Navy Secretary Unveils New Plan to Recruit, Retain Skilled Sailors and Marines

By Allyson Versprille

By Allyson Versprille

In an effort to retain service members and modernize the workforce, the Navy and Marine Corps will be implementing several new personnel policies, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced May 13. 
These initiatives will touch on several areas including changes that will allow service members to acquire skills in the private sector. Other programs will seek to increase recruitment of female sailors and Marines. 

"What we’ve always known is that the way we recruit, develop, retain, and promote sailors and Marines is critical to our success," said Mabus, addressing students and faculty at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. "To fight and win in this century we need a force that draws from the broadest talent pools, values health and fitness, attracts and retains innovative thinkers, provides flexible career paths, and prioritizes merit over tenure."

The Navy will propose legislation to increase Career Intermission Program assignments from 40 service members per year — 20 officers and 20 enlisted sailors — to 400, he said. Under the pilot program from 2009-2012 service members could apply to transfer out of active duty to the reserves for up to three years while retaining full health care coverage.

"The Career Intermission Program … allows sailors to pursue family, professional, academic and other interests outside of service without damaging long-term potential," Mabus said. Career flexibility helps retain service members who want to pursue opportunities in the private sector, he said. The Navy also plans to submit follow-on proposals that will allow participants to consider a menu of options, he added.

In addition to expanding the Career Intermission Program, the Navy is partnering with Fortune 500 companies in a "Secretary of the Navy Industry Tour." Beginning in the fall, commanders will be granted the authority to send selected officers to top American firms. The officers will be tasked with bringing industry's best practices back to the fleet in order to increase the service's competitive edge, Mabus said.

The Navy will also adapt its bonus system to mirror policies used in the private sector, he said. It is proposing legislation to allow service leaders to award bonuses based on specific skills.  

This initiative coincides with new policies for performance-based advancement. "Leaders who consistently outperform their peers should be advanced at faster rates, not held back by tests or zones," said Mabus. "So we will begin adjusting Navy enlisted advancements this year by replacing the Command Advancement Program with a Meritorious Advancement Program … that allows commanding officers to petition for more of these advancements, or to surrender unused ones."

In October, the Navy will expand the number of available Meritorious Advancement Program promotions to 5 percent of the force and extend them to shore-based commands, he said.

Additionally, the service will introduce new policies to alleviate bureaucratic barriers to promotion and reward officers for their achievements. This will allow high performers to advance through the system more quickly while keeping those who are not ready in their current pay grade longer, he said. A new squad leader development program is also being implemented that will identify superior junior enlisted Marines and give them greater opportunities for education and advancement.

Another large push is for an increased female presence in the ranks. Mabus said the service is placing more emphasis on attracting and retaining women.

"We need more women in the Navy and Marine Corps; not simply to have more women, but because a more diverse force is a stronger force," he said. "We need educated officers, and women represent 57 percent of college graduates in America."

He said the service is opening all operating job assignments to women. For the first time, they will have the opportunity to become SEAL "trigger-pullers" if they can pass the physical testing requirements. Other measures include additional programs to prevent sexual assault, a proposal to extend maternity leave from six to 12 weeks, updated co-location policies for dual-military couples and extended childcare hours.

The service also will transition to having the same uniform for male and female sailors and Marines as a way to increase camaraderie.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Policy

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