In the UK promotion within the commissioned ranks has recently been standardised across all 3 Services. Each individual, fully-qualified officer is reported on annually in an Officer's Joint Appraisal Form (OJAR). This covers several areas, in particular Professional Qualities, Management, Leadership, Officer Qualities, Operational Experience and Motivation. The officer's direct line manager is his 1st Reporting Officer (1RO), with his boss's boss as his RO2 and his boss's boss's boss as RO3. The report consists of a narrative by the subject officer, narratives by all 3 ROs, and his point sheet.

In the Royal Navy and the Army, promotion to Lieutenant Commander and Major is automatic, based on time served. In the Royal Air Force automatic promotion goes as far as Flight Lieutenant. At these ranks, the officer must be in rank for 4 years before becoming eligible for promotion. His scores are then considered. Scores reach a maximum of 25, and most branches will only promote officers with at least 20 points. Officers are then placed on one of 2 lists (A or B). The Promotions Board only considers candidates on the A list. People move up the list as others are promoted, and based upon their scores, length of service, and their branch's requirement for senior officers.

This system tends to avoid the problems imposed by the quota, the insane idea that by identifying differences discrimination is eliminated. Actually, by highlighting who is black, asian, white, caribbean, or whatever, the Military is instantly suggesting that everyone is NOT the same. Positive discrimination is a terrible problem, and the OJAR was designed specifically so that positive discrimination could not have an effect.

As regards the gay issue, the most senior openly gay officer in HM Armed Forces is a Lt Cdr in the Royal Navy, and he was promoted before coming out. Homosexuality would have earned him a discharge prior to 2001, it remains to be seen whether it will cause problems now. I am a gay Royal Air Force Officer, and it hasn't caused me any problems whatsoever. The traditional stereotype of a British Officer as a married, churchgoing, right-wing golfer has, thankfully, been dispelled (I am all of the above apart from married), thanks largely to revamping the officer promotion system.

As for non-commissioned ranks, there has been no standardisation across the forces yet, although it is planned. In the RAF, all airmen, corporals, SNCOs and Warrant Officers are reported on annually in an F6000. Only their flight commander and line manager comment on this form, which includes the same elements as the OJAR but with different weighting. Additional qualities are also added, such as the willingness for self-improvement. Airmen must attend Trade Training 1 and a leadership course at the Airmen's Command School, RAF Halton, for promotion to Corporal. Cpls must attend TT2 and TT3 and more courses at ACS to get to Sgt, and so on. Warrant Officers are appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence, acting on behalf of the Queen.