Officer promotions receive overhaul in 2020

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lawrence Sena
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Team Fairchild hosted an officer’s all-call to address coming officer development policy changes Jan. 28, at the Red Morgan Center.

Topics discussed during the all-call included developmental category configuration for different core specialties, promotion zones, promotion recommendation forms and annual officer performance reports.

The first change addressed was the restructuring of developmental categories, effective Oct. 19, 2019, aligning officers to compete against others with similar mission impact. These new categories include Air Operations and Special Warfare, Space Operations, Nuclear and Missile Operations, Information Warfare, Combat Support and Force Modernization.

“Previously, officers from over 40 different core specialties would compete against one another for promotion,” said Col. Derek Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “With the new system in place, there is a greater opportunity to develop even more exceptional leaders within our Air Force.”

For more information on what core specialties fall into which category, visit

The Air Force will also transition from the current “below-the-zone” policy to a more merit-based system that allows officers promoting to major, lieutenant colonel and colonel of a certain merit to be placed higher on the promotion list. Currently, only officers promoting to the rank of lieutenant colonel or colonel could promote one or two years sooner than their peers if declared “below-the-zone.”

“What we have found with the current ‘below-the-zone’ policy is that our officers are placed on a fast track in their development, resulting in a reduction of critical development time for our leaders,” Salmi said. “What we are looking to transition into is a five-year zone, allowing our officers a five-year window to promote at the front, middle or end of that window based on their performance. This will provide more time for our leaders to gain the leadership experience they would otherwise miss in the ‘below-the-zone’ policy.”

Promotion recommendation forms are also set to undergo changes with a refocus on candidate’s potential to serve in the next-higher grade and enhancing raters’ voices to promotion boards. Areas of focus for promotion selection will shift to the officer’s experience, capabilities, character, competence and performance.

The Air Force is also looking toward re-hauling annual officer performance reports in the future.

In a previous article speaking on the new changes, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said, “We believe maximizing the development of all Airmen is about having the right education, training and experiences. Our goal through these efforts, and others, is to unleash the capabilities of our people to be ready for tomorrow’s fight.”

With the changes to officer promotions, Team Fairchild’s leaders continue moving forward to build a modern mobility force ensuring the delivery of strength and hope now, and in the future.