Navy Noir

December 2011


We’ve seen this movie before; well, some of us have. Those who saw the post-Cold War, post-Desert Storm “peace dividend” era will recognize where we are. Different acronyms and different policies – the but goal is the same. People need to leave. It starts ugly, creates a new normal, then settles out. There are no great ways to reduce manpower in a bad economy – but there are less bad ones.

Are we doing this right – and are we leading from the front to make sure leaders enjoy the same hardships as their Sailors? For those we keep on – are we choosing the right leaders for the right reasons?

I would like to send along a snapshot of what our front-line leaders are having to work with as they tell outstanding Sailors that, even in this economy, soon they will have to make it work without the Navy.

When was the last time you saw a grown man cry in uniform over a non-legal admin issue? It ain’t pretty – but behind the PPT; this is what is happening at one major sea command.

Results from the Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) for E4/5: we had 20 of 50 candidates selected for separation.

ERB for E6/7/8: we had 9 of 48 candidates selected for separation. No E7/E8s were separated; all E6.

One was a 16-year first class who cried like a baby when he was told. Wife, two kids, no NJP, no misconduct, solid good Sailor. This comes on the heels of the 46 E4-E5 folks ship-wide we notified two weeks ago.

Some of these Sailors had PRD extensions to make the homeport change and move or moved their families to the new duty station. Not only have our Sailors stood up to meet absurdly inconvenient USN challenges (when would IBM move you, not help you sell your house (now upside down), and expect your wife to do the move alone while you were gone for 6 months), but they did so with the good faith that they had a reciprocal commitment from USN.

Well, they thought they did. They had faith that because they did all they were asked to do – the Navy would stand up to the promises it made verbally and by culture. They have found instead that truth can and will change.

ERB and her automaton sister Perform to Serve (PTS). How are these impacting the relationship between Sailors and their leadership – and the connection between officers and enlisted?

Remember, with PTS no humans are involved in this decision. A computer looks at certain parts of their personnel record and calculates their value to the Navy with an algorithm. Yep, we are letting the computers do all the leading for us. We detach ourselves from the very personal part of leadership; you have to work both the “good & fun” as well has the “difficult but needed” parts of it.

That can quickly develop in to a habit. It is a short walk from “just let a computer tell others the bad news so I don’t take the hit,” to telling the XO that we shouldn’t let anyone on overnight liberty in our next port because no one wants to have to explain to their Sailors why they denies their chit. It’s too hard; push the bad news decision to someone else so I can hand out NAMs. And no – I didn’t just make that story up. It was sent in an email last week from one of my regulars. Yes; longer deployments with less liberty. That makes a great bumper sticker.

Isn’t leadership at its core a personal relationship? People will follow the orders of a superior – but they are led by individuals they honor and trust. The whole PTS/ERB process puts the concept of leadership on its head by the impersonal nature of it all. These Sailors are being fired, and they are being fired without cause…you can’t tell them why, just “you’re fired.” The people who know them best aren’t making the call – they are just reporting it.

The decisions are made from afar – yet the leadership challenge comes up close. How do you motivate a Sailor, who deployed 4 months early, who is gone from home for 11 months, who thinks that they are about to be fired and then will be expected to remain at sea for the next 3 months until deployment is over? “You’re fired…but you have to stay at sea for the next 3 months and work hard and you can’t do any planning for your career change because your internet doesn’t work and you can’t talk to your wife and kids except on 4 ATT sailorphones. Oh, and we’re dumping you in the worst economy since the 1970s. Carry-on.”

That is what is happening in the Fleet right now. Not all that different than what we saw with the early 90s Involuntary Release from Active Duty (IRAD), but these are enlisted personnel, not officers.

Going beyond the people affected – back it out a bit. We’re already “optimally” manned, right? So when these Sailors leave their commands, the command will get a replacement. After all, while we’ve cut 3,000 Sailors, so far we haven’t changed the manning documents. Who do you think is going to show up as the replacement? Do you think that when you lose your 1st Class – who has all the quals, experience, and technical knowledge they’ve gained in 14 years of service – you’re getting the same thing from BUPERS to replace them? No. You’re lucky if you get a 3rd Class with the right NEC’s.

So, ships and squadrons that already don’t have enough people, now have fewer experienced Sailors as well. It’s not a question of how many Airmen or Seamen you push into the command to make the numbers look right. Training and experience matter. The other problem is that you are now cutting back on your mid-grade leadership. You end up with ships and squadrons full of Khaki and 3rd class and below. People who are supposed to be looking at the big picture and worker bees, but nobody in between to connect the two. Is that setting an organization up for success or failure?

A slightly unsettling component of this is that it takes a lot of people out of contention for retirement benefits as they are 4-6 years from retirement, but that isn’t one of the goals … is it?

Does the senior leadership have a full understanding of how their decisions are impacting both leadership and Sailors on the deckplates? Do our actions show any empathy with our Sailors and their families? The talking points that were distributed to front line leadership about how to “fire” a Sailor were ridiculously simplistic and next to useless.

