By Vice Adm. Bill Moran
Chief of Naval Personnel
Just back from a five-day trip to the West Coast where I had several opportunities to meet with Sailors stretching from the Pacific Northwest (Bangor, Everett and Bremerton), south to Monterey and finishing up in San Diego.
In Washington, Fleet Beldo and I visited USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60), USS Alabama (SSBN 731), USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). In Monterey we met with Naval Postgraduate School faculty and staff and addressed the combined service student body at a SECNAV Guest Lecture. Finally, in San Diego, we spent half a day underway onboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), spoke at an all hands call with HSC and HSM Sailors on Naval Air Station North Island, before finishing the day meeting with Sailors at Naval Special Warfare.
At every interaction with Sailors (and even in the questions we received on social media sites) it was clear that there is still bad gouge and rumors, causing Sailors and families a fair amount of anxiety. At each stop questions about pay and benefits, the budget and advancement opportunities dominated our engagements. So, let me share with you what we talked about, help ease some of the uncertainty and do a little “myth busting”:
Myth: We can expect to see pay cuts, benefit cuts and changes to our retirement benefits?
Not True. I’m not seeing any proposals to cut pay or benefits, and Sailors serving today will not be affected by changes to the current retirement system. However, and here is where I need your help in passing correct info, I do expect pay raises to level off and there is a good chance that future generations of Sailors could sign up to a different retirement system that looks different from the one all of us will receive. Bottom line – if you stay for 20, you’ll receive the retirement benefits on the books today, regardless of what comes down the road – those changes only affect Sailors who come in after the law is modified.Why all this churn over pay and compensation – well, it’s fairly simple – we have to get our arms around growing personnel costs if we are to remain a technologically relevant and forward operating Navy. With perhaps more than half of every dollar we spend in the Department of Defense going to personnel costs, our ability to buy new equipment or modernize what we have, or even operate at levels we need to in order to stay ready will be reduced.
Myth: The current budget environment means fewer ships and the Navy will be forced to send Sailors home, leaving us undermanned at sea?
Not at all. Little doubt that the current budget environment will have some affect on the size of our future Navy, both in terms of ships and Sailors. If there are cuts to force structure (ships, subs, aircraft, units, etc…) then and only then will we reduce the numbers of people in the Navy. If we do get smaller, we are well positioned to make reductions to our total number of people without having to use harsh or unpopular involuntary actions—for example, by slowing down our accessions in Great Lakes and raising the quality bar for those who are reenlisting.
Over the last couple of years we put a lot of effort into filling gaps in our at sea billets, including added accessions. As these added Sailors continue to graduate A and C schools, at-sea manning will continue to improve. So if we do have to get smaller, we will do so in a manner that keeps us whole and prevents us from being undermanned where we need people the most—at sea.
Myth: The threat of manpower reductions means advancement rates for this exam cycle are way down.
No way. As you will soon see this week, overall advancement opportunities remain above historic averages, and even still better than the average for the past ten years. Overall opportunity decreased slightly (-1.23%) this cycle as compared to last, but again, above the norm and I expect future advancement opportunities will stabilize along historic norms.
As in every cycle, some rates will see improvement, others see decline…this is normal. What we are trying to do is avoid large swings in opportunity between cycles. So, for our shipmates who didn’t advance, now is not the time to get frustrated and lose faith. Get with your Chief and LPO, figure out why you didn’t advance and look for ways to improve your chances for the next cycle—keep studying, continue to improve your performance and if needed consider transitioning to undermanned rates with higher advancement opportunities. Keep the faith, your time will come to stay Navy and advance.
Those are just a few of the bad myths we ran into on this trip. Thanks to everyone who asked good, probing questions or provided feedback during this trip or on social media. Keep that feedback coming—this doesn’t work unless I hear from you.
Fleet Beldo and I will continue to use all hands calls and this blog to bust these myths. Help us out by sharing this info with your Shipmates and families—help put an end to rumors and unnecessary worry.
See you around the Fleet.