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ERB…The Why, The How, and The Now What

Last year’s Enlisted Retention Board was charged with identifying the most fully qualified Sailors for retention, applying both performance indicators and available quotas. Combined, the first and second phases of the ERB reviewed approximately 16,000 records for approximately 13,000 available retention quotas (81%). Though the primary criterion for all boards is sustained superior performance, the ERB contained both quota-based and performance-based elements.

The board was charged with reviewing each candidate’s official military personnel file and any member-submitted correspondence to identify the best qualified Sailors to receive the finite number of retention quotas available. The board was conducted in two independent phases; Phase I reviewed E4-E5 personnel, and Phase II reviewed E6-E8 personnel. The board was composed of two separate memberships for each phase and included a Flag Officer as president, with officers and Master Chiefs as members. Senior Chiefs and Chiefs served as recorders. Board members were a diverse group of professionals representing different ratings, geographic locations, and warfare specialties.

Within each board phase there was a quota portion and a non-quota portion.

For the quota portion of the board, the board followed the precept’s guidance in determining those candidates whose continued service is in the best interest of the Navy.  Records were reviewed by two board members and were ranked highest to lowest and then deliberated for retention quotas. The slate of eligible’ selected for retention, and the slate of those who would not be retained, was briefed to the board members prior to the board’s vote.

In the non-quota portion, eligible records were reviewed by two board members for substandard or marginal performance indicators such as PFA failure, nonjudicial punishment, or below average evaluation. Retention was presumed for records without documented substandard or marginal performance indicators. Those eligible’ that had a negative indicator were reviewed against the “gold standard” listed in the precept.  The slate of eligible’ selected for retention, and the slate of those who would not be retained, was briefed to the board members prior to the board’s vote.


Because the selection was in part quota-driven, some good Sailors with no performance issues were forced to compete against their peers in rating, pay grade and years of service. This meant some high-quality Sailors were not selected for retention.

Quota-based boards are notoriously painful because the mandated numbers that must be reached cause some good performers with no negative performance indicators to be separated. However as in all things, it’s essential for morale that we focus on the up side:  As a result of the ERB, there were also nearly 13,000 great Sailors selected to remain in our Navy today. And the health of the ratings has greatly improved for those staying and for recruits entering our Navy today.  Advancement opportunities have improved and more in-rate Perform to Serve quotas are available.

The ERB was designed to look at the Navy’s imbalances and adjust to meet our missions and budget. Those master chiefs and officers who sat the ERB had to make gut-wrenching decisions. As of March 1, Sailors not selected for retention have six months to prepare for civilian life. Fortunately, due to new Congressional authority – about 300 will qualify for the 15-year retirement, while the others receive Involuntary Separation Pay. As leaders, please ensure all ERB-affected Sailors take advantage of the enhanced transition benefits we have in place for them through Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Most importantly, remind our staying sailors that Navy does not plan to conduct another ERB in 2013 or 2014.

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