SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Under pressure to trim its inflated officer ranks, the Navy announced plans Tuesday to cut down on the number of officers promoted to lieutenant commander.

Early Promote recommendation limits will remain the same, at 20 percent per category. However, the guidelines — effective with the Jan. 31, 2012, periodic evaluations — set a limit on the combined Early Promote and Must Promote recommendations to 60 percent, according to a Navy Personnel Command news release.

The change is designed to curb performance inflation and identify top performers early, the release said.

Promotions to ensign through lieutenant are automatic, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Sly, an expert in the officer selection process in administration at Sasebo. However, officers have to be selected for promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant commander.

Officers trying to make lieutenant commander receive a fitness report evaluation and, based on their scores, are placed into five categories, Sly said. Being placed in the top two categories, Early Promote and Must Promote, significantly increases the chances of a promotion. Being placed in the Early Promote category identifies officers as extremely special and can put them on a fast track, he said.

In the past, the number allowed in the Early Promote category was the same, but there was no limit on those allowed in the Must Promote category, which also made promotion more likely. Now with a limit set, those who do not rank high enough to make the Must Promote category are dropped down into the Promotable category and their chances for promotion diminish, Navy officials said.

“In view of continued force-shaping pressures, NPC proposed stricter limits in the ranking of lieutenants,” said Cmdr. Elisabeth Stephens, deputy director, Restricted Line/Staff Detailing and Special Placement Division.

Must Promote recommendations may be increased by one for each Early Promote quota not used, the release stated.

The Navy has made a number of moves this year in an effort to trim its ranks, both officer and enlisted. First, the service announced that it would force the retirement of 100 officers in the ranks of commander and captain — a number than was cut in half after scores of officers chose to retire early. Then in April, it created quota-based retention boards that will cut 3,000 jobs for sailors in grades E-4 through E-8 in 31 overmanned job ratings.

From staff reports

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