Is this really the best way to do this? From the view of the deckplates – are officer and enlisted reductions being done the same way? Well, again – let’s look at what was done at the officer level. Fair or not – it is what the enlisted see.

As a point of discussion, look at the Selective Early Retirement (SER) board for URL CAPT and CDR. Who did we “fire,” 124 officers? With this economy, even being retirement eligible, people are staying. So, numbers need to go – did they go far enough? Doesn’t look like it.

As a result, many LCDR and below are having their screen groups pushed back by years because there are so many CDRs and CAPTs hanging on. I know of a LCDR who was told his first look at O5 was pushed back 2 years, another pushed a year. Odds are that Shipmate will see another slide. Why aren’t we thinning the herd of 12-16-yr officers as we are 12-16-yr enlisted?

Here is the pernicious difference between what happened to the officers vs. the enlisted – the officers who do get “fired” all have their 20 years in – they get a check. ERB folks are often ¾ of the way to the pension that now they will never see … unless they can work some reserve time and tread water for a couple decades plus.

For now though, the officers will hit the USAJobs website with a nice paycheck coming in while they tread water. ERB and PTS? Just a chunk of money to chew on until it runs out. BTW – your daughter needs braces and your son turns 16 next year and don’t plan on moving to a job with your family in tow – you’re $20,000 underwater in your home.

Have we (Navy leadership via BuPers) through our actions and processes institutionally broken faith with our personnel? Is this how a Top 50 Employer acts?

Yes, reductions need to be made – but are we doing it right? Can we clearly look in the face at our deployable forces and those with the most sea duty and say, “We have cut as much of the supporting infrastructure as possible. We have cleared out all the oxygen thieves and professional shore duty billet sponges; we have to go after you.”

Do we really have a lean shore infrastructure? (staff and shore BA/NMP, call you office). Have we scrubbed our manning documents correctly? Have we, like the Army and USMC, done a thorough review of our personnel to see who has and has not deployed in the last few years and made people offers they can’t refuse? Are we rewarding the right things? Do our actions reflect our words? Does a CDR in DC, or an E4 at Pax River, have the same (or better) chance of promoting over someone on a back-to-back sea tour? Well, let’s take another snapshot.

We have been a Navy at war for over a decade. In that time, one of the greater challenges we have had is the Individual Augmentation (IA/GSA) program (AKA NARMY). What have we told people over and over – well, that it will be both rewarding and rewarded. Has it?

Do we reward the warrior – or are we still stuck in a peace-time/Cold War mentality where we don’t so much reward tactical and operational performance and effort so much as number of hoops and checked boxes? Do we focus a lot on school time – or actually leading Sailors at sea and forward deployed? Are we promoting combat leaders to run an organization that exists to fight its nation’s wars – or are we promoting the fonctionnaire and perpetual student?

Again – let’s look at what we are doing with officers. What happened at the last Aviation Major Command Screen Board? Perhaps we will find our answers there as – coming from SG-90 +/-, these officers have spent more than half their career at war. Right?

What does this data point tell the warfighter about what our Navy values during wartime?

  • Overseas duty? A wash.
  • IA/GSA? Doesn’t look like a winner.
  • Avoid hard duty overseas or a year+ in the dirt with an IA/GSA, or find a way to warm a seat in a classroom or chop PPT slides in a 3-digit J-coded job on a superfluous Staff?

Where do you become a better leader – at sea and deployed – or ashore working on your handicap?

Difficult times require difficult decisions. Are we making those difficult decisions for the right reasons? Do our actions match our words?

As things contract, you have to make sure that your keep the value added, and let the less value added go. That is the only way to, at the end, make sure you have an organization that is in best shape to address the challenges it faces.

What do our actions and manpower shaping tell you about what a smaller Navy will be like? As people have the habit of selecting in their own image – what will we become more and more like as the present conflicts fade? Will this serves us well when, and it is when not if, the next war comes?

UPDATE Zacchaeus over at Small Wars Journal does a very good job contextualizing the tradeoffs embedded in the above post. Read about “The Lance Corporal Equivalents” here.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy
Tags: ,

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • CDR K

    ERB is a shot in the gut! A sister command just happened to be lucky enough to have 5 of 7 enlisted AT THE COMMAND selected for either cross rate or separation. What was the community answer? TAD folks to cover the gap…but they need the right skills, so take from the other DETS. But wait, aren’t they already short handed as they have lost their own set of folks to ERB?

    I have seen a marked decrease in motivation across everyone as a result of this. Some really good folks are being sent home, but the message to the fleet is that they “just were not good enough”. Suppose that is why they pay me the big bucks…figure out how to squeeze more/better work out of demotivated sailors that just had their LPO mentor slashed…

  • Duke

    Great post, Commander! With some great questions. It sure looks like the value is being subtracted, not added. The same goes for the values as well. Here’s hoping senior leadership wakes up in time.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    This is a heartbreaking post. Absolutely heartbreaking. The points you make are in the x-ring.

