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Meet the Navy’s 58th Chief of Naval Personnel: Vice Adm. Robert Burke

This week we spoke with the newly appointed 58TH Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Burke. The admiral shared his focus as CNP, his expectations, personnel challenges that could affect the fleet, Sailor 2025 and more.

“I would say that the priorities really remain, first and foremost, keep the fleet fully and properly manned. We can’t afford any movement backwards on that.” Vice Adm. Burke

“We need more and more technologically savvy folks out there. We’re competing with industry for the exact same technical experts that Google and Amazon and other hi-tech companies are looking for.” Vice Adm. Robert Burke



MC2 Burleson: Welcome I’m joined with the 58th Chief of Naval Personnel, the newly appointed, Vice Admiral Robert Burke. Thank you for being here today.

CNP: Thank you it’s my pleasure.

MC2 Burleson: Congratulations on your new position.

CNP: Thank you I’m honored.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, it’s your first week on the job, what are some of the priorities you would like to focus on as CNP in the next few months?

CNP: Well, I think a lot of folks may not realize that I’ve been working for Admiral Moran for the better part of the last year, so I was involved in the development of the current efforts that are underway. I’m pretty invested in them. I think they are the right things for the Navy. The fleet won’t really see much of a change in emphasis from CNP, or from the N-1 organization. I would say that the priorities really remain, first and foremost, keep the fleet fully and properly manned. We can’t afford any movement backwards on that. Admiral Moran really put a lot of efforts in place in manning, and the feedback that we get from across the fleet, that’s made a difference in quality of service and quality of life. The second priority is going to be to deliver on Sailor 2025. Really bring in a program that is up and running, continues to live and breath and involve as we learn more as we figure out new ways to increase career flexibility, transparency and choices for our Sailors. The third priority is to transform and overhaul our own internal manpower, personnel, training and education organization, our whole personnel system so that we’re to deliver or Sailor 2025 and poise ourselves for a more competitive market for talent in the future.


MC2 Burleson: Sir, what are your expectations that you hope to achieve as part of your tenure as CNP?

CNP: Thanks, that’s a great questions. I have done three previous tours in the personnel system, and as mentioned before I’ve worked closely with Admiral Moran. I have a vested interested in making some improvements. My first expectation is that we continue to deliver on obtaining trust, balance and stability for our Sailors. We have to make the team understand that we really are working for them, and understand we’re looking out for their best interest day in and day out. The balance piece is about work balance, stabilizing deployment lengths and it’s about making it more and more possible to have a family; have a career; do all the things that people want to do in life while staying Navy. The stability piece is again similar sorts of things with deployments lengths stabilizing, but also stability in the personnel system. Understanding that you’re going to have certain expectation of opportunity for advancement or promotion, and continuing the trend of making things predictable so that you understand where you might be so many years down the road in your career path and what your opportunities might be.


MC2 Burleson: Talking about initiatives. What are some Navy personnel initiatives that you would like to talk about, and what is Sailor 2025? 

CNP: Sailor 2025 really started out as a group of independent initiatives just to try and get our arms around how we might modernize the personnel system. Today we’ve really coalesced that into 43 different initiatives that are alive and well. And those initiatives fall under three major categories. The first one is to really completely modernize our entire personnel system. We would envision some day where folks will interact with their detailers on their personal mobile devices. That you would be able to have complete transparency on all the jobs that might be available for your next assignment, and that you can negotiate that, sort of a Linked-In type of venue. We want more flexibility. Things like the career intermission program, things like graduate education opportunities, or initial four-year degree education opportunities for folks, just the ability to have choices, flexibility and transparency in the process. The second level or effort is about modernizing our training. We call the whole group of initiatives ready relevant learning. It’s about getting the right training to the right Sailor at the right time. Rather then going all the way through an initial training pipeline of what we call today A school and C school. In certain ratings it might be advantageous to break them up in blocks throughout their careers so that as you come back for your second or third sea tour your getting updated training on updated and modernized combat systems or what ever systems you operate in your particular career field. Then the other aspect of this is not only the right training at the right time, but training delivered in the right manner. We’re proud to be leading the way in the department of defense in innovative training mechanisms. It’s things like the use of artificial intelligence, tutors for our cyber warfare experts. It’s things like computer aided training devices that our essentially rooms full of flat screens that could be reconfigured to be a submarine radio room one hour, then the next hour it’s a tomahawk vertical launch console. That’s designed to after folks have initial familiarity with their jobs, now they can get the reps and sets necessary to become really confident in their skills. Then there are other things like simulators and other reconfigurable training systems that help us again practice more frequently; practice in between sea tours. Go get to your ship ready to do your job with very little ramp up whenever you get to the ship. Then the third piece of it is really enriching our culture. That’s about the work-life-balance. That’s about family friendly services; more childcare options; more childcare hours. It’s about a culture of fitness. Being fit all year round, not just running twice a year for your physical readiness test.


MC2 Burleson: That was a lot of great information. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the fleet faces regarding personnel?

CNP: The biggest challenge we face right now, in addition to being in sort of a physically constrained environment, we have to be very mindful of the dollars that we spend to make sure we’re getting what need to out of those dollars. That’s one aspect of it, but I think the bigger challenge is that our ships and aircraft and equipment are getting increasingly sophisticated. We need more and more technologically savvy folks out there. We’re competing with industry for the exact same technical experts that Google and Amazon and other hi-tech companies are looking for. So we have to continue to reach that market to make those folks understand the value of a career in the Navy and what the Navy can give to the individuals.


MC2 Burleson: You were a submarine officer by trade. You served on the submarine as a CO and a commodore, and you were also the recipient of the Stockdale Award. How has your achievements and your career path, how has that made you ready for this position?

CNP: I’ve had some tremendous opportunities in my career and I’ve had the benefit of having had some amazing teachers. From my first chief when I was a division officer, all the way up to most recently Admiral Moran, and a lot of great commanding officers and flag officer and first class petty officers along the way. I’ll tell you my biggest take away is respect is a two-way street. You respect folks up the chain of command. We talk about that a lot, but I believe that it pays huge dividends when you show respect down the chain of command as well. That’s sort of a form of humility, humility and understanding that everyone can contribute regardless of their rank. Everyone has fresh ideas, that a form of diversity, fresh ideas regardless of the seniority. It brings value to the team; it makes a better team. By showing that up and down the chain of command by working for your team it will give back to you thousand of times over. This tour I’m particularly excited about because I get to work for the team. Everything I do; when I come in the morning, I’m excited about going to work, about what I can do to help our Sailors each and every day.

MC2 Burleson: Finally, what is your message to the fleet?

CNP: I would just ask the fleet to understand that first of all, you got a lot of folks working in the manpower, personnel, training and education enterprise that have your best interest in mind each and every day. We’re working hard. Sometimes it can be frustrating and you’re reading Navy Times and your local newspaper or blog sites about some of the battles that go on. But there are folks fighting hard day-in and day-out to get the best composition, the best career choices, and the best options that we can deliver. I think in the end, the Navy is a great place to stay and we are going to continue to get even better and we look forward to seeing you out in the fleet.

MC2 Burleson: Sir, that’s all I have for you. Thank you for answering the questions.

CNP: Thanks petty officer Burleson

MC2 Burleson: Again, congratulations on your position as CNP. And thank you all for watching, and be sure to stay tuned for the latest news coming from the chief of naval personnel office.

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