Cover: Managing Adverse and Reportable Information Regarding General and Flag Officers

Managing Adverse and Reportable Information Regarding General and Flag Officers

Published Oct 11, 2012

by Margaret C. Harrell, William M. Hix


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Research Questions

  1. What are the current practices for considering adverse and reportable information during assignment, promotion, and retirement processes for general and flag officers?
  2. To what extent do these practices, and the data that support them, sufficiently consider adverse and reportable information, consistent with law, Department of Defense and service guidance, and Senate Armed Services Committee expectations?
  3. What steps can be taken to ensure that consistent, reliable information supports decisions regarding the management of general and flag officers?

Adverse and reportable information must be considered at the time of assignments, promotions, and retirements of senior military officers. However, the processes for doing so, as well as the offices and resources involved, differ across the services and are not well documented or well understood. This monograph describes Department of Defense and service policies and practices surrounding the identification and consideration of adverse and reportable information on senior military officers being considered for assignment, promotion, or retirement. The authors identify several potential gaps in these processes: areas where actual practice differs from the required practice or where current practice — or the supporting data — may be inadequate to consider adverse information appropriately and completely. The authors make recommendations on how to improve these processes to ensure that consistent, reliable information supports decisions regarding the management of general and flag officers.

Key Findings

Documented Guidance Is Incomplete or Requires Revision

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) instruction governing these processes (DoDI 1320.4) is supplemented by memoranda and does not provide a clear definition of reportable information.
  • The companion Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff instruction (CJCSI 1331.01D) is inconsistent with the current DoD requirements.
  • The services have their own written guidance, but no service has complete documented guidance about the assignment, promotion, and retirement processes for all general and flag officers.

The Services' Processes Differ, and There Is No Expert in the Process

  • The services' processes differ regarding the roles of the offices involved.
  • Each service's process involves many different offices and individuals in the process, but in no service is there an individual with either expert knowledge of the entire process or responsibility for the entire process.

There Are Inconsistencies in Processes and Gaps in Data Regarding Adverse Information

  • At the time of this study, the services were not consistently checking both equal opportunity (EO) and equal employment opportunity (EEO) files consistent with the requirements to identify adverse information, and the data available in the services were insufficient to conduct such checks properly.
  • Although required to do so, the services were not consistently querying the DoD Inspector General (DoD IG) files prior to O-7 selection boards.
  • The amount of information provided to promotion review boards varies widely and is sometimes lacking in detail.

DoD and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Have Different Philosophies About the Process

  • DoD defines and treats adverse information as an incident, whereas the SASC has expressed interest in the overall individual, with special emphasis on his or her judgment.
  • The DoD definition of adverse information is limited to incidents within the past ten years, whereas the SASC's is not.
  • SASC staff expressed a view that more-senior officers should endure more scrutiny, but the DoD system applies the same standards of adverse information to all officers.


  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff should update Department of Defense (DoD) and Joint Staff guidance.
  • These guidance documents should clarify the definition of reportable information and the means by which the list of reportable information will be updated and distributed to the general and flag officer management offices.
  • The services should clarify, with formal service directives or instructions, the processes by which adverse and reportable information is considered in general and flag officer personnel processes.
  • Each service should identify the individual within the service who is responsible for the entire nomination and retirement process, including the inclusion of adverse and reportable information.
  • The services should ensure that they satisfy the requirement to prescreen all officers eligible for promotion to pay grades O-7 and O-8 and that the prescreens include DoD Inspector General checks.
  • The services should provide complete investigative materials to promotion review boards.
  • Law and regulations should retain the opportunity for the services to counsel officers privately without risk of the incident being considered in a nomination.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and DoD should initiate a dialog and recognize the differences between the DoD and the SASC perspectives regarding adverse information processes, especially pertaining to levels of scrutiny and issues of individual judgment.
  • Service personnel should read the complete investigative materials of each case unless they explicitly determine the individual case does not require a complete reading.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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