    The Navy is going to reward those who are most senior and those who have served closest to home. Stick close to your desk, and never go to sea, as it were.

    How about this for a rule? The Navy Officer-Enlisted ratio is just under 1:5. So for the 3,000 enlisted of middle grade, 600 Officers have to be let go with them. And since the ratio of Flag Officers to Sailors is about 1:1,700, the loss of 3,600 Sailors of all ranks requires a reduction of two Flag Officers.

    I know there will be howls that such is not possible or practical. But you are right with the hard choices. The USN is exceedingly top-heavy already. (https://blog.usni.org/2011/11/23/navy-to-lay-off-3000-sailors/) Such ill-considered cuts, and the rather ham-handed method of making them, will have impact on morale and readiness well beyond the current situation.

  • Friend of CDR Turk


  • John

    The personnel reductions are driven by the need to cut costs.

    Meanwhile, we have more Flag Officers than ships, with the attendant sycophant staffs and perks and office spaces all generating busy work for warfighters.

    Let’s try cutting at the top, where the $$$$$ savings for a O-8 or O-9 are many multiples of that saved by firing a working E-5,6,7. Add in the reductions in the no longer needed staffs and you save a lot of bucks without nearly as much loss in “bang” as by laying off many times more worker bees.

    And, uniformed personnel layoffs should only begin after the civilian workforce reductions have taken place.

    And, start with the totally worthless and counterproductive “Diversity” zampolits at every echelon!

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    This is a protect your bosses’ butt and your own butt thereby optimized plan. Made by Captains for Admirals, all with a ton of JPME and staff time, and just enough sea time to meet the gates. Every one smart, sure footed, politically (internal navy politics) savvy and and smooth, who know the cost of every thing and the value of nothing. Especially with reference to fleet sailors.

    Eye for the main chance? 20/10 vision.

    Loyalty down? Surely you jest.

    The Navy takes care of its own? Obsolete.

    The future. Ozmandias.

    Soooooo screwed.

  • Sam Tarantole (MM2 SS)

    With a shrinking NAVY (ships) and the current platforms being built (LPD-17, LCS, DDG-1000), the new technology is at best working most of the time, at worst case, OOC.

    Latest pictures of LCS-1 show poor stansard care of exterior surfaces (rust bucket). No place in crew for deck division. No place in engineering plant unless you are 5 foot 2 inches tall.

    LPD-17 power plant is a joke and Ingalls/Avondale construction is below standards that built the FFGs and early DDG-51s.

    I have worked at 5 major shipyards from Maine to San Diego since 1979 and have seen many sailors “fired” in order to add civilian personal to IMA’s and SIMA’s Iguess the computer is “unionized”

  • Byron

    Lets have a few hard cuts in the folks wearing flags… We surely don’t need more Admirals than we have ships, and since the only war the Navy has is with Congress…

  • Freedom of Speech

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Those in the peanut gallery can make assumptions about the importance of JPME (‘working on your handicap’), the right size of an NEC, Designator, or Paygrade, and pontificate. It is easy to find a heart-wrenching story complete with dead puppies and 16 years of service turned into a DD214 and a slot in the unemployment line. It is a lot harder to cut bone and muscle so the body survives. The implication that computers issue pink slips is insulting. Real leaders in Millington and on boards decide who goes … former and potentially future leaders at sea. The DoD is part of the USG which, in case you missed, it, is overextended and underfunded. Not even congress, however maligned, could come up with easy answers this fall and winter, probably to their downfall.
    Anyone who has taken someone other than a first-tour sailor to mast has probably seen a grown man cry – they guy with a family and mortgage shouldn’t have slept with his sea pup’s wife. The people who are getting pink slips are no different than others in contracting services, or businesses, selected based on performance and selected by imperfect leaders given imperfect guidance doing the best job they could. The good news is the transition programs and (hopefully) technical and leadership skills learned by those shown the hatch will put them at the head of the line somewhere else.
    It’s not good news, especially when you’re the one getting the pink slip, but it’s not nearly as screwed up as some would portray.

  • M. Ittleschmerz

    Instead of the tired old saw of admirals vs ships…how about looking at the admirals who aren’t in command? How many flags are glorified staff officers? Or special assistants? Deputy to the Assistant to the Vice Commander?

    Numbers shouldn’t be the issue – relevance and delivered capability should be.


    Wonder what the breakdown was for the ERB between operational and shore support commands.

