Army, Air Force want merged ‘scrolling’ process to help transition between active, reserve and guard

Two military branches and the National Guard want changes to the way officers are put into ranks to ease the burden on service members and commanders.

The Army, Air Force and National Guard want Congress’ help to change the way officers are put into their ranks in order to speed up the movement between components and to ease the burden on troops.

The current legal process for officers to be promoted or put into a rank is called scrolling. The process requires the president to formally nominate and the Senate to confirm promotions for military officers. The same process, which routinely takes several months, also applies to officers who are simply moving from a reserve component to the active duty force, even if a promotion is not involved.

The system can get annoying for commanders who want to retain officers and let them move from one component to another — something the military wants to get better at so service members can take a break from active duty if needed.

Air National Guard Director L. Scott Rice confirmed Tuesday that the Army and Air Force will ask Congress to merge the scrolling process for active, reserve and guard components.

“Let’s merge scrolling so that when I scroll an officer to be promoted, when that officer gets out of active duty and comes to the guard I don’t have to rescroll them in the same rank,” Rice said during an Air Force Association event in Washington. “I don’t want to take authority away from Congress. I just want them to do it once for an officer. My biggest problem right now is, and this really bothers me, let’s say there’s a Navy officer flying an F-16. It takes me nine months to 12 months to access that person into the Air National Guard to fly F-16s when they are current and qualified. Half of that time is scrolling.”

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said last week that she wanted to make transitions between the components more permeable.

“We need to make it easier to shift from active duty to reserve or Guard, and back to active again,” Wilson said. “People have stuff that happens in their lives. They have priorities they need to deal with: Their mom is sick or they need to throttle back for a few years. It should be easier for someone who we have put millions of dollars into training to take a little bit of a pause and then come back in.”

Rice said the Air National Guard’s scrolling process is currently faster than the Army National Guard’s purely because the Air National Guard does not oversee as many aspects of the process.

The Army’s slow scrolling has caused issues of its own. Some guardsmen are waiting nearly a year from the time they are nominated for a new rank to the time to take the government to approve it. Those guardsmen are still serving in the higher nominated rank while they wait, but getting paid at the lower rank.

“It’s a huge morale issue,” J.C. Cardinale, joint legislative programs manager at the National Guard Association of the United States told Federal News Network. “We see it in some of our retention numbers and if you poll the force it’s a huge deal. You’re doing the job, you’re sitting in the seat basically of that higher rank, but not getting the pay of the work you’re providing.”

Federal News Network reported earlier this week that the Army National Guard still does not have a directive to give troops their backpay, despite getting the authority from Congress to do so in the last defense authorization act.

“Which office do you have to talk to? Who is the approval authority? How is that request pushed all the way up to the secretary?” Cardinale said. “I don’t think a process exists yet. I’m sure they are working on one. That is the natural next step because the Army asked for the authority to do backpay and back-date-of-rank, so we just want to know how they’re looking to implement that.”

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