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The number of career officers who are joint service qualified, and thus more competitive for promotion, will rise sharply under a new Joint Qualification System (JQS) that the services will begin to implement Oct. 1.

The current list of almost 5,400 designated Joint Specialty Officers (JSO) in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines Corps could climb by at least a 1,000 over the next year, officials estimate.

The prized designator of JSO also will be changing this October to JQO, for Joint Qualified Officer.

One factor driving the overhaul of joint officer management are complaints from many officers that their “real world” experiences, particularly since 9/11, are ignored by joint qualification rules set by the Goldwater-Nichols Act before the Cold War ended.

Goldwater-Nichols “was on target” in 1986 in setting requirements to ensure that officers, by the time they reach flag rank, are educated and experienced in joint operations, said Navy Rear Adm. Donna L. Crisp, director for manpower and personnel on the Joint Staff. But all of the services have become expeditionary forces since 9/11 and are operating more jointly today than the architects of Goldwater-Nichols had envisioned, Crisp said.

“We train together. We do exercises together. We do joint combat operations. We do joint non-combat and humanitarian missions together. Whether our missions are global or whether our missions are here, such as Task Force Katrina, we are together as one joint force,” Crisp said.

As a result, the services need more tools and flexibility to ensure that their officers get proper credit for any and all joint experiences.

“To recognize the way we were using these officers and their talents, we needed to expand Goldwater-Nichols,” said Sheila M. Earle, a director in the office of deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy.

The new system will give thousand officers involved with contingency operations — including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief missions at home or abroad and joint task forces — more opportunity to gain joint duty credit.

The credits will be gathered retroactively, too. Active-duty officers will be able to ask their services to apply joint credit on to duty and experiences back to Sept. 11, 2001, the start the global war on terrorism.

For the first time, joint credits also will be tallied for Reserve component officers. These officers will be able to look back even farther, to the enactment of Goldwater-Nichols in 1986, to find assignments, education and training that might be counted toward joint qualification.

Two more reasons why the number of joint qualified officers will rise are:

A requirement that officers obtain joint military education and then joint duty experience in a specific sequence no longer will be mandatory;

The definition of “joint matters” will expand to include the “information environment” as well as air, sea or land missions, and tours served with other U.S. departments or agencies, with military forces of other countries and with non-government persons and or entities such as the American Red Cross.

The look-back to 9/11 for active officers to gain credit for joint experiences could improve competitiveness for future promotions but the credits will not be allowed to influence past selection board decisions.

“We don’t plan on having officers come back in and say, ‘Had I had that years ago, I would have been more competitive,’ ” said Navy Rear Adm. Donna L. Crisp, director for manpower and personnel on the Joint Staff.

Congress included broad authority to reform joint officer management in last year’s defense authorization act at the urging of Defense officials. Crisp and Earle worked on an implementation for months, coordinating with the Joint Chiefs, Defense officials and combatant commanders.

In October, the services will begin to implement the changes, including a new dual track system for accumulating joint credit, Earle explained.

On the traditional track, set by Goldwater-Nichols, officers will continue to work toward joint qualification through a combination of joint professional military education and completion of designated joint duty assignments. But the services also will open an “experience path” to award credit toward the JQO designator. Officers will be able to go back and forth between tracks so they gain joint experience more flexibly.

Intensity of joint experience will be measured. Officers engaged in joint combat, for example, will accumulate more points toward joint qualification than officers doing joint staff work.

Currently, to gain a joint designator, an officer must be assigned to one of 10,000 billets on the Joint Duty Assignment List for at least a 10-month tour. If reassigned early, no credit accrues, though waivers are granted. Earle and Crisp gave other examples of officers who had robust “real-world” joint experiences but came away with no joint duty credit. The new system will count all such experiences toward a JQO designator.

An individual’s joint duty progress will be tracked at four levels, the first to start as soon as an officer is commissioned, a signal that acquiring joint duty credits should be a careerlong endeavor, officials said.

The services will be announcing full details on how they will implement the new system for their officers including steps to obtain retroactive credits.

An advantage of the new JQS for combatant commanders will be better information on joint backgrounds of active and reserve officers, a plus when teams of experts are needed for new challenges, Crisp said.

After Sept. 30, 2008, no active officer will be promoted to flag rank (O-7) without a JQO designator. The requirement, said Crisp, is energizing the services to get their officers into joint duty assignments and education.

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