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Navy Will Force Retirement on Poor Performing Senior Captains, Commanders

NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY ARLINGTON, Va. — With the aim of keeping only the best leaders, the Navy plans to force into retirement senior active duty commanders and captains found to have poor on-the-job performance, the head of Navy personnel told USNI News this week.

Starting on Sept. 13, the Navy will convene a Fiscal Year 2019 Selective Early Retirement (SER) Boards to determine whether any senior restricted line, unrestricted line or staff corps commanders and captains should be retired from the service due to poor performance.

“Our expectation is that since we’re looking for underperforming officers here, that the number of officers selected for early retirement will be very, very small,” Vice Adm. Robert Burke, commander of Naval Personnel told USNI News this week. “An officer that’s doing their job and performing just fine has nothing to worry about here.”

To be considered by a board, commanders must have been passed over for promotion twice, and captains must have served at least three years in grade. A variety of factors will be used to determine if an officer should be selected for early retirement. If an officer selected for early retirement is not yet eligible for retirement, the officer will remain on active duty until becoming eligible for retirement, according to the NAVADMIN.

“Our growing Navy requires the most consistently reliable top performers to lead and sustain a modern, ready and lethal force as the number of ships and squadrons and required manpower levels increase. We are committed to retaining and promoting the right leaders to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and enforcing the highest performance standards sets for Navy leaders the necessary tone and expectation for subordinates to emulate,” the NAVADMIN states.

The boards will operate under the same authority from the Secretary of the Navy used to run promotion boards, and will consider officers in 41 job categories, just like what is done for promotion boards. For O6 boards, the chair will be at least a Rear Adm. upper half (08) and members will be at least Rear Adm. lower half (O7). For the O6 boards, the chair will be at least an O7, and members will be a mix of O7 and O6, but all senior to the officers being considered for retirement.

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

Poor performance on the job will be the main driver of early retirement selection. The convening orders are still being reviewed by the Secretary of Navy, Burke said, but he suggested they will be similar to what is used for the senior enlisted selective early retirement boards.

Loss of a security clearance is an example of something considered by the enlisted boards. A sailor can lose a security clearance for a variety of reasons, including several situations that do not involve criminal activity, but rather involve poor judgment. The officer early retirement boards will also consider the loss of a security clearance as part of the process

Misconduct will be considered by the boards, but only in the context of poor job performance. The Navy has other boards to handling disciplinary actions, Burke said. These boards are not meant to be punitive. Officers selected for retirement will retire at their current rank.

More importantly, Burk stressed these boards are not a repeat of the Fiscal Year 2012 Selected Early Retirement Boards. In 2012, the Navy had a Congressional mandate to reduce the number of officers, which Burke said caused several hundred senior officers to be retired, regardless of their performance. also, since the boards do not have a quota to meet, and it is acceptable the individual category boards to determine there are no officers who should be retired in a category.

“I lived through the FY12 SERB, as did CNP, as the head surface warfare detailer,” said Rear Adm. John Nowell, who is now in charge of the Navy’s military personnel plans and policy.

In 2012, some of the officers selected for early retirement were performing as would be expected, he said. They were asked to leave the Navy simply because the service had to cut its ranks.

“That is not what you’re going to see with this board,” Nowell said. “Being an average, the hard-working officer is just fine.”

The following is the NAVADMIN detailing the commander and captain Selective Early Retirement Boards:


RMKS/1. As we seek to grow the Navy, we remain focused on warfighting and lethality by ensuring we have the right officer talent to meet the mission of the Navy. To this end, the Secretary of the Navy approved the convening of FY-19 Selective Early Retirement (SER) Boards, for regular captains and commanders on the active-duty list by grade and competitive category. The boards will convene on 13 September 2018 and are strictly about ensuring quality, not force management.

