CDR John Laney / LTJG Ben Capaldi
In his U.S. Naval Institute article entitled “FitReps: We Are What We Measure,” Captain Jim Raimondo, the director of the Navy’s office of talent optimization, calls the current FitRep “woefully inadequate” for evaluating and mentoring officers. The current format doesn’t help promotion boards recognize potential or provide meaningful feedback, and it takes so long to write that reporting seniors delegate it to the officer being evaluated. For these reasons, the call has gone out to collaborate on a better tool for the Navy to, in the words of Captain Raimondo, “identify, assess, manage, and promote” its best officers.
At its core, a FitRep should accomplish two separate functions for two different audiences: provide coaching feedback to the service member and evaluate performance for a service record. The feedback function is only for the officer being evaluated. She should walk away from her FitRep counseling with an honest performance assessment which should stay only between her and her reporting senior. The evaluation function’s target audience is the Navy, which relies on the FitRep for administrative and statutory boards. The following proposed changes to the FitRep format are an attempt to address these two imperatives.
The format follows this logic by consisting of two pages, which can easily be rendered as online forms. The first page is intended as an honest periodic coaching. It is designed to provide feedback to the individual being counseled so only the reporting senior and the officer will have access to this page. This confidentiality will ameliorate any fear that critical feedback will adversely affect the career of the individual. On this page, the reporting senior will have the opportunity to provide a quantitative and honest measure of the individual’s performance across performance traits, similar to the format of blocks 33-39 on the current FitRep. Also, this page will include an eighteen-line text block resembling today’s block 41, which will enable the reporting senior to provide more detailed areas of strength and weaknesses.
The second page satisfies the evaluation function of the FitRep and will therefore be included in a service member’s official record. This page includes two sections for evaluating the individual against his peers on a scale from “below standards” to “greatly exceed standards.” The first of these sections is for evaluating the officer’s performance in her current role, while the second is for evaluating her aptitude for promotion. Her potential, which the current FitRep format doesn’t adequately address, will best be captured in this aptitude section.
Also on the second page is a text block with a unique purpose: to provide the promotion board with information about any unique skills and traits that the officer possesses as well as a recommendation for follow-on service, similar to the current block 40. Much smaller than the text block on the first page, this block allows a maximum of four lines of text and will be written by the rater; not the service member.
Lastly, just like in the current system, the bottom of the second page contains blocks for the summary and individual trait average as well as the signatures of the reporting senior and officer, like blocks 42, 43, 45, and 46 in the existing FitRep. This preserves the sections of the current FitRep that carry the most weight with promotion boards, but it cuts down on extraneous information.
All parties will be better served by the proposed FitRep tool. Reporting seniors will be able to provide honest and insightful feedback without worrying about their every word being parsed by a promotion board, freeing them to focus on officers’ professional development. Additionally, it enables them to spotlight the unique qualities of officers, which will help match talent with future assignments. Finally, promotion boards will retain the forced distribution ranking information they rely on with an added metric to gauge the officer’s potential, without the extraneous information present in the current format. This new FitRep, easily accessible online and coupled with training on how to best utilize it will equip the Navy to better develop and retain its best officers.