  • AT1 (AW) Charles H. Berlemann Jr

    I have heard from some that these sailors were deserving of seperation because they weren’t “competative” or were the fat-bodies, the non-leaders, or just poor technicians. The problem is that a few of the guys that I know who were selected were competative, a couple of them even did the “sailorization” (can we get rid of this buzz word?) thing and did IA tours. One of them up in my community (VAQRONs) did two IA tours back to back, why because the need was there and the billets for a shore duty wasn’t there. So he decided to save someone else from the fleet and hope that good orders would open up after the completion of his second tour. So this one great tech, super star with the quals to match, even had a number of useful command level collarteral duty training (such as CFL, CFS, SAPR, etc), but because he did two IA tours and for reasons only known to himself and his senior rater got a pair of NOBs in the MP category that has affected his ability to properly be “competative” when screening for CPO. So now he is being asked to leave. So how is that fair for guy who in all accounts is almost walking on water, but due to issues a few years back doing what was asked of him by the Navy when they were looking for IA tours that he gets shot in the back by his senior rater and then is told because he isn’t a “strong performer” he needs to leave the Navy?

    One of the other debates that needs to be looked at is our total mind set as it comes towards the whole enlisted evaluation process. We have been at war for a full decade now. We have also been retaining and for the most part exceeding our accession programs for at least 9 of those years (interesting how when a war starts the AVF sees a boom in recuriting and retention). We have still been using the metric of retention to hold Commanding Officers accountable to, while out of the other side of CNP’s mouth they are talking about us being over-manned and trying to get to that “opitmal-manning scenarios” when you sit through the PMA briefs. Recuriting is so good to the point that they are actually putting more people on the delayed entry program (and this is a DoD wide problem according to some friends in the other services). So maybe we needed to look at four to five years ago putting out a P4 to Commanding Officers stating that we have honesty again in evaulation process. Not everyone needs to be retained and if we need to tell someone that they have hit the high water point of thier Naval Career then so be it. Otherwise, we are leading our sailors astray by telling them during eval debriefs they are in the “Must Promotes” category and they have been really useful to the command as that worker bee, then right before deployment starting or right near the end of deployment get a PTS/ERB message saying “Yea, about you being useful….” If we reform the process, we need to have the ability to write an evaulation without prejudice that basically says, “AT3 Sacodonuts is a good technician, but in the opinion of the rater he is only going to be a third class potential for performance and should look for a job outside of the Navy.” We have that ability right now, however very few people above the level of LPO are willing to accept writing those types of evaluations because they don’t want to throw the overall PMA for the command (and commanding officer) off. On top of that some people while looking at the evaluation instruction can’t see that we can write an evaluation which says the above or they are unwilling to do so because they don’t want to be the bad guy to a sailor.

  • LT X-Y-Z

    Can anyone explain PTS in understandable terms? I understand the need to cut Sailors, I get it and it sucks not matter how you do it. But where do quals and experience come in? It seems they don’t. As someone said earlier, cut from the top. Officer and Enlisted alike. How much can we save by cutting from the FO and CMC ranks? Is it only when a Sailor puts on stars that we value qualifications and experience?

  • El Cid ’85

    CDR Salamander,

    As long as the officers continues to be overmanned the enlisted ranks will have to make up the difference…it’s change to time change the the enlisted/officer ratio. In 1980 it was 10 enlisted for every Officer, now i’s less than than 5 to 1…

    El Cid ’85

  • TJ

    CDR Salamander,

    Glad to read some stories about the deckplate impacts of these RIF programs. While you brought up a lot of problems with ERB and PTS, I didn’t see many solutions offered.

    Arguably the most difficult decision in implementing these programs is what to do with those who are nearing retirement … we’ll say 3/4 there, 15+ years. You’ve suggested that there should be a reciprocal commitment from USN to those who’ve committed the time to the service … and in context of this discussion, that suggestion can only mean that near-retirement sailors are off-limits for RIF. I don’t think this is totally unreasonable, but it should be acknowledged that such an approach negates some of the benefits which can be achieved via a RIF. Namely, it makes tenure more important than quality, reinforcing the impression that one need only be willing to mark time for 20 years to earn a pension. Efficient organizations don’t do this. Further, those who are “laid off” at 16 years of service still have the opportunity to finish their time in the reserves, earning 80% or so of what there retirement check would have been had they been allowed to stay, albeit a few decades later in collecting. A huge hit, but still a better deal than civilian employees get who are laid off in their mid-30s.

    I agree that the officer ranks need to be reduced by a commensurate number as the enlisted … I don’t know of any wardrooms that complain that they suffer from a lack of junior officers. I would support reducing the officer corps by a larger percentage even … increased responsibility at the JO level fosters increased pride I believe, and obviously increased experience and quality. Some of the billets that ships are making up for their officers are ridiculous (Electronic Warfare Officer, 2nd Lt, etc.). I would hope that the meager officer reductions you described are being augmented by reductions in accessions.

    Finally, the etched-in-stone career paths which are requisite for making rank should be jettisoned. The great leaders which were produced in the 1st half of the 20th century weren’t handcuffed by this … they had a lot more sea time and opportunities for command, and were afforded flexibility in where they could go and what they could do if they believed it would produce value for the fleet. Variety is the spice of life, but one that does not appear to be appreciated by modern selection boards.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Numbers shouldn’t be the issue – relevance and delivered capability should be.”

    That would imply capabilities-based budgets, and not budget-based capabilities. Precisely contrary to current mindsets.