  1. The decision to hold FY-19 SER boards was made after considerable thought and careful deliberation. Our growing Navy requires the most consistently reliable top performers to lead and sustain a modern, ready and lethal force as the number of ships and squadrons and required manpower levels increase. We are committed to retaining and promoting the right leaders to meet the challenges of tomorrow, and enforcing the highest performance standards sets for Navy leaders the necessary tone and expectation for subordinates to emulate. SER boards are comparable to the already successful Senior Enlisted Continuation Board process for quality control of our senior leaders. Each board will select only those officers whose early retirement, in the opinion of a majority of the board members, is in the best interest of the Navy. When determining those officers who should be recommended for early retirement, the SER boards will consider a number of factors, including performance, the requirement for exemplary conduct, and adverse information. The majority of the officers whose records are being reviewed for these boards are fully capable of performing the duties of their current grade. Selecting zero officers in a competitive category is an acceptable option for these boards because no mandatory quotas have been established. The process of reviewing records and selecting officers for early retirement ensures the Navy will have a professional, healthy senior officer corps that is ready to meet the demands of the Navy the Nation needs.
  2. The following officers may be considered for SER:
  3. Captains (O-6). Officers who are in year groups specified in paragraph 6, have 3 or more years time in grade, and who are within the zone defined in paragraph 6 for their competitive category.
  4. Commanders (O-5). Officers who are in year groups specified in paragraph 6, who have a failure of selection for promotion to the grade of captain two or more times, and who are within the zone defined in paragraph 6 for their competitive category.
  5. The following officers are not eligible for consideration by the SER board:
  6. Officers with approved voluntary retirement requests.
  7. Officers with statutory retirements in FY-18 or FY-19.
  8. Officers whose names are on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  9. Officers selected for early retirement will be formally notified as soon as possible after the proceedings of the boards are approved. Officers selected and approved for early retirement are required by law to be retired, if retirement eligible, on the first day of the seventh month after the month in which the board report is approved. For the FY-19 SER boards, this mandatory retirement date is anticipated to be 1 May 2019. If an officer is not eligible for retirement, then the officer will be retained on active duty until the officer is qualified for retirement, then retired not later than the first day of the month beginning after the month in which the officer becomes qualified for retirement.
  10. The following list indicates the name, active-duty list (lineal) number, and date of rank of the senior officer and junior officer who are eligible for consideration for early retirement in the following competitive categories. All officers listed below, as well as those whose lineal number falls between the senior and junior officer listed, will be considered by the SER boards, subject to the limitations in paragraph 4.



Staff Corps



Staff Corps

  1. Officers in the zone defined above who are on active duty when the boards convene but do not meet eligibility requirements specified in paragraph 3, or are not eligible in line with paragraph 4, will not be considered for early retirement by the SER boards.
  2. SER eligible officers may submit requests for voluntary retirement.
  3. By law, the number of captains and commanders selected for retirement within each competitive category and grade may not exceed 30 percent of those eligible officers considered by the boards.
  4. Only eligible officers may communicate with a selection board. Correspondence must arrive no later than 10 calendar days before the convening date of the board and shall be addressed to:

Navy Personnel Command (NPC) Customer Service Center

President Active-Duty FY-19 (Grade) (Line or Staff Corps, as applicable)

Selective Early Retirement Board, Board #XXX, (Board number is a required field and may be found on the FY-19 selection board schedule located at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/boards/selectionboardsupport/Pages/FY19-Board-Schedule-.aspx

5720 Integrity Drive, Millington, TN 38055-6300

To check on receipt of your package, go to http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/boards/activedutyofficer/pages/default.aspx and enter the customer service center link (check on your letter to the board) or contact the customer service center at (866)827-5672. Written communication may invite to the attention of the board any matter concerning himself/herself that the officer considers important. The written communication must be in line with MILPERSMAN 1420-010 and may include, as enclosures, correspondence from any individual concerning the eligible officer. Correspondence not originated by the eligible officer, including letters written on behalf of that officer, must contain a written acknowledgement by the eligible officer that he or she desires that such correspondence be presented to the board. Correspondence without such acknowledgment is considered third party correspondence and will be returned. Classified correspondence will not be accepted.

  1. The cscselboard(at)navy.mil mailbox account is capable of receiving ENCRYPTED correspondence in line with DoD policy. If you are sending your board package from a non-NMCI network (BUMED.mil, EU.NAVY.mil, etc.), please visit https://dod411.gds.disa.mil to download the required mailbox certificate. To download the *Cert* (please note, you MUST be using MS Outlook with a CAC reader, including ActivClient software and have Internet Explorer or Netscape 7.X), go to https://dod411.gds.disa.mil, type cscselboard(at)navy.mil in the *E-Mail address* field, then click *Search.* Click the *BUPERS* link under *Last Name.* Click on the link *Download Certificate(s) as vCard.* Click *Software Certificate for cscselboard(at)navy.mil.* Click the *Open* button for the *File Download* pop-up. The certificate will then open. Click *Save and Close.* The certificate is then saved to the profile and can be used to send your encrypted e-mail.
  2. This NAVADMIN is cancelled for record purposes on 30 May 2019.

  • Curtis Conway

    Finally, recognition of a merit system. Way too many up there who have not earned the rank, just put in the time, have the education, and know somebody. One leads by example. Need good examples!

    • NavySubNuke

      They really need to apply this to the reserves as well —– hopefully that will be an expansion they make next year!

