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Research Questions

  1. What are the statutory and archival requirements for appointment scrolls?
  2. What are the military department and OSD processes used to meet these requirements?
  3. Which gaps and redundancies in the scrolling process create excessive administrative burdens and delays?
  4. What improvements could increase the efficiency of processes to produce nomination, appointment, and promotion scrolls?

Appointment scrolls are required for initial appointment of officers and for reappointment in a different grade, military service, or component. In some cases, they are necessary for appointment to a special branch or segment of a service's officer corps. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) processes over 2,500 appointment and promotion packages per year, and many require rework to correct administrative errors and incorrect information. Even without rework, the appointment and promotion scrolling process takes time, affecting the assignment timelines of officers needed in new capacities that require reappointment. The Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness seeks to reduce the time needed to process appointments and the incidence of administrative errors, which result in time lost, administrative costs, and processing delays.

In this report, researchers evaluate the requirements for creating appointment scrolls, examine the highly varying processes used to meet these requirements, identify problems in the scrolling process that create delays for both the services and OSD, and recommend improvements to increase efficiency. In addition, they examine Title 10 of the U.S. Code and other related statutes to identify changes needed to appoint officers within a military service rather than within a component of a military service.

Key Findings

Scrolling requires inputs from and interactions between multiple stakeholders

  • Both the original appointment and promotion scrolling processes for each of the services require interaction among several offices, including accession sources, personnel management offices or commands, and action officers.

Current data systems are diverse — and limit efficiency

  • Each service has developed its own data systems to manage its internal scrolling processes. Some services use commercial off-the-shelf systems; the Air Force has built on a system designed for a different purpose.
  • The General and Flag Officer Decision Support System (DSS) is limited in its functionality as a platform for the Office of Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management to provide feedback and information to the services on scrolling issues.

Certain errors take more time to correct than others

  • Some errors in scrolling, such as misspelled names and header paragraph errors, are relatively easy to address.
  • Other problems, such as late submissions, can cause significant administrative burden.


  • Providing more-complete feedback to the military departments on the types and frequencies of errors would increase accountability.
  • Increasing automation through error-avoiding and error-trapping rules would decrease opportunity for error.
  • Eliminating rescrolling requirements when moving between regular and reserve components or between certain branches or corps within a service and eliminating unnecessary distinctions in scroll headers (such as those that currently require separate scrolls for officers, enlisted members, and civilians) would streamline the scrolling process.
  • These approaches could be implemented to some extent using the current DSS. However, an improved DSS could allow database searches by individual, operate directly with service-level systems, and enable real-time feedback.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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