  • Salty Gator

    Freedom of Speech,

    The servicemen and women being cut are not the same as contracting specialists or HR types in the civilian world who are being cut due to the civilian equivalent of PTS. We ask our military members to give us their lives, and a good chunk of the lives of their families. They do so under the expectation that the same honor which they serve will be rendered to them and their families in return. Not pay. Honor. Consideration. It has not been made so. Understood about the USG being overextended. Just don’t try to tell me that a Sailor is no different than a 9 to 5 slob.

  • Derrick

    Putting military personnel on the unemployment line doesn’t save taxpayer dollars. All it means in actuality is that instead of getting a paycheck from the navy, they get it from the welfare office. Both are government institutions. In the end, the government still has not saved any money.

  • pk

    i would not be suprised to see that a non skewed hard look at the beans would indicate that an admiral and staff direct costs (office only) might just approach the costs of a small ship (not including fuel and ammunition).

    an interesting proposition, give up 5 admirals and staffs for 4 small ships.


  • Perry

    1) Congress should pass a law that there can’t be more admirals than ships – that is completely ludicrous.

    2) The RIF is another reason why I think we need to move away from the “Twenty or bust” mentality of the retirement system. If military folks had a generously funded 401K retirement system, being asked to leave before 20 years would not be nearly the issue it is today.

    3) Interesting stat missing from the slide on Major Command selection: time flying. If my mind, that is far more important for aviators than any of the other factors. Did an officer essentially have the minimum flying time so they could get the “good” (i.e., career enhancing) jobs in DC or were they at sea leading Sailors and keeping aircraft flying? Also, how many of those jobs were on ships vice staffs?

    4) I also don’t see how any of the stats they listed leads to the bottom line that “Performance continues to rule the day, especially in CDR Command.”

    5) I think it definitely shows the detailers lie to everyone they are trying to convince to take an IA job: “It will look really good at promotion/board time.”

  • Jay

    I don’t have time to address the EBB or PTS issue here, but I think we need to clear up some misperceptions that URR (and others) may have here:

    — I very much doubt there isn’t an Aviator on this list who hasn’t had some long time deployments under his or her belts. They would have had to have had an intial tour, and very likely an XO tour (however…I am not as familiar with the flying community…). Whether they had a full six-month at-sea deployment every 4-5 years — can’t tell from this. However, much more likely than not (except for those P-3 folks…).

    — As to overseas tour — it does seem that half of the selects had one. However — not all overseas tours are equal, nor arduous (in any sense of the word) — so I don’t think that is the differentiator you are looking for.

    — Neither — really — is an IA or GSA — many of the Navy positions that Officers fill in these are staff work…however, at almost ten years in to the war — with one IA under my belt and soon to embark on another — I would imagine that number would be somewhat higher.

    — What some of the numbers tell me — is (JPME I 100%) — is that most/all these folks did a War College (that is good). Many of them found time (JPME II – 67%) to knock out the next level — some of them — I would suspect — off-line/part time at whatever shore tour they were doing between sea/flying tours. That bodes well for them.

    The blue box tells the real story — performance!! The % of the other wickets listed may help when performance is equal between some folks (rare, but it happens).

  • Chuck G

    Sorry guys, but you are looking at this all wrong. You are assuming that when you enlist, the Navy “owes” you the right to stay as long as you want, but the reality is that there are only so many billets, to man so many ships, subs, etc., to do the job our nation’s leadership wants, and can afford them to do.

    The root of the problem (IMHO) is that people in general (and Sailors) identify themselves by WHAT THEY DO…”I am a Sailor” instead of identifying themselves by what they are capable of doing “I can fix engines, I can analyze information, I can fix comuters”…so, when the Navy needs to cut someone, they feel a great loss of identity.

    But here’s the thing…that person is still needed somewhere, back in their hometown, in a new city, or somewhere the skills and experience they gained in Naval service will transfer to a new career and successful future (caveat: unless they personally decide to only see the downside of the shift).

    I spent a career in the Navy trying to keep Sailors in the Navy, but after retiring and seeing that it’s a BIG world out there, I now tell Sailors that even if they only have half a plan, don’t be afraid, make the jump – just be sure to get your degree before you go.

    All Sailors should stand tall and be proud of what they’ve accomplished in the navy, but it’s important for them to also realize that there’s even more opportunity on “the other side”…r/Chuck

    Chuck G.
    MCPO(SS), Ret.

    P.S. And, for those leaders who are having to “put Sailors on the street”…do it with dignity and stay engaged in the process…PLEASE do not delegate the care and feeding of your transitioning Sailor to TAP alone – help them in everyway you can.

