MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, YUMA, Ariz. --
After late and inaccurate fitness reports topped the list of issues sergeants major said are plaguing the Corps, the commandant recently told officers to fix the trend that has already changed the shape of future leadership.
In an Oct. 7 letter to Marine leaders, Gen. James T. Conway stated that 52 percent of fitness reports over the past year were submitted more than 30 days late, while 10 percent were more than four months tardy.
"These numbers are unacceptable by all standards," wrote Conway in White Letter 6-08.
According to Conway, between Aug. 1, 2007, and July 31, more than 184,500 reports were processed by the Manpower and Reserve Affairs department in Quantico, Va. Of those, 95,369 were at least a month late.
The order governing the Corps' Performance Evaluation System, Marine Corps Order P1610.7F, allows a 30-day buffer between the end of a Marines' reporting period and the deadline for a fitness report to be submitted.
Conway further illustrated the effect late reports played on promotions. During the recent staff sergeant selection board, 1,384 fitness reports on eligible sergeants were received after the board already convened.
"These numbers are striking and have undoubtedly impacted many Marines' potential to be competitive," he said.
Annual fitness reporting periods are directly linked to promotion selection boards, the majority of which convene 90 days after the reporting period ends.
Where the bottleneck occurs, the letter didn't say. According to the order, each Marine being reported on should submit a summary of accomplishments to his reporting senior prior to the end of a reporting period.
The reporting senior, which is the officer or civilian who evaluates the Marine, is responsible for completing the report and submitting it to his reviewing officer "in a timely manner in order to comply with the time constraint."
The reviewing officer acts as quality control. According the order, the officer must "ensure the accuracy and timely submission of fitness reports and take corrective action to eliminate inflated and/or late fitness report submission."
The problem isn't the system, said Conway.
"Despite the high operational tempo, there is no reason for fitness reports to arrive at (Headquarters Marine Corps) late," said Conway.
After a fitness report is submitted to Quantico, it is normally processed within a few hours, the commandant said. Additionally, several tools are provided through the M&RA Web site allowing officials to track the status of their Marines' reports. Individual Marines can also view a complete inventory of all the fitness reports submitted throughout their career.
Conway also warned that HQMC will send correspondence to reporting officials and their chain of command "indentifying their failure to properly complete this essential duty."
"Even one Marine failing selection to the next higher grade due to reporting senior or reviewing officer oversight is one too many," Conway said.
For more information, visit the M&RA Web site at https://www.manpower.usmc.mil.
"Fitness reports play a critical role in shaping our future leadership," said Conway. "As leaders, we need to review unit standing operating procedures and adherence to the Performance Evaluation System, keeping in mind the impact of late fitness reports—not only on the careers of our Marines, but on the institution as a whole."