The New Army OER: Character Matters

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

General MacArthurA new Army Officer Evaluation Report form is on the way, and the short version of the upcoming changes is this: Character matters. According to reporting from the Northwest Guardian – a paper serving the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community, the new OER will require raters to be much more specific and detailed in assessing junior officers’ abilities and characteristics regarding character, presence and leadership ability.

“One of our attributes and competencies is character,” said Major General Richard Mustion, commander of Army Human Resources Command. “Our OER today doesn’t require (an) assessment of an officer’s character; it’s a yes or no box check.”

The new ratings system will also draw a brighter line between rater and senior rater responsibilities. The rater – the rated officer’s direct supervisor – will comment strictly on performance. The senior rater will address the officer’s long-term potential for advancement in the Army.

Army officers can expect mobile training teams from Human Resources Command to begin visiting units this summer to train officers on the philosophy and approaches behind the new rating system. HRC will also publish a training video.

The goal: Eliminate rating inflation, and force raters to make tough character assessments of their officers. Under the new system, raters will actually have to make a written evaluation of rated officers’ character, presence and intellect. Raters will also have to make a written evaluation of how a junior officer “leads, develops and achieves.” 

Army officers can also expect three different sets of forms to come out: One for company-grades and warrants, one for majors and lieutenant colonels, and one for colonels, brigadier and major generals. The OER for majors and lieutenant colonels will feature a “top ten percent” block, to identify the movers and the shakers. 

Raters will only be able to ‘top block’ 50 percent or less of the officers they rate.

Support forms will still be mandatory for captains and below, but optional for majors and above. This is significant because junior officers have long made a practice of gearing their own OER support forms to the criteria on the senior officer’s OER support form. For example, if a battalion commander’s OER support form indicates that he will be assessed on whether he achieves a goal of hitting a vehicle OR rating of 88 percent or better, the company commander will typically have a similar entry on his own OER support form. This is one way the priorities of senior commanders are communicated down the chain of command.

Similar changes are expected for NCOERs, though those changes are still in the works and will follow the officer-side rollout.

Additionally, battalion and brigade commanders will also soon undergo so-called 360-degree evaluations. That means that their subordinates will also weigh in on their ratings in a formal review process – a measure that Army Chief of Staff General Odierno has pushed in an effort to eliminate what he calls “toxic leaders.”

The measure comes in the wake of the Army’s disciplining a three-star general, LTG Patrick O’Reilly, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, for verbally harassing his subordinates and berating them in public for trivial offenses. Witnesses told Army investigators that on several occasions O’Reilly said he would “f***ing choke” them. The Inspector General report on Gen. O’Reilly, complete with salacious details on a number of incidents in which O’Reilly was reported to have screamed at, verbally abused or otherwise mistreated subordinates, is available here.


Would General Patton have survived a 360-degree rating process in the 1930s and early 1940s? Would General Douglass MacArthur? How would you change the OER system? Sound off in the comments!


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