  • “Finally, the etched-in-stone career paths which are requisite for making rank should be jettisoned…”

    I think the first step here is to look at the lingering effects of Goldwater-Nichols and the impact it has had in driving the expansion of billets at the O-5 to O-8 level. I’m sure the following will be viewed as apocryphal by the manpower directorates, but my experience on active duty and afterwards has been there is a corps of “joint” officers (and I include OSD in this roll-up) who have essentially sought a career path away from their originating Service and are marking time to retirement occupying “critical” (read: niche) specialties. One marker has been remarked upon in these pages previously, namely who we send to the Naval War College.
    w/r, SJS

  • UltimaRatioReg


    “Misperceptions”? Such as a top-heavy Navy? And the wholesale dismissal of the NCO ranks, which should be the backbone of any war-fighting organization, and are the ones in greatest demand WHEN war comes?

  • AT1 (AW) Charles H. Berlemann Jr

    I find it most interesting that as some here debate whether or not the officer ranks should be trimmed just as much as the enlisted ranks are trimmed. I also find it most interesting that there are some who feel that the organization as a whole doesn’t owe anything to anyone because the same is done in the public sector. I am severely challenged by the loss of faith in leadership by those who are missing the picture on whole, or at least as I see it from my little pierscope on the deckplates.

    Some folks are correct we weren’t promised a 20 year career with a nice brass ring at the end of it. Rather what we were constantly told by all levels of leadership from the FCPO’s when some of us were junior sailors coming in before the war, that we keep our nose clean and do our jobs well we will be advancing at a good pace. The war starts and retention skyrockets, however we are still told that you do your job and keep your nose clean and in 10-12 years you can be a CPO. Then the PTS zones started to creep up on us, SRB started to disappear and the trend that retention was too high, but still the word coming out of CNP and OPNAV all the way down the line was do your job, keep your nose clean and you will advance. Now we are in a situtation where we are fat with people and all of a sudden the tune has changed to “You know the rule of Thunderdome! Two men enter! One man leaves!” Add in for a large number of enlisted folks is that we hear from the CPO messes, that you need to do X/Y/Z to be competative. So some do those things and still miss out getting screened for CPO advancement and then also don’t screen until their last look for PTS. The playing field isn’t completely level and some of it is hidden from the players. Things like IA duty or taking on recuriting duty was supposed to look good and yet there are those with that that are being asked to leave by ERB. There are those who have spent most of thier time out to sea with minimual shore time because that was suppose to look good, they are being asked to go. Then there are some who are poor technicians, poor leaders and don’t seem to match up with what the CPO mess says they are looking for; these are some of the folks that are retained. It makes one question the faith in leadership at the CNP level about personnel decisions being properly made. One can sit there and try to spin the information all they want, but the enlisted folks who are in the E-6 and below are seeing and hearing friends/co-workers/friend of a friend stories as it relates to both PTS and ERB about sailors who are excellent in 9 out of ten categories and only good in number ten. Something is wrong with the system or the system is working, but the rules aren’t being properly explained all the way down the chop chain. Sorry, but if you want to retain the top people then you need to explain the rules to them.

    There are questions being asked as well with regards to why just as many JO’s are being cut and why just as many CPO/SCPO/MCPO aren’t being asked to walk away as well. At the E-7 to E-9 level the Senior Rention Board is supposed to be doing this and if one get a hold of the quotas as being reported via Navy Times or even NPC, the precentages of those cut vs those looked at are tiny (if memory serves me right this year was under 10%). So how do you as a Division officer/Department Head/CMC/Command Officer explain this to an E-5 or an E-6 who is being asked to go home and they are hearing of rates around 20-25% of those eligable are being asked to leave?

    Some options on how to fix this issue, might be a situtation where we take a look at instituing a rule like the officers have of “2 and out” when someone gets a look. That is if they are a Petty Officer and can’t advance off an advancement exam after two years we should ask them to look at either rate conversion or to leave the Navy. The same might be true of those who fail to screen for CPO after four full calendar years as a First Class. That might be rough, but it might also set realistic goals and timelines for those who keep plugging away at something and hoping that next year will be the year they will stick at the next higher paygrade.
    The other thing might be as I mentioned earlier in this, would be to totally reform the enlisted evaluation/fitness report process so that those who do become warm bodies are shown reality as the command sees it. Not as an additional number to support the CO’s retention numbers and to maintain his PMA.

  • ShawnP

    How many of these folks will be asked back in a few years when the Navy is suddenly undermanned? As the good CDR has said this is not how to do a drawdown. This was about saving money and getting away with it as cheaply as can be. But don’t worry we now have extra money for another LCS but we don’t have the properly trained Sailors to man it.

  • D. Timothy Jones

    I guess in retrospect, I am happy that I retired when I did, I could see being one of these PTS casualtities, during my tenure I did see an awful lot of churn. It seemed that there were more and more opportunities being created for the officer community, and not so many for the enlisted community. It seemed that there were an awful lot of substandard officers, young men and women that really needed to hold other jobs in the greater scheme of things, and really should have been separated from active military service at the earliest possible occurence, I actually served with one of these folks. Bottom line, there really needs to be more useful, effective method of thinning the ranks, and yes we really do need to have fewer flag officers, and create more paths for enlisted to matriculate upward, and send some of those folks that are protecting coffee pots and water coolers home in order that some of the younger folks can get promoted, and bottom line, we need to determine where do we go from here. Think some of these expectations through rather than destroying lives and capabilities and possibly endangering world peace in the process.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    I hear that Hu might be hiring:


    Leadership and loyalty begets….