      • Curtis Conway

        The Guard and Reserves is where some of our true gems of professional military service (performance) reside. I remember back in the P-3B Mod days when the Active Duty P-3C Update ASW aircraft monitoring the Bermuda WestLant Patrol Area following the Russian nuc submarine would lose contact . . . the Reserve P-3B Mod would show up on station for their two week Active Duty for Training, find the sub, follow it for nearly two weeks, turn it over to the relieving Active Duty P-3C Crew, who rapidly lost contact. These P-3B Mod crews knew, maintained, and operated their equipment like true professionals. Some of these Reserve crews had flown together for nearly twelve years. You will never see that in the Active Duty forces.

        • NavySubNuke

          Yes, I am consistently amazed by the quality of most of the folks I serve with in the reserves.
          The issue is the “most” part – there is some deadwood in the O5/O6 ranks just waiting to be pruned. The APPLY boards do some of that to be sure but that only keeps them out of paid billets — they still get to earn points and keep trying for new paid billets every cycle.

          • Curtis Conway

            Enjoyed my Reserve time. It was the time away from home and Only Had One Job to do!

        • David C

          Saw the same 1988 in Misawa. USN couldn’t get an airplane in the air. In a practical sense, the reserve squadron was PATRON Misawa. We had many TACCOs and SS1s with well over 50 hours of non allied on-top time.

  • Pete Novick

    “…to determine whether any senior restricted line, unrestricted line or staff corps commanders and captains should be retired from the service due to poor performance.”

    That’s really tough to do, in light of the fact that on FITREPs at least, everybody looks like Arleigh Burke. Back when the Navy did this in the early 1990’s, the rules were the largely the same. The unwritten rule was more simple:

    Back-to-back shore tours as an 05 or 06 put you square in the bullseye for early retirement.

    • Sharkie

      Start with those that made the cover of Navy Times.

  • Bo

    Wasn’t this supposed to happen anyway? Oh, that’s right, with inflated FitReps it is impossible towed out studs from duds.

  • Duane

    This is good as long as it considers actual poor performance; the description of the criteria seems reasonable.

    The one criterion that is questionable is the old “up or out” factor, i.e., being passed over for promotion twice. Promotion should be based upon the board’s best judgement of how a candidate is likely to perform at the next higher rank, not how well the candidate is performing at their current rank.

    A strict devotion to “up or out” can act to deny the Navy the services of officers who provide critical expertise in technical areas like engineering or weapons or cyber or crew training, but who would not necessarily be good candidates for flag officers.

    As long as the boards are given leeway to ignore up or out in specialized areas of expertise then no problem in cutting demonstrated low performers.

    • Jack D Ripper

      shame it hasn’t been applied a great deal more in industry,,telcom to start with

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    This begs the question: Who promoted these poor performers? Poor performance just doesn’t “happen,” it is a pattern.

    • Duane

      Have you ever read “The Peter Principal”? That book was written a few decades ago. The Peter Principal states that bureaucratic organizations tend to promote people to their maximum level of incompetence, at which point they fail. Organizations often (but not always) reward someone for succeeding in their current job by promoting them to a job they are not competent to perform.

      The military certainly tends to be bureaucratic. And people do all too often get promoted for what they did in their old job with little recognition of what it takes to succeed in a more responsible role.

      “Hey, you’re a great D.O. and Department Head , so we’ll send you to PCO school!”. Or, “You’ve been a great CO for your warship, so we’ll promote you to Squadron command!” Maybe that all works out more often than not, but certainly not always. Maybe a great CO ought to go to a training command at the same rank, and stay there doing a good job training folks at the same rank until he or she retires.

  • ADM64

    Good idea. The overall size of the officer corps needs significant reduction too.

  • CaptainParker

    Be careful what you wish for. This could just be an excuse to eliminate officers who aren’t enthusiastic enough for diversity, inclusion and all the other b.s. social experiments.

    • A Peter Algover

      One would hope not!

      • Donald Carey

        A review of the behavior of the U.S. government in general, and the military in particular, about these matters leaves me with the inescapable conclusion that CaptianParker’s fears are very well founded.

  • cincinnaticl6

    As usual this looks great on paper. However, the human element is always at play. Who knows who? Is political correctness going to rear it’s ugly head? What about political connections, etc. The list is endless with possibilities that could gum up the process. You can never get rid of the “human element” when making decisions about other people especially when your head is not on the block.

  • Western

    What about the 271 admirals currently serving?

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Sounds good, but I say ‘BS’ that it will happen. The military gets rid of high performing personnel all the time because they have the dumb luck of being in over populated billets, they have a weight problem, or some other factors. It’s no accident that commands that used torequire a junior officer now require full birds, because of the over populated upper ranks. I HOPE this happens, but I have to see it happen before I will believe it..

  • Secundius

    I wonder IF this has something more to do with “Apolitical” (i.e. Defending the Country First) Officers than “Political” (i.e. Defending Donald Trump) Officers…

  • Chief Mate

    When does O-7 and above board covene?