The United States Navy has a system of officers, unique among the U.S. Military Services. Like the other services, the Navy has noncommissioned officers, which they term "Petty Officers." These are enlisted personnel in the grades of E-4 through E-9.
As with the Army and Marine Corps, the Navy has Chief Warrant Officers. Navy Chief Warrant Officers (CWOs) are technical specialists who demonstrate knowledge and skills of a specific occupational field at a level beyond what is normally expected a Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9).
The confusion comes in the commissioned officer corps (yes, "warrants" are technically commissioned, but to avoid terminology confusion, we'll refer to warrants as CWOs and the "O-paygrade" Officers as "commissioned).
The Navy divides their commissioned officer force into several categories. For example, a JAG lawyer is a "staff officer." Because of his/her specialized legal training, he/she will remain a lawyer during his/her career. You won't find a senior JAG officer commanding an aircraft carrier, for example.
When most people think of commissioned officers in the Navy, they're thinking of "Unrestricted Line Officers." For the most part, these are the officers who are commissioned through ROTC, the Naval Academy, or Officer Candidate School (OCS). These officers perform various changing duties (jobs) throughout their career and are the ones who "grow up" to become commanders of ships and admirals commanding entire battle groups.
The Navy has a third group of commissioned officers, unique among the services — the LDO, or "Limited Duty Officer." LDOs are former senior enlisted personnel (or CWOs), who were considered very highly skilled in their Navy job (rating), and selected to become a commissioned officer. As the name implies, "Limited Duty Officers," unlike "Unrestricted Line Officers," are commissioned officers with a limited career path. For example, a Supply Officer LDO is going to spend his/her career as a Supply Officer (unless he/she applies for and is accepted to change their career path, but this is rather rare and would depend on their previous education and experience).
LDOs differ from CWOs primarily in the degree of responsibility. LDOs "out-rank" CWOs, and are generally paid more.
The Limited Duty Officer Selection Program
LDOs are technically oriented officers in specific occupational fields and requiring strong managerial skills.
The Limited Duty Officer Program provides commissioning opportunities to qualified senior enlisted personnel and Chief Warrant Officers (CWOs). Chief Petty Officers (E-7 through E-9), and E-6 personnel who are selection board eligible for E-7, and all CWOs may qualify for this program. In addition to the LDO program, the Navy has a Chief Warrant Officer Program to select senior enlisted personnel to become CWOs.
The LDO and CWO Programs are open to both active duty and Selected Reserve (SELRES) personnel. Qualified personnel may apply for both LDO and CWO simultaneously. A baccalaureate degree is not required; however, it is encouraged. Leadership ability, military qualifications, and technical expertise remain the key factors leading to selection.
- Enlisted personnel must be serving as a Petty Officer First Class (E-6) or Chief Officer (E-7 through E-9). An E-6 must have served in that capacity for at least 1 year as of 1 October of the year application is made. Such service shall be computed from the time-in-rate (TIR) date for an E-6. If broken service is involved, a PO1 must have served a total of at least 1 year as an E-6 as of 1 October of the year application is made.
- E-6 applicants must complete all eligibility requirements for E-7 (except TIR and LTC) and must successfully compete in the annual Navy-wide examination for advancement to Chief Petty Officer, receiving a final multiple equal to, or greater than, the minimum final multiple for E-7 selection board eligibility. Personnel accepted to the LDO program attend leadership training via the LDO/CWO Officer Indoctrination School. Therefore Leadership Training Continuum is not required for E-6 taking the E-7 exam for the express purpose of applying for LDO. E-6 applicants must forward a copy of their most current examination profile sheet with their application. An E-6 is exempt from the requirements of this subparagraph when notification has been received by the commanding officer that the individual is a selectee for Chief Petty Officer or that advancement to Chief Petty Officer has been authorized.
- Active duty enlisted personnel must have completed at least 8, but not more than 16 years of active naval service (day-for-day) exclusive of Active Duty for Training (ADT) in the Naval, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserve as of 1 October of the year application is made.
- Inactive duty enlisted personnel must have completed at least 8, but not more than 16 years of total qualifying Federal service as of 1 October of the year application is made. Total qualifying Federal service for the purpose of this instruction is defined in Title 10, U.S.C., Section 12732 as time served with a component of the naval service. In computing the qualifying service eligibility requirement for Ready Reservists, constructive time cannot be credited.
- CWOs applying for the program must have completed at least 3 years of active duty as a CWO and no more than 19 years of total active service immediately preceding 1 October of the year application is made. Such service shall be computed from the initial date of rank as a CWO and active duty base date. Applicants are ineligible to apply if they are in a one-time failure to select (1x FOS) status date of the boards.