    – Kyon


    Not to disagree with the conclusion, but the supporting data from the Aviation Major Command board and other data cited doesn’t really tell us anything.

    Lets look at the points.
    51% had overseas tours. So what, what is the percentage of the population that had overseas tours? Without that knowledge you can’t make any judgements. What if only 30 officers (20%) before the board had overseas tours? Are overseas tours still a wash?
    8% had IA experience? Again, out of how many? If only 3 officers had that experience and all were selected, how does it change the pre-concieved notions? So basically, without additional information, you can’t support any of the conclusions you draw. Not that they are wrong, just that they are not supportable with the data.

    And on the subject of ERB, PTS, HYT, and other force shaping tools, there are reasons they are needed. Without those tools, you can’t ensure that you have a balanced force without Sailors on the ROAD program. Just for starters, I would like to see a breakdown by rating of the ERB versus the end strength of the various ratings. Did we cut people in overmanned ratings or in ratings with significant shortfalls? I am guessing it was any overmanned, top-heavy ratings but then I could be wrong. The E-6 in question, was he a MP or EP sailor or a steady P kind of guy? Was he better than the guys below him?

    Again, not to say that there isn’t something there or that you are not right, just that there are numerous unsupported assertions that scream out for further investigation. For instance, in the ship with 20 released from 50 before the board, how may E5s are on the ship? Lets say it is 500, then sorry, 20 is barely a blip. But if it is 100 or even 200, then 20 is a much bigger hit.

    While I don’t disagree with CDRSalamander, he is drawing conclusions that really aren’t supported by the data presented. Not that they are wrong, I honestly think we need to trim down support staffs and that there are a lot of O-7s doing jobs that could easily be done by O-6s and so on down the line, but his supporting data isn’t there.

  • Chris

    I have to agree with what John said, Why do we have more Flag officers than ships. It seems like a lot of fat can be trimmed from the top itself.

    No one is promised a retirement. but there should be limits to where people can be effected. Additionally, when was the last time you saw a Congressman or Senator take a pay cut… NEVER! This needs to be reviewed and revamped before we become a hollow force with nothing to show!

  • CTRCS(SW) (ret)

    Do we still have the MU rating? Until the Navy (and the military as a whole) replaces their bands with a 9$ CD they aren’t serious about doing what is right.

    With all due respect to musicians. Safe to say we don’t need (the last I saw a few months ago) 120 plus bands.

  • AT1 (AW) Charles H. Berlemann Jr


    Most of the folks that were cut by ERB were in over manned ratings if you go over to NPC’s website and look at the enlisted year groups from 1997 to 2000 for all the aviation ratings, you would see that most of them were manned into the 110 to 120% range. So there was fat that need to be cut. However, if CNP knew that these ratings were over manned and have been over manned for years then why weren’t force shaping tools used a few years back as we started to announce our plans to end the decade long war?
    Why wait till we have a budget crunch going on right now to force the use of ERB on the fleet? During one of the briefs from CNP months before the results were announced the answer from a few of the MCPO’s at CNP was that PTS wasn’t effectively shaping the force as CNP and OPNAV saw it. Whose fault is that? The fleet or the program managers?
    One of the other sides was that most of these folks were offered the chance to rate convert to under manned ratings. However, most of these folks were being asked to convert over to ratings such as MM(N) or YN with a submarine speciality or into the spy ratings such as CT. What wasn’t being told and a few PO1s in my command found digging around was that, yes these ratings were under manned. Yet, some of the year groups couldn’t convert over because the same year groups in the other ratings were overmanned just as bad. So it would be similar to asking a sailor to jump from a CREO 4 to a CREO 3; which is against the rules in a normal situation. So what was originally a 8-10 number of ratings that a sailor could have converted to actually shrank to 1 or 2. Again the heavy emphaise on going to the submarine services, not that there is anything wrong with that; but if these folks had wanted to go submarines don’t you think they would have volunteer for them when they enlisted?
    Then to ask these senior PO1s and PO2’s to compete against guys who have been in those rates for just as long. Something about that all just doesn’t seem right from a leadership presepective? Basically throwing what could be a decent sailor into the deep end of the pool and expecting them to preform the crawl swim when they have just learned how to float.
    The whole process stinks and no one can effectively spin it for some of these folks being cut to cool thier anger. Oh and the USNR is just as over manned in the same ratings, so what is a sailor supposed to do?


    Saying that ERB targeted overmanned ratings presents it’s own conundrum…if the rates selected were overmanned, why were ships and squadrons undermanned in those ratings and sending EMIRs to fill gapped billets? Where are the extra 1-20 percent of the overmanned rates?

