancies are
expected in each grade in each competitive
category. This step determines the size of the selec-
tion zone, commonly referred to as in zone.
If the CNOs promotion planners foresee a need
to fill 300 captain vacancies in the unrestricted line
(URL) and a promotion opportunity of 50 per-
cent is desired, then the zone must include 600
SELECTION FOR PROMOTION
Annually, SECNAV convenes promotion
boards for each competitive category to select
active-duty officers and inactive-duty Reserve
officers for promotion. They are selected for
promotions to the grades of chief warrant
officer (CWO-3), chief warrant officer (CWO-4),
lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander,
captain, rear admiral (lower), and rear admiral
(upper). Chief warrant officer (CWO-2) and
ensign are commissioning grades; commanding
officers determine the promotion of officers
under their command to lieutenant junior grade.
Officers above the grade of captain are appointed,
not promoted, by the President of the United
States to the grade of admiral and vice admiral.
Selection boards are composed of officers
characterized by their high quality of perform-
ance, maturity, judgment, naval background, and
experience. SECNAV normally assigns the senior
member as president of the board. Each member
subscribes to an oath to consider all eligible
officers without partiality and to recommend for
promotion only those officers who are best
The board cannot exceed the number of selec-
tions provided for in SECNAVs precept. For
example, if 100 officers are in zone and SECNAV
requires a 70 percent promotion percentage, the
board cannot select more than 70 officers for
promotion. It may reach below zone and
choose for early promotion up to 10 percent (or
15 percent with SECDEF approval) of the total
number of officers selected. If, in the above
example, the board selects 10 officers from below
zone, it can select only 60 officers from in zone.
(Each officer normally gets two looks from
below zone before entering in zone.) The board
also may select above zone officers; that is,
those who were considered by a promotion board
in a previous year but werent selected.
Once the board concludes its deliberations and
assembles its promotion list, several events must
occur in the following order before an officer
actually gets promoted to the next higher grade:
Chief of Naval Personnel, Judge Advocate
General, and Chief of Naval Operations
review the list.
SECNAV reviews the list.
SECNAV publishes the list for chief
warrant officer, lieutenant, lieutenant
commander, commander, and captain in
an ALNAV (all Navy) message. The
ALNAV message lists the names of
selectees in alphabetical order and shows
an officers relative seniority among
selectees within each competitive category.
Officers in the same competitive category
maintain relative seniority throughout their
careers. Changes occur only if an officer
is selected for early promotion or fails to
be selected for promotion.