Home » Aviation » Navy Wants Congress to Change Laws to Make a More Flexible Personnel System


Navy Wants Congress to Change Laws to Make a More Flexible Personnel System

U.S. Navy Sailors aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) man the rails as the ship departs its homeport of San Diego on Jan. 5, 2017. US Navy Photo

The Navy is asking Congress for more flexibility to recruit rewards for talent and promote to higher rank its officers to better compete in the career marketplace, the service’s personnel chief said Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, Vice Adm. Robert Burke said one example would be giving the Navy leeway in lateral selection — bringing in outside officers with skills in fields such as cyber, robotics and artificial intelligence at ranks higher than ensign or lieutenant and being able to keep them longer in uniform than current policies or authorities now allow.

Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) Vice Adm. Robert Burke emphasizes the importance of the retention program during an all-hands call at the Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, Wash. on June 17, 2017. US Navy Photo

Using cyberwarfare engineering as an example, Burke said, “Those folks are in high demand” in other sectors of the federal government and private industry. They can command salaries in the $90,000 range outside the Navy, more than twice what a junior officer would make, putting the service at a disadvantage in attracting them.

“The ‘Up and Out Model’ would still cover the bulk” of the officer corps. A number of the considerations Burke mentioned also would not lead to command positions.

Other alterations, he laid on the table were an option of “up and stay longer” in certain fields based on technical skills and also “bring back and bring in” those who separated but want to serve again. Later in answer to a question on flexibility, he said there were implications for existing policies covering age restrictions for service if these ideas were adopted.

Even with the Navy’s Sailor 2025 program to modernize the personnel system in place, many view the service as having inflexible personnel policies when it comes to their next assignment and overall career.

To counter that impression, Burke said the Navy is in its sixth pilot of the “Marketplace Detailing, [operating] like LinkedIn” and is expected to roll out in August.

The marketplace gives sailors the opportunity to provide “an enhancement to their service records” beyond listing their schools and past assignments. It “allows them to communicate directly with the command” about the special skills they have.

The marketplace also “allows commanders to see the entire field” of sailors interested in the assignment and not just see the choices selected for them.

Burke said it “increases confidence” in the personnel system among sailors.

“One size does not fit all” and changes could “be tailored for discretionary use” in individual’s cases.

While saying recruiting and retention remain strong, Lt. Gen. Michael Rocco, Marine Corps personnel chief, like his compatriots on the panel, said he was looking for flexibility “so we can reward those well-performing officers” above their peers at the same rank.

The chiefs shied away from using the phrase “merit pay” to describe this possibility. “Merit pay” has been a contentious issue inside the federal civilian workforce for years.

In terms of “up and out” for colonels at 30 years of service, he said, “We need to pursue that a little bit further ” in discussions with Congress about possible legislative changes.

“I think we’re at the point [in the Navy] where we need to change some authorities,” Burke said.

  • Ed L

    Up and out was stupid. Our Navy loses valuable members who were experts but could not get promoted. time to introduce professional pay for 5CI people and other selective positions.

    • ShermansWar

      what is up and out?

      • Ctrot

        I believe he means ” up or out”, the military policy of discharging anyone who doesn’t move up in rank over a set period of time, IE you can’t just be an E4 forever.

      • Ken Adams

        For officers, discharge after failing to be selected for promotion twice.

    • Ken Adams

      Pro Pay for specialists might help retain who you have, but doesn’t solve the basic problem of tossing out people who are good at their current levels but not able to promote.

  • b2

    Whenever I read this kind of new age crap I just ask: “how the heck did the US Navy win WW2 and every engagement it was in until lately”?
    This is the service man, not a nanny service….Are millenials that different from every generation that came before them that it needs all this special hoopla which NEVER improves readiness and just diminishes the Navy….

    • John Byron

      “How the heck did the US Navy win WW2?” It drafted people.