  • Rick G

    Big Navy has to cut costs…got it. What’s puzzling is, in NFL parlance, putting “franchise tags” on certain communities. Aside from those in the SPECWAR and Nuclear communities due to their training and operating environments, the pain should have been spread out. Earlier posts mentioned “oxygen thieves”, career shore duty sponges, excessive Flags with their staffs. Concur, concur, and concur.

    Being out here on the end of the spear and telling an up-and-coming PO1 that his/her hard work and sacrifice has been for nothing makes for a humbling experience to say the least.

    To be fair, there have been some Sailors who have actually welcomed the news of losing their jobs. The severance pay and ERB-only benefits alone have made for a very attractive package. To them I say good luck and good bye; their response confirms that their heart was never in the profession to begin with.

    I would readily add a few of those “sacred cows” to the ERB chopping block.


    We need to really focus on fighting well.

    The “overhead admirals” are justified by the need to fight for resources for that particular area. Ironically, outstanding performance (not by program-justifying metrics, but by no kidding results) speaks louder than PPT and has more natural supporters, thus providing its own very strong argument for resources.

    ERB/PTS as a force-shaping tool will have signficant unintended consequences. For example, there is no doubt some of the released Sailors have screw-ups in their records. Did they use those failures to reset? If we no longer allow failures to be teachable moments, we defacto reward zero-defect or worse–cover up and lower standards. Also, make no mistake, at career decision points (and family milestones), the value of a retirement check is added into the calculus about whether to stay or go. No one is entitled to a retirement check until they are. However, last I checked, the value of a military retirement is still listed on the StayNavy website. We are failing miserably at communicating with and leading our internal labor market (justifying based on cost is a death spiral). Unlike other corporate restructuring, we can’t hire from the outside nor merge with other entities. We will have to regrow all of this talent. (Not sure how that will happen either if we’ve fired the instructors or need to keep them on sea duty because they’re so scarce. See Ref A: IJN fighter pilot production.)

    The best thing we can do is have leadership at every level take a hard turn to fundamentals of naval warfare, push back strongly against the steady creep of admin, auxiliary and measurement functions and be disruptive in pursuit of those goals.

  • Capt. HW “Woody” Sanford,MC,USNR(ret.)

    I can only speak about the Navy Hospital Corps Reserves. I commanded 3 different Reserve Medical Units in the 1980s. In each of these, promotion delayed significantly at the E-6 level. There were very few HMC billets in the Ready Reserves at that time. Exam score cutoffs eliminated many candidates. Also, most reserve centers had only one OCG typewriter, most often used only by the active duty YNs. There was very little administrative support. I was lucky part of the time, having a young, enthusiastic LTjg MSC Officer in my unit who was of tremendous help. A number of my senior E-6s had combat service in Vietnam, but that seemed to make no impression on Promotion Boards. When I was near retirement in 1987, we finally got 1 HM promoted to Chief, but he was rated by me as in the middle of his peer group. I thought our unit was the best-trained in our region. We had ACDUTRA for jungle combat, desert combat, Hospital, Shipboard and Helicopter Medevac. I thought then that I must have screwed up on FITREPS and EVALS, but I don’t think so now. Must have been the “System.” GO NAVY! Woody

  • JackO

    As a WW2 sailor, enlisted in 1940, I could , almost, see this coming.

    Verily, I am distressed at this, but I forsee nothing will happen to change it. The administration is anti-military, the budget is bad, the wheels in the headquarters are spinning, and trying to solve unsolvable problems.
    You cannot, should not, must not, cut the working staff of the navy, and expect the Navy to function well.
    a more satisfactory solution would be to eliminate some civilian position in the civil work force, replace them with enlisted for training and performance, and as the reserve ready , trained, and available for call to war duty in the front forces.

    In times of severe stress it is easy to get the civilian force labor into the gaps, but it is hard to get the inducted, enlisted, or drafted forces into the fronts effectively.

    It is possible to staff the enlisted navy at 125 by using the civilian facilities for their shore duty rotations.

    but, civilians have political power and will not readily agree to replace workers with enlisted as it will cut the area’s income substancially, and the public will object when hearing that .

    During WW2 the civilians moved into the Naval Repair Services as the sailors went to see, and have never agreed to the return of the sailors.

    but, perhaps, politics will win over common sense.

  • Sounds like an emotional “win the hearts and minds” of the readers rather than a hard look at the happenings. I get it, it sucks for anyone to be laid off of their job after putting in the the hard work. The article failed to mention that the people who are let go will receive a severance package, though it will probably pale in comparison to the “retirement cookie.”

    Also, the stats that he posted for the promotions for Major Command–these too can be skewed. While at first glance it looks like the Navy only promotes those that have finished JMPE, it fails to mention that every officer knows that right after their JO tour they should be working on JPME phase 1. No stuff it’s at 100%.

    As far as the IAs being picked on for not looking as important as other benchmarks, it’s safe to say that not everyone gets pegged for an IA. Therefore a smaller percentage of people are going to have an IA as a promotion bench mark.

    There are plenty of things missing in this article. How about we tell the “whole” truth.