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Navy Seeks To Retain Senior Submarine Officers with New Bonus Program

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) on March 16, 2018. US Navy Photo

The Navy will begin offering large bonuses to senior captains in the submarine community – worth up to $180,000 in some cases – in Fiscal Year 2019 to boost retention.

Starting Oct. 1, the Navy will offer bonuses of $45,000 per year for senior submarine officers who sign two to four-year contracts. Signing a single-year contract will qualify for a bonus of $35,000, according to a policy released by Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke.

The bonuses are being offered to current and former major command captains who have been commissioned officers for at least 26 years, Lt. Rick Moore, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, told USNI News. A major command could include leading a squadron, task force or Naval Submarine School.

These bonuses are the latest tweak in what has become a steady stream of changes to the Navy’s personnel policies and regulations, all done with the intent of retaining both officers and enlisted sailors with highly sought-after skills.

For example, the recently approved FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act gives the Navy the ability to retain junior officers with valuable skills but who did not screen for promotion. Previously, junior officers who did not promote were forced to leave the service. This policy change was one of several changes to the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) the Navy had wanted for years.

In June, the Navy brought back the rank of warrant officer-1 (W-1), which was discontinued by the Navy in 1975, as a way of enticing enlisted sailors with computer skills to remain in the Navy. Sailors with cyber skills have been especially hard to keep in the service, Burke told USNI News in a June interview.

Reestablishing the W-1 rank is seen as a way to retain enlisted sailors with cyber skills by offering them a quicker path to leadership roles. Only a small number of sailors will qualify for the W-1 program, but the goal is for those who do qualify to pass on their cyber institutional knowledge to enlisted personnel in the Navy’s cyber community.

In a similar vein, the number of eligible senior submarine officers eligible for the bonuses is relatively small – about 50 each year – but the purpose of the bonuses, Moore said, is to keep their expertise in the submarine community to train the next generation of leaders.