Navy has manpower problems

| July 30, 2012

We’ve all heard how the Navy is giving pink slips to sailors in anticipation of pending DoD plans to not balance the budget on the Defense Department. Well, I wonder how they plan to cut personnel when they can’t find enough people to go to sea, ya know kind of the whole idea of having a Navy in the first place. Stars & Stripes says;

Over the past six months, the service has instituted measures to address gaps in critical positions, offering cash and other perks to compel sailors to head back out to sea. While those measures are still taking hold, Navy officials said last week that more must be done to address the at-sea manning issue — including involuntary measures — as nearly one-third of its total enlisted ratings are currently unfilled.

As a result, existing programs are being expanded and new measures implemented to ensure these billets are staffed properly, according to a Navy news release.

So, they’re going to offer people bonuses to go to sea? Funny, but I was under the impression that going to sea was part of being in the Navy. Every time I worked with the Navy, it involved being on a boat and floating around on big bodies of water. So maybe my view of the Navy is a little skewed, ya know, based on my experiences. It must be because everyone in the Navy is secretly a SEAL, so they don’t have time to go to sea, I guess. Right, Joseph Cryer?

Category: Navy

Comments (28)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. AW1 Tim says:

    Part of the problem, Jonn, is that the Navy offers a shore duty billet as part of a reenlistment package to sailors who have multiple sea tours. It’s a given that most sailors will end up at sea for their first, and likely 2nd enlistments. After that is where this kicks in.

    Sadly, I’m not surprised at this situation, as for the past 1-2 decades, the Navy’s left & right hands haven’t been talking to eachother, and things are only going to get worse in the coming decade.

    By the time we reach the 2020’s, Navy’s budgets for new construction are going to be gone, and we’re going to be faced with critical SHIP loss problems as well as ship building problems, all because BIG NAVY decided to persue a couple white elephant programs, that whole “revolutionary” vice “evolutionary” ship building program.

    Now we have massive amounts of money stuck in the LCS program, which is proving all of us naysayers correct in our assessments, and even more money down the black hole of the DDG-1000 program, a Frankenship in search of a mission.

    The bean counters in the Navy decided to try and trim the budget by showing the door to senior enlisted rather than let them stay in and retire, so they’ve lost an entire generation of knowledge and replaced them with what, exactly? Oh yeah: fresh faced recruits from boot camp being sent to crew the Navy’s new, expensive and very complex ships. Just frikkin’ lovely.

    Navy needs a thorough cleaning of it’s top ranks, and a wholesale change in attitude amongst the leadership. Without that, we’re gonna be in serious trouble in the VERY near future.

  2. Country Singer says:

    I’d like to second what AW1 said. The Navy has a bad habit of doing dumb things that encourage good personnel to leave the ranks. I’m a prime example of this; in the late 90’s they got the bright idea that adding more recruiters would fix the initial enlistment shortfalls. To that end it was decreed that the next X number of personnel rotating to shore duty were going to recruiting, period. I was going to fall in that number, so rather than reenlist and go to recruiting duty, I GTFO and went to the National Guard. This piece of wisdom on the part of the Navy resulted in a lot of people doing a job they really hated and them feeling no compunctions about cutting corners, recruiting scandals followed.

  3. SGT Ted says:

    A re-enlistment contract in the Navy that says you don’t have to go to sea? Thats like one from the Army that says you don’t have to go to the field; completely insane and unrealistic.

  4. NHSparky says:

    And as usual, nukes need not apply.

    I spent 7 1/2 years at sea/overseas after graduating prototype, and they thought they were being “nice” to be by giving me recruiting rather than an instructor billet at NFAS/NPS/NPTU, which is basically akin to asking someone if they’d like their nuts hammered flat or cut off with a rusty chainsaw.

    Basically, had I stayed in after recruiting duty, my choices were: 1–688 out of Pearl, 2–688 out of Pearl, 3–688 out of Pearl but heading to the shipyard in a year. Whoop-de-fuckin-do. So here I sit.

    From what I understand, while people might make rate faster now than in the 1990’s (as if we didn’t make it fast enough already) it certainly doesn’t help that you burn people out so fast they get out after their first or second enlistment, and in other jobs you have people who are doing the equivalent to passing out basketballs at the gym for 20 years who’ll move up slower than Air Force pukes.

    Choose your rate, choose your fate, indeed. This is a lot like the VRO shit that went down in the early 1990’s–people who wanted to stay in got tossed out with a check and people who wanted to get out and forgo the check were patted on the head and told, “Sorry, you’re a critical rate and ain’t goin’ ainywhere.”

  5. AnotherNuke says:

    @3: “A re-enlistment contract in the Navy that says you don’t have to go to sea? Thats like one from the Army that says you don’t have to go to the field; completely insane and unrealistic.”

    In case it wasn’t clear, very few people are getting permanent shore assignments. Typically sailors do a sea/shore rotation during their career – standard is 5 years at sea, 3 years on shore. Sometimes as part of your re-enlistment you can negotiate for earlier rotation to shore duty, usually in exchange for filling some critical shore billet. For example, NPTU is perpetually understaffed so if a nuke is willing to go there they can usually get out of sea duty early.

