Debate: Should They Eliminate the DA Photo?

Today, I want to offer a debate question about the relevancy of the DA Photo in the promotion process.  My opinion is that the Army should eliminate the DA Photo altogether.  Here’s why.  The Army always talks about Equal Opportunity and the importance of EVERYONE having the same opportunities.  Personally, I think that’s a good thing.

For promotion purposes, Soldiers have to go before some type of DA Board (NCOs and Officers anyway).  Their records, achievements, evaluation reports and other personnel files are objectively reviewed by a group of pre-selected individuals.  The candidates are either chosen, or not chosen for promotion based upon a variety of factors such as previous jobs, performance in those jobs, completion of certain military schools, potential, physical fitness and more.

In addition, each promotion packet contains a DA Photo, which is reviewed to ensure the Soldier “looks like a Soldier” and is wearing the same awards that are highlighted in his/her personnel records.  Here is where the problem happens.  When someone on the board sees the DA Photo they immediately know the candidate’s gender and their race.  I’m not sure how the promotion process can be neutral or fair when people on the board know the person’s gender or race.  Yes, most people in the Army do the right thing, but people who have preconceived prejudices, either good or bad, can ultimately make a decision based upon the applicant’s photo.

Will this happen much?  Probably not.  Does it happen?  I’m sure.  And that’s why I think the Army should get rid of the DA Photo for promotion boards.  Why can’t the person’s achievements speak for themselves?  Why do you need a photo of the person as part of the decision making process?  I don’t think it has any relevancy whatsoever.

What do you think?  Is there a good reason the DA Photo should be part of the promotion process?  Leave a comment and let us know. I look forward to reading what you have to say.



chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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11 thoughts on “Debate: Should They Eliminate the DA Photo?”

  1. Honestly, I have mixed emotions on this as well. I think you have to have that photo in there on one hand, and I can see how there might be conflicts with some people that take away from the person’s accomplishments.

    Overall though, I don’t see how you can avoid the photo.

    You need to know what they look like, and hope the people doing the evaluation are truly objective.

    1. I still say take it away. I don’t see what good it does or how it makes someone “qualified” for a promotion when the promotion board already has their packet and information on file.

  2. I totally agree that the photo, age, and name should not be available to the Promotion Board. Again, it’s the same as in the civilian world — I have heard and read of multitudes of employers who will not accept résumés with pictures on them for that very reason. I have even been employed by some who black out the name and give the résumé a number. Thus, they don’t even know whether the person is male or female. They don’t allow hobbies or organizations that reflect religious affiliations, and I think the Army, whether Active, Reserve, or Guard, should have the same lack of bias.

  3. I am torn on this issue, Chuck. I really think that there are some benefits to seeing a Soldier in their DA photo and making some assumptions about that Soldier. But, at the same time, it has a reverse affect when you may look at a person and make assumptions that just aren’t accurate… I would think overall though that they are a good thing. If you look a little goofy, your other achievements will overshadow your appearance. Also, you may be a so-so dude but look like a “bag of ass” and maybe that isn’t what the board is looking for…

    1. Good points, Justin. I’m not sure what the best course of action is either. Personally, I think your achievements and performance should be the only thing needed.

    2. Candace Ginestar

      If they have your ORB, your DA photo is just a visual reflection of that…so I am not sure either, on what the best course of action is. I would like to think that it shouldn’t matter.

  4. I have a question about the promotion process. Does the board have your name and age already? They don’t block the names out do they? If they don’t, it seems to me that the DA photo is a moot point, because they already have enough information in the paperwork that contains that information.

    1. I know they have the names and birthday. I guess that defeats the purpose too. I wish they just had the paperwork without the photo, gender or age. That would be the best way I can think of to have a truly “equal” promotion process.

    2. Amy makes a great point here; if a person is going to show prejudice, a person’s name will be the start. I know this quite well. If you take a look at my last name, many thoughts can come about nationality. I have been mixed up with nationalities that have been shown high levels of prejudice and it has affected outcomes in some jobs. I believe the picture can work for good or bad. I think that if there is any thought of prejudice, there should be an appeals system that takes a close look at the process. If a board member is shown to be playing partiality, there should be strong consequences. Just my opinion.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        It is also another way for the good ol boy system to work. We all know each other’s name, especially in the ARNG. if names got masked on OER/NCOER, then it would truly be performance based and raters could be brutally honest.

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