The Army has made some headway in shortening the waits National Guard officers experience in getting federal recognition of their state promotions, according to a report the service sent to Congress.
Increased automation and a streamlined process have contributed to the advances, officials said. But wait times still fall short of a goal directed by Congress.
The fedrec process has been under scrutiny for over a year, following a NGAUS survey that showed nearly half of respondents waited more than 196 days. For many, the wait was more than a year. And at least one officer waited 54 months. During that time, many officers were in a duty position appropriate for the next rank, but without the actual rank or pay.
The lengthy delays drew the attention of Congress, which questioned the delays in hearings with defense leaders. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required Army and Air Force leaders to address the delays in reports to Congress. The Army report, dated November 2018, was obtained by NGAUS this week.
The Army report states that the average processing time for federal recognition of scroll lists processed to completion has been reduced from 195 days to 155 days during the 2018 fiscal year. In addition, all delayed 2017 scrolls have been approved.
“The times continue to decrease as we process through the year and we refine our processes,” the report states.
The Army’s goal is to eventually process scrolls within 100 days, “which is the Senate-directed standard” for both active- and reserve-component centralized selection scrolling actions.
According to the report, the method of preparing and approving the promotion lists had seen little change in the past several decades and was described as “inefficient, manually intensive and prone to human error.”
Last year, NGAUS obtained Defense Department data indicating that that delays had reached 293 days for some scrolls.
The Army report lists several reasons for the delays, including the implementation of a new e-Tracker system that delayed processing times, a 2015 policy that required thorough screening of records of all officers prior to nomination that added 45 to 60 days to the process and the significant increase of the processing timeline due to personnel turnover and temporary manpower shortages.
The Army reported that those temporary issues have bene resolved. The service credited a new digital task-management system and additional staff with improving the vetting and movement of critical promotion selection actions.
As NGAUS has advocated, officials have also streamlined internal Army processes to eliminate steps in the fedrec process and consolidated and simplified officer screening.
The task-management system has eliminated the need to physically move scroll packages through multiple hands, officials said, but has not fully eliminated the requirement for paper scrolls.
“It is our understanding that this requirement is tied to a Constitutional mandate, and that it may require a foundational statutory change to officer appointments to resolve,” officials said.
In all, the actions have led to a decrease of approximately 40 days in the fedrec process, officials said, with additional decreases expected.
The report also states that the services and the Defense Department are collaborating to research a software application that would fully automate the preparation, transmission and approval of officer appointment requests and their associated scrolls.