By Vice Adm. Robert Burke
Chief of Naval Personnel
Over the past three months there has been discussion in the Fleet about the Navy directly accessing individuals as chief petty officers or captains into our ranks. I’ve fielded questions on this topic during many recent all hands calls, as has our Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran.
I certainly understand why Sailors might have questions based on the headlines they read, but as always, it’s important to get the whole story before drawing conclusions.
While the Navy is in a very good position today with recruiting, retention and manning, we are at a strategic cross-road where we need to think about how we will recruit and retain the force of tomorrow. Our Sailor 2025 efforts are aimed exactly at that point.
Consequently, we are working to put authorities in place now so we are able to be responsive the minute we have a problem or challenge. We do not want to wait until the issue hits us, and then start writing policy or asking Congress for a change to the law – processes which could take months or even years.
If approved, this authority to directly access more senior individuals would give us the ability to compete with industry for the best talent and be able to quickly bring in experts in diverse fields – talent that would otherwise be unlikely or unable to join the Navy.
As of today, there is no intent to use these authorities. That could change – the world and our potential adversaries get a vote.
Additionally, the idea would be to use this only in rare occasions for ratings or designators in which we might need to build or grow new capability quickly. We do not plan to use this to bring in individuals for traditional Navy occupations that require extensive sea time and/or operational experience. Senior direct accessions would be the exception rather than the rule. Today, cyber is my best guess of a place where we might most likely need it in the future, but there might be other areas tomorrow that we simply can’t foresee right now.
We already bring in doctors, lawyers and musicians at more senior ranks, but typically only up to the E-6 or 0-4 level.
This idea is not new – we have done it before, a number of times. For example, during World War II, the Navy directly accessed hundreds of thousands of individuals into senior Seabee positions to help create the Navy’s construction battalions from scratch. Some were brought in as chief petty officers, based on their master building skills and experience as supervisors – and they performed superbly.
It is not lost on the Navy’s leadership what the anchors of a chief petty officer symbolize, or the blood, sweat and tears it takes to earn them. Chief’s anchors represent the culmination of hard work, expertise, trust, and above all…leadership.
Commanders and junior enlisted Sailors alike rely on Chiefs for their technical and professional expertise and deck plate leadership. Chiefs motivate by example to develop effective young leaders and their actions help shape and influence Sailors.
Rest assured, this effort is about preparing for the future, not replacing our deck plate leaders.
Our Navy today has the best Sailors we’ve ever seen. We aim to keep it that way.
Keep the feedback coming,