  6. bullnav says:

    Back in ancient times when I was but a young ENS on my first boat, a couple of folks were complaining about going to sea. A wise MM1 laid it out for them: “Sailors go on ships, and ships go to sea.” Sadly, that is not the case so much anymore. There seem to be more “critical” shore billets than sea billets, but what do you expect in a Navy which has more admirals than ships? AND we are still decommissioning ships at a faster rate than we are building them.

    I expect that with 7, 8, 9, even 11 month deployments becoming the norm (and that is with as little as 4 months turnaround), it is going to get exponentially more difficult to retain personnel.

    Oh, by the way, at sea manning has always been an issue (at least for the last 23 years I have been part of the Navy). On neither of my boats were we ever fully manned. Oh sure, we would get a plus up prior to a deployment, but those weren’t permanent folks. When we were in the shipyard, we would send folks to ride a boat for 3-4 months to fill manning needs.

    It has been a problem, and will continue to be a problem as long as we have the bloated shore staffs and assignments to fill…

  7. BWB says:

    Maybe some of the Sailors on here can help me understand this.

    I’m in the process of enlisting and this spring I was talking to the Navy about becoming a Corpsman. Not so much as a speeding ticket on my record, 93% on my ASVAB, and they told me PACT Seaman was all they could guarantee with the Navy being at 98% retention. I have a family friend who was a FMF Corpsman in Iraq and he told me 1. Do not go PACT Seaman no matter what. 2. They should have rates to strike for immediately.

    I thought they were bluffing and tried to call them on it by getting a guarantee from the Army for Medic school. I came back to the Navy with that and all my recruiter said was “good luck.”

    Are recruiters pushing PACT Seaman so hard because of this manpower problem or is that just how the Navy works now (most people start PACT Seaman/Airman)?

  8. AnotherNuke says:

    @7: With a 93 and no waivers I’m actually quite surprised they didn’t try to push you into going Nuke.

    I’d say about 5% of my boot camp division (late 2010) was undesignated. I’ll second your family friend – don’t do PACT. If your circumstances will allow, you’re much better off coming back to MEPS in a month or two and seeing if they have anything better to offer you.

    DO NOT rush into your choice of rate. Do research and make sure it’s not something you’ll be miserable doing for the next four-plus years. As NHSparky said, “Choose your rate, choose your fate”.

  9. Former 3364 says:

    Q: How can you tell if a recruiter is lying?

    A: When his lips are moving.


  10. NHSparky says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t get locked in a room and have the Classifier shove an APT under your nose whether you wanted nuke or not. In fact, IIRC, and this is a new thing, if you have certain line scores (VE+AR+MK+MC>252 or AR+MK+EI+GS>252) you don’t even have to take the APT.

    If they didn’t (assuming you are medically qualified, under 25, no colorblindness, Algebra/Trig passed), someone at that NRD is seriously falling down on the job. And again, even if you didn’t want nuke, there’s no reason they couldn’t find plenty of critical rates to point out to you.

    Nuke–you at Charleston or New York? I’m guessing you’re at prototype based on your being in roughly 20 months, give or take? Or are on your way to your first boat/carrier?

  11. NHSparky says:

    3364–Sad to say, I was the exception to the rule.

    And CRF’ers and field recruiters HATED me for it. But I wasn’t about to put this kid on deck without knowing he’d be busting his balls in NPS, regardless of how smart he/she thought they were.

    One field recruiter told me to “back him up” when he was telling this kid the top 10 percent of NPS was “guaranteed OCS.” I told the kid no, that wasn’t the case, but that he’d have an excellent chance for NROTC, STA21, or USNA.

    His RINC wanted to write me up. The CR and EPO chewed my ass up one side and down the other. Of course, pointing out to them that him calling mommy and mommy calling Congressman XYZ would be a lot more painful than the truth seems to fall on deaf ears.

    And they wondered why I hated them back sometimes.

  12. NHSparky says:

    @1–we’re gonna be in serious trouble in the VERY near future.

    You can bet your ass the PLN is betting/hoping for just what you have prophesized.

  13. AnotherNuke says:

    @10: I’m at MARF in New York.

    And yes, I can verify – at least when I went through MEPS – it’s possible to qualify for NF/GEN contracts either by ASVAB line scores (AR+MC+MK+VE) or percentile score. I’d say about two-thirds of my current class never took the NAPT because they auto-qualified.

  14. NHSparky says:

    MARF…(shudder). Give me the Idaho desert any day. Me loves me some sheep. Just remember, “BAAAAAA!” means, “NO!” Of course, everyone under 21 wanted Idaho because the drinking age back then was 19. They never realized most of them would be going to San Diego (pretty good deal) or Pearl (meh.)

    Have fun doing your comp and oral board.

    S5G alum.

  15. BWB says:

    @10 19, not color blind, pretty athletic. We talked about Nuke for a little. When I said I didn’t really want it they acted like PACT Seaman was the only other thing I could do.