- U.S. citizenship is required and cannot be waived.
- Must be of good moral character and have no record of disciplinary action under Article 15, no court-martial conviction or civilian felony conviction, or conviction by a civil court for misdemeanors (except minor traffic violations ($300.00 or less)) in the past 3 years as of 1 October of the year application is made. Any substantiated drug or alcohol abuse within the last 3 years as of 1 October of the year application is made will result in disqualification.
- Must be a high school graduate or possess an equivalency certificate.
- Must be physically qualified for appointment per the physical standards outlined in the Manual of the Medical Department, Chapter 15.
- Must meet physical fitness standards of satisfactory-medium or higher per OPNAVINST 6110.1 at the time of application and appointment.
- Must not exceed High Year Tenure (HYT) requirements.
- Active duty personnel serving in Humanitarian (HUMS) or Limited Duty (LIMDU) assignments will not be permitted to accept their commission until the situation is completely resolved.
- Inactive duty personnel serving in Not Physically Qualified (NPQ) or Temporarily Not Physically Qualified (TNPQ) status will not be permitted to accept their commission until their status is completely resolved.
- Favorably recommended by their commanding officer. (Inactive duty applicants must be favorably recommended by their unit commanding officer).
LDO Job Designators
LDO designators are designed to provide positive identification of surface, submarine, and aviation warfare, general series, and staff corps associated personnel, and to identify a broad occupational field or technical area. The following describes the different classifications within designators and their associated warfare, general series, or staff corps fields:
- 61XX - CWO Surface Warfare
- 62XX - CWO Submarine Warfare
- 63XX - CWO Aviation Warfare
- 65XX - CWO Staff Corps
Surface and submarine warfare communities require LDOs with the same or similar occupational qualifications. Candidates need not possess a particular warfare qualification to apply for an LDO designator in that particular community. Obviously, not every enlisted rating is competitively qualified for designations within different warfare communities, and application should not be made for an inappropriate category, e.g., a Gunners Mate (GM) should not normally apply for 626X, Ordnance Officer (submarine), but rather should apply for 616X, Ordnance Officer (surface).
Eligible candidates may apply for up to two designators which may be in different occupational fields e.g., Ordnance Officer (616X) and Electronics Officer (618X) — the same occupational field, but different warfare communities e.g., Ordnance Officer (Surface 616X) and Ordnance Officer (Submarine 626X) — or a combination of the two e.g., Ordnance Officer (Submarine 626X) and Electronics Officer (Surface 618X).
If selected for LDO, any request for change of designator will not normally be approved until the initial obligation of 4 years as an LDO has been served.
Selected Reservists are often uniquely qualified by or civilian occupation to apply for designators outside the normal career path of their current rating. Selected Reservists who are in this category are encouraged to apply for designator(s) that closely align with either their civilian and/or military occupational specialties.
Service with the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and/or Coast Guard may be credited to meet the minimal service requirement when it can be clearly documented, by the applicant, that service in another branch provided the requisite training and expertise that directly relates to and parallels the needs and requirements of the naval service. If applicable, comments regarding experience gained in another branch of service, to include the relation of the experience with the Navy's needs and requirements, should be included in the applicant's personal statement of the Officer Programs Application. The commanding officer will attest to such qualifications in his/her endorsing statement.
Senior enlisted in the following enlisted ratings and CWOs with the CWO indicator shown may apply for LDO status in the indicated LDO Designator (job):
- LDO 611X/621X, Deck Officer: Enlisted ratings of BM QM SM ET. To qualify, ET's must have QM Training. CWO 711X/721X, Boatswain. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 612X, Operations Officer: Enlisted ratings of OS CTT STG. CWO 712X, Operations Technician. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 613X/623X, Engineering/Repair Officer: Enlisted ratings of IC EN MM GS EM. CWO 713X/723X, Engineering Technician.
- LDO 615X, Special Warfare Officer: Any enlisted rating qualified in naval special warfare. CWO 715X, Special Warfare Technician. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 616X/626X, Ordnance Officer: FC GMG GMM GM FTG MT TM MM. MMs must possess NEC 4232 or 4233. CWO 716X/726X, Ordnance Technician. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 618X/628X, Electronics Officer: Enlisted ratings of ST STG FC FT ET CTT (with NEC 17XX). CWO 718X/728X, Electronics Technician.
