Happy Anniversary, NAVFIT98

in Props

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to begin. I want to take a moment to recognize our favorite software, NAVFIT98, the Navy’s truly unique program for creating individual performance evaluations (definitely NOT something a fillable PDF form could do!). I’ll let you guess what ‘98’ stands for. Yes, that’s right! 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of this revolutionary software’s release (and 22 years since it was developed). While so many unstable, “flash-in-the-pan” computer programs, like Windows and iTunes, have undergone update after update, NAVFIT98 has barely changed during its dominant 20-year run. The one update that added front page and back page tabs really was gutsy, but man, oh man, did it pay off in enhanced user experience. Well played!

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of this achievement, I’ve compiled a list of things that happened after the Navy started using NAVFIT98 to document individual performance:

  • I got a driver’s license
  • Most of my sailors were born
  • We started a war in Afghanistan
  • Napster was conceived, released, sued, shut down, filed bankruptcy, acquired by Best Buy, merged with Rhapsody, and then rebranded back to Napster
  • Twelve versions of Microsoft Windows were released
  • Mark Zuckerberg went to his high school prom
  • Monica Lewinsky became a household name
  • LCS became a program of record
  • Colonel Joseph Dunford became a brigadier general
  • Commander John Richardson became a captain

This is even more impressive because NAVFIT98 has survived a nonstop barrage of negative feedback (FAKE NEWS) from whiny junior officers for two decades. “The comments and performance trait ratings are meaningless!” and “NAVFIT98 just creates busy work for raters to make sailors feel better about being ranked last!” Nonsense.

What’s really amazing is, amid all this criticism, the Navy has stayed the course not just with NAVFIT98, but with a personnel management system that prioritizes the most important attribute above all else . . . timing. The way the Navy uses NAVFIT98 to grade sailors with trait averages and promotion recommendations highlights the fact that a sailor’s time onboard a ship, or in a certain job, is more important than the sailor’s professional expertise, character, initiative, leadership, or any other form of merit. Now that’s what I call honor, courage, and commitment!

Thank goodness that despite growing calls for the Navy to abandon the “up-or-out” mentality, or to promote officers based on merit, NAVFIT98 keeps on trucking as a symbol of the Navy’s tried-and-true timing-based personnel management system. The Navy is acting quickly on pressures from Congress to reform personnel management in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Let’s hope our admirals can resist any congressional pressure to revamp its 20 year old software! Then again, Congress holds our admirals’ advancements in their hands, so we know how that goes! Hey, I wonder if they use NAVFIT98? 😊

Here’s to you, old software!

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