With the Navy entering one of its largest and most dynamic growth periods to date, retaining experienced Sailors is paramount to ensuring our continued success at maintaining a dominant global presence.
The mandate to grow the Navy’s end strength by as much as 25,400 Sailors by 2023 (per the 2019 President’s Budget submission) means we are entering a period of decreased manning and will continue to see shortfalls on sea duty for the foreseeable future.
This higher-than-historical need for retention puts us in an all-out war for talent, and it is the vision of Sailor 2025 that is answering the call. Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) is making good on the need to respond to growing demands by executing the Sailor 2025 program with a needed sense of urgency. With current manning projections showing a deficit of 5 percent from FY19 until FY21 when it will finally reach the Operational Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) target of 95 percent, CNP and the Manning Control Authority Fleet (MCAF) have used all the well-known force management levers to reduce gaps until then.
By now you are most likely aware of the change in PFA policy that will ensure the Navy receives full return on investment for initial training of Sailors, increases to the high-year tenure policies for E-3 to E-6, and the removal of early out authorities combined with extension opportunities that match EAOS to sea duty PRDs. But are you aware of the broader perspective that Sailor 2025 brings? Sailor 2025 is the Navy’s program that will improve and modernize personnel management and training systems to more effectively recruit, develop, manage, reward, and retain the force of tomorrow.
In order for our Navy to become a fighting force of 355 ships, the proper workforce must be in place beforehand to accommodate the growth. It falls on those of us currently in uniform to set the standards of what we want our Surface Force to look like. Well-trained PERSOs, TRAINOs and Career Counselors are not enough to effectively implement Sailor 2025. Well-versed leaders at the deckplate level who are conversant and familiar with programs currently available as well as those in development are needed to make this endeavor a success.
So what is Sailor 2025? It is a program focused on three core pillars – Personnel System Modernization; Ready, Relevant Learning (RRL); and Career Readiness. Many of us who have been around the Navy for a while understand the need for personnel system modernization, but it is no longer just about updating Manpower, Personnel, Training & Education (MPT&E) Information & Technology systems. It now includes the development of more flexible policies, an increase in transparency at all levels, and the delivery of better tools designed to ultimately provide Sailors with more choices.
Today’s generation wants increased career selection and CNP’s initiative to implement at least ten Sailor 2025 advantages within 2018 aims to do just that. The first pillar addresses Personnel System Modernization and covers a broad number of initiatives. For enlisted personnel, most notable is the Meritorious Advancement Program. The Navy is looking to expand this program to account for ~15% of all E-3 to E-6 advancements, allowing Fleet leadership to meritoriously advance hard chargers and thereby identify those with the talent needed to succeed at the next rank.
For senior enlisted, a program by which personnel distribution occurs by advancement is forthcoming. For example, a hard-to-fill job in Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) Japan might come with an automatic promotion to E-8/E-9. For officers, the Fleet Scholar Education Program seeks to expand fully funded in-residence graduate degree opportunities at civilian institutions, and additionally, SECNAV tours are being paired with industry partners where selected candidates will have the opportunity to observe firsthand the latest insights and best practices from high-performing companies.
Meanwhile, changes at the Fleet-wide level include a review of the enlisted advancement exam process by a working groups seeking the benefits and feasibilities of a complete overhaul, the analysis of combining ratings with similar training experience and by Rating Modernization, and most notably, a new evaluation system, focused on objective review that removes peer comparison and force distribution, updates the rated components, and changes the timing of when the formal evaluation is completed, is beginning phased-in implementation over the next year.
For our reserve force, NAVADMIN 047/18 announced the Targeted Reentry Program that will ultimately provide top-performers with gold and silver tickets that mean automatic avenues back into the active Navy. Ultimately, the goal of every first pillar initiative is the same: better retention and better utilization of our talent pool.
The second pillar deals primarily with Ready, Relevant Learning (RRL) and has brought with it much philosophical debate. The old way of brick and mortar schoolhouses, or industrial age training, is being replaced with career-long learning continuums where training is delivered by modern methods to enable faster learning, better knowledge retention, and delivery at the right time and in the right way for our Sailors.
In watching my own children, I can observe that today’s youth teach themselves. When they can’t figure something out they search the Internet or reach back to an application on a mobile platform to better understand a system or process. This is not to say the traditional classroom is outdated, but rather than the one-and-done A to C school pipeline, the Navy will mix in-classroom instruction with modern training methods and methodology tailored to the unique requirements of each career path.
Additionally, RRL aims to increase outside training access to Sailors by mobile delivery platforms, workplace – embedded job aids, and reach-back/refresher capabilities. Are there challenges here? Yes, but the resources, and more importantly the will, to make this happen, are in place.
Fleet Forces Command as the Executive Agent is running to deliver successful, accelerated RRL to get the high velocity, tailored learning we need in the Fleet. Finally, the third pillar, which covers Career Readiness, is primarily about expanding our Sailor and family support.
For the family framework, this is about expansion of childcare services, maternity and paternity leave, and increasing career intermission opportunities. To improve health and wellness, which directly translates into the toughness of our Navy, this pillar focuses on improving fitness programs and nutrition mindfulness. Mental Health issue awareness and strengthening the resilience of our Sailors is a critical factor in maintaining mission readiness.
As such, more counselors are being placed on the waterfront, while programs like SAIL and SAPR are either being established, updated or revitalized. Falling under this category of changing policies to improve stability and work-life balance is the effort to focus on dual-military/dual-professional spouse and single-parent policies.
And since our service is fundamentally built upon leadership, the Navy has created a Leadership Development Framework from which it will revamp leadership training to better develop our leaders and ensure we are leveraging our nation’s diversity to become a wholly inclusive team.
While Navy manning may presently be at a strategic crossroads, what is certain is that Sailor 2025 is the surest path to success. In order to recruit our reliefs, develop and retain the Sailors we currently have, and meet mission requirements of the future, our Surface Force has set forth this MPTE innovation. Are you onboard?