- LDO 619X, Communications Officer: IT ET. Must have communications experience. CWO 719X, Communications Technician. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 631X, Aviation Deck Officer: Enlisted ratings of ABE ABF ABH AB. CWO 731X, Aviation Boatswain
- LDO 632X, Aviation Operations Officer: Enlisted rating of AW. CWO 732X, Aviation Operations Technician.
- LDO 634X, Aviation Maintenance Officer: Enlisted ratings of AD AME AM PR AS AZ AF. CWO 734X, Aviation Maintenance Technician.
- LDO 636X, Aviation Ordnance Officer: Enlisted rating of AO. Normal color vision required. CWO 736X, Aviation Ordnance Technician
- LDO 638X, Aviation Electronics Officer: Enlisted ratings of AV AT AE. WO 738X, Aviation Electronics Technician.
- LDO 639X, Air Traffic Control Officer: Enlisted ratings of AC.
- LDO 651X, Supply Officer: Enlisted ratings of DK SH SK AK MS PC. CWO 751X, Supply Corps Warrant.
- LDO 653X, Civil Engineer Corps Officer: Enlisted ratings of BU CE CM UT UC EA EO SW CU EQ. CWO 753X, Civil Engineer Corps Warrant.
- LDO 655X, Law Officer (Not a Lawyer): Enlisted rating LN.
General Series Designators
- LDO 640X, Nuclear Power Officer: Any enlisted rating qualified in nuclear power. CWO 740X, Nuclear Power Technician. Normal color vision required.
- LDO 641X, Administration Officer: Enlisted ratings of YN PN NC RP. CWO 741X, Ship's Clerk.
- LDO 642X, Data Processing Officer: Enlisted ratings of IT ET IS. Must have ADP maintenance/database experience. CWO 742X, Data Processing Technician.
- LDO 644X, Cryptologic Officer: Enlisted ratings of CT IS. CWO 744X, Cryptologic Technician.
- LDO 645X, Intelligence Officer: Enlisted rating of IS. CWO 745X, Intelligence Technician.
- LDO 646X, Meteorology/Oceanography Officer: Enlisted rating of AG.
- LDO 647X, Photography Officer: Enlisted ratings of PH IS JO.
LWO 649X, Security Officer: Enlisted rating of MA. CWO 749X, Security Technician.
Applicants must fill out the Officer Programs Application form and submit it via their chain of command. See APPENDIX F of OPNAV OPNAVINST 1420.1 for more, complete details on submitting the application.
Commanders will appoint a panel of commissioned officers to interview the applicant and review the applicant's qualifications. The panel will prepare a recommendation/non-recommendation for the commander's review/approval.
Commanding officer's recommendation (prepared as a result of the panel) should include information concerning the member’s military and professional performance, degree and scope of technical competence and supervisory ability in present rating, potential to perform as a commissioned officer, and ability to accomplish officer technical management and specialist functions of the programs and categories requested.
Only those individuals who have clearly demonstrated sustained superior performance, outstanding leadership abilities, and the potential to serve as commissioned officers should be recommended for these programs. A candidate must receive a favorable endorsement from the commanding officer (unit CO for SELRES personnel) to be eligible to apply to become an LDO.
If a commanding officer feels an individual is not qualified for LDO, the commander will not forward the package. Individuals not receiving a favorable endorsement are to be counseled on what they need to do to improve their records to ultimately receive a favorable endorsement.
Separate selection boards (one for active duty and one for inactive duty) meet at the Navy Personnel Command annually to consider applicants for the active duty and inactive duty LDO programs.
Appointment to Limited Duty Officer
CWOs selected for LDO will be appointed in the permanent grade of LTJG (paygrade O-2) in the Navy (or Naval Reserves for inactive duty personnel). CWOs selected for LDO with at least 4 years and 1 day of cumulative active duty service to include (ADSW/AT) will be appointed in the permanent grade of LTJG (paygrade O-2E).
Enlisted personnel selected for LDO will be appointed in the permanent grade of ensign (paygrade O-1) in the Navy (or Naval Reserves for inactive duty personnel). Enlisted personnel selected for LDO with more than 4 years of active duty service will be appointed in the permanent grade of ensign (paygrade O-1E).
Selectees will be appointed as LDOs only if they continue to meet all eligibility standards as specified previously.
Active Duty selectees must agree to remain on active duty for a total of 4 years from the date of acceptance of appointment and may be required to transfer from current duty location.
Selectees under the inactive duty program must continue serving in the Ready Reserve until the appointment is tendered. Upon acceptance, each selectee must agree to remain in the Ready Reserve for a period of 3 years from the date of acceptance of appointment.