    @8. From what I understood going to MEPS and not picking something from what’s available the first time is verboten?

  16. Anonymous says:

    1/3rd of the navy enlisted ratings are under filled? but when I tried to join the navy(prior service usmc e-5) they pretty much laughed in my face. “navy meets its numbers, we dont really care/need prior service” i told them i would do any MOS any station still the same answers. they wanted me in their reserves though but reserve’s not enough $$ and very limited active duty reserve options available.

  17. NHSparky says:

    BWB–depends on when you go. If all the slots are filled for a particular program for that month (or FY) then you’re pretty much SOL. First of the month is always the best.

    But when you said you weren’t interested in nuke, that should have been that, and they should have found something that was available you’d be interested in. QNE’s (Qualified Not Enlisted) people is a big no-no in MEPS world, to the point where CO’s/EPO’s have to answer to people with stars on their collars.

    But then again, that was 1997. Big difference between 15 years ago and now.

  18. SGTKane says:

    @#3: “Thats like one from the Army that says you don’t have to go to the field; completely insane and unrealistic.”

    Not as unrealistic as you’d think. We just had a female get out after graduating from AIT. Written in her contract was that she would never carry a weapon and would only be required to fire her duty weapon at yearly weapon qualifications…

    Now granted they let her out of her contract rather than allowing that to stand and the next time I saw her recruiter (the same recruiter I had) he had gone from SGT to PFC.

    I’ve also heard of people getting “non-deployable” in their contracts, meaning they cannot be deployed outside of the United States, but the only time I’ve ever seen that (that I could sweat too) was for a guy who re-enlisted and had it. He claimed medical reasons (and he had a long list of permanent profiles).

  19. kp says:

    BWB- This is a link to the current Navy enlisted manning:

    Basic Corpsman was at 104.7%

  20. NHSparky says:

    IOW, on the verge of being CREO Group III (overmanned.)

  21. BWB says:

    @19 I see. After seeing the article I thought what the recruiters told me was interesting but I didn’t consider the manning for Corpsman, and I guess pushing PACT Seaman would really help as far as having bodies on ships.

    Thanks for the info everyone.

  22. Anonymous says:

    ive heard of non-deployable contracts in the USMC, but thats usually reserve I-I(instructor staff for reserve units) and other instructor roles. i’ve seen on the navy reserve website deployment deferment clause.. anythings possible just have to find someone that’ll work with you.

  23. kp says:

    BWB- I recommend browsing through all the rates and find one that interests you that is undermanned. Don’t go in undesignated… pick your rate, pick your fate.

  24. Charles says:

    Actuall the problem goes back even further to CNO Clark, he had mandated that a number of shore duty billets be removed or contracted out. So for some of the sea heavy ratings like MM, BM, EM, etc they could go to a SIMA (Ship Intermediate Maintenace Activity) or even pier services at a naval base. For some of the air dale ratings you could try and fight to head into a school house tour (like at NATTC P’Cola or at one of the many localized school houses at an air station) or they could one of the type training squadrons (aka the RAG) and hope to stay home for longer then two weeks.
    Now a number of the SIMA billets have been passed on to contractors, pier services have been replaced by union longshore men (which means that if a ship comes home outside of normal working hours or outside of M-F then the Navy has to pay Time and Half or double time if it is a Sunday), most of the school house jobs have become civilian contractors except for student services (ie permenant CQ billet for you Army types), dealing with folks that are still trying to figure out this whole military life thing.

  25. Stacy0311 says:

    this is what happens when you quit putting urinals on ships. The Navy loses the last of their testicular fortitude. Not that squids had a lot to begin with……

  26. Mike Kozlowski says:

    Country Singer –

    In the late 90s, the USAF – faced with increasing reluctance on the part of E5s to destroy their careers by volunteering for Recruiting duty – directed that for a period of about three months, EVERY E5 returning from overseas would become a recruiter…or be discharged.

    You can imagine what happened next. The USAF officially ADMITTED to a ‘high percentage of E5s requesting discharge vice Recruiting duty’ before having a brief attack of sanity and cancelling the whole stupid plan. I heard unofficially that the numbers were somewhere around 80%.


  27. Ex-PH2 says:

    KP, I looked through all those rate designations. Where do you find PH? I think that’s Navy Media Specialist now, right?

  28. kp says:

    Mass Communications Specialist (MC)

    The duties performed by MCs include:

    Prepare and write news and feature articles for publication
    Photograph events for publication and historic documentation
    Operate and maintain a variety of state-of-the-art still and video cameras
    Operate computer-based graphics software and desktop publishing systems
    Create original visual information displays and graphics
    Multi-media design and production
    Design and manage public and secure websites
    Layout and design military newspapers and magazines
    Manage radio and television stations
    Operate video and electronic imaging equipment
    Operate digital electronic reproduction equipment
    Edit video news, features, and documentation
    Shoot still photographs and video for accident or incident investigations
    Conduct interviews
    Market stories
    Perform as a Public Affairs Officer