      • NavySubNuke

        Not to mention the opportunity to join the Navy and live on a ship vs. storming the beaches as a ground pounder.
        My Grandfather was a Marine and fought in WWII in the pacific and always talked about how great it was when the Navy ships would arrive because they would bring fresh food with them and that meant at least one meal not out of a can.

        • eddie046

          I spoke with a WW2 Marine vet who was evacuated from Okinawa after being wounded to one of the aircraft carriers. He said he was never more frightened than when that ship was under Kamikaze attack and wished he had a foxhole to dive into!

    • Retired CO

      We won WWII because the cream quickly rose to the top, and political bullshit wasn’t tolerated and nursed like it is today. Leader’s today are in their position not because they excelled at their jobs necessarily, they rise up in the rank simply because they “say” the right things and get the “right” visibility. How else can you explain a certain admiral’s rapid career rise that’s never had a major fleet or type command, and who’s only documented success was “being a part” of the team that took out some terrorists, but yet is a 4-star?

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    When you have a system that rewards collaterals more so than actually being good at your job, you have a problem.

  • ShermansWar

    Is commissioning Condotierri the way to go, I wonder? How long is it before those brought in without the naval tradition and background affect and undermine the entire culture? Is this wise?

  • Western

    Lol, go for it. In 1983 I was hiring nuclear reactor operators in a civilian plant for $125,000 a year. Time to pay that nuc ET3 what he is worth.

  • John Byron

    It’s time to just plain end up-or-out.

    Burke’s model basically says exempt special talents from up-or-out. Flying aircraft and driving ships are special talents, and if you go to more detail, so are things like expertise on rapid-fire big-bore guns, management of supply inventory, community management, and just about everything else.

    Other navies find ways to use existing talent beyond its promote-date. For the officer who loves her job and wants to keep serving, even frozen in grade, we should let her stay on active duty and quit running the farm system for contractors.

    • Ken Adams

      I would have stayed a Lieutenant for another 10 years had they let me. I loved what I did. The commodore I served under had the same problem at the other end of the spectrum – forced to retire after 30 years commissioned service even though he was still fit and able to command.

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      I agree. The up or out would be absolutely crazy in any other organization.

  • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    If you struck out in the Navy, you can join the keyboard warrior navy. It has served ETN3 Duainee quite well, he made Fleet Admiral in record time, and he been twice decorated with the Lockmark Distinguished Service medal with oak leaf cluster and five times the recipient of the Mauve Heart medal for hangnail wounds suffered while heavy keystroking “Old farts, bar none, idiots, ancient, best ever, superior, better than a Arleigh Burke destroyer” over a thousand times :-}

  • James B.

    It really sounds like old- model officers are so wedded to the system that promoted them that they can’t even concieve of real change.

    To really fix the personnel system would require reevaluating every billet in the Navy, likely finding that many current flag jobs don’t need admirals, and that most of the jobs which do need flags, don’t need as many stars.

    It would also require acknowledging that every job has both leadership and technical/tactical requirements, and that a lot of current leaders didn’t get there on their tactical excellence alone, and some in spite of their lack of it.

    • Marc Apter

      During Desert Storm, a very highly qualified One Star Admiral was relieved by a 2 or 3 star Admiral, because his Army and Air Force Counterparts were 2 or 3 Stars. During WWII, the military gave the brass temporary ranks for a specific position, so they would look like equals. Check Ike’s permanent vs temporary ranks.

  • Curtis Conway

    Looks like SRB time. The rates can be jacked up to compete with normal pay scales on the outside. That has been done before. Then a program to move them ‘up and out’ laterally to federal departments would enable us to keep that expertise in-house long enough to as we upgrade software and install the systems. Anybody got a better plan?

  • Veronica Cartier

    I had my own son, A Navy applicant in 2009 should be given another opportunity drop by the recruiter after being trained in Boot camp. No written guidance and further communication provided, it was simply ‘black mail sources’ that the Recruiter based upon.