FORT MEADE, Md. -- The Army has initiated changes to its promotion process, allowing qualified officers a chance to "opt-in" for early promotion consideration, Army Talent Management Task Force leaders said Thursday."This new initiative is aligned with the Army People Strategy and implements a change in the way we manage talent through the promotion process," said Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Edwards, director of the Officer Personnel Management Directorate with Army Human Resources Command.With the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 promotion selection board, officers that are eligible for early promotion must now submit a formal request through the Assignment Interactive Module, or AIM 2.0, by March 16, said Col. Mark Susnis, a team chief with the task force."Previously, 'below the zone' consideration was a very industrial process," said Maj. Lucas Rand, assigned to the task force. "If you were in the year group before the primary zone -- no matter how strong your file was or whether you had completed your key development assignments -- you were automatically considered for below the zone consideration … whether you wanted it or not."Now captains that made rank between Oct. 6, 2015, and July 8, 2017, must meet the list of eligibility criteria before submitting their request. These requirements include:-- Soldiers must have completed their Captains' Career Course. -- Basic branch officers must complete their key developmental positions by March 16, 2020, per Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3. -- Functional area officers need to have 24 or more months within their functional area. Captains also need 12 or more officer evaluation report-rated months within the same area by March 16, 2020."Historically, the Army relied on a time-based promotion system to provide the ready force required for service to the nation," Edwards said. "By allowing officers to request early consideration, or to 'opt-in' to a promotion board, we create an opportunity to recognize individuals of exceptional talent who demonstrate the potential to perform at a higher grade earlier in their career."With the new opt-in program, the Army can potentially align an officer's knowledge, skills, and behaviors to meet the force's mission requirements at higher grades, Susnis added.Failure to be selected for promotion during the opt-in process will not negatively impact a Soldier's career, Susnis said. All officers receive at least two considerations in and above the primary promotion zone before initiating a potential involuntary separation action.OPT-OUT OF PROMOTIONQualified captains that want to complete a career-broadening assignment, or pursue an advanced educational or key-developmental opportunity -- in the best interest of the Army -- can now request to temporarily defer their consideration for promotion for up to two years, Rand said.For the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 major's promotion selection board, eligible captains within the "primary zone" of promotion consideration have until March 9 to submit their deferment request through the Assignment Interactive Module 2.0."An officer might want to opt-out because they are in a position to get an advanced degree," Rand said. "What we don't want to do is penalize the officer for branching off of their traditional career path."While a small percentage of captains will choose to opt-out of promotion this upcoming cycle, Soldiers that are looking to take a year off to increase their competitive standing against their peers will not receive an option to defer if they previously failed to be selected for promotion, Susnis said.Changes to the Army's policies and procedures now provide officers with "more opportunity and more flexibility to expand and broaden their careers," Rand said.The program focuses on Soldiers that are "trying to accelerate their timeline because they feel that they are ready," Rand added. "Everybody is different. It comes down to giving a little bit of control to the officer to manage their career."