Some of the confusion revolving around the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program is undoubtedly related directly to the title itself: In what ways are these officers “limited?”

When the program was first inaugurated in 1947, the Petty Officers and Warrant Officers selected for promotion received permanent commissions and were give the same opportunities for promotion as Unrestricted Line (URL) Officers. The main limitation at this time was the rule that they could not be promoted beyond the rank of Commander (O-5). In 1957, all first-time LDO appointments were made on a temporary basis, which made the “Limited Duty” title seem even more apt.

With the evolution of both the LDO program and the Chief Warrant Officer program, however, the roles and duties of both accession paths began to become much clearer, making both routes to officer status considerably more attractive for enlisted Sailors. Several modifications were made in 1974 to help clearly define the functional roles of LDOs and CWOS; distinct billets were created for the two types of “Mustang” officers, and new categories and officer designators were established to more firmly identify the officers with a particular warfare community (“community” has been replaced with “enterprise”).

New procurement rules made it possible for LDOs to be selected from enlisted ranks (Petty Officer First Class), which in turn made it possible for LDOs to reach the grade of Lieutenant Commander or Commander before they had to retire by law. Another major change was the removal of what was colloquially referred to as the “O5 Cap” in 1985, which made it possible for LDOs to be promoted to Captain (the first LDO Captain was appointed the following year). LDOs who are selected for Lieutenant are offered permanent officer status, which can prevent their being “reverted” back to their rating because of personnel shortages.

The LDO program is being reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the combination of leadership skills and technical know-how LDOs possess is put to the best use possible. In the case of LDO Designator of 655x, for Limited Duty Officer – Staff Corps (Judge Advocate General’s Corps), the Navy saw that the current JAG Staff officers and supplementary staff were more than capable of handling the workload, and as a consequence LDO appointments have not been made to this Corps for many years.

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