MORE Navy manpower woes

I mean seriously, Navy manpower woes are the gift that keeps on giving. There are three (!!!) more NAVADMINs that show the Navy is really struggling to keep its people, especially its technical people, from leaving.

The first is NAVADMIN 186/22, which concerns Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP). SDAP is an additional monthly pay for Sailors that are in hard-to-fill jobs or qualify in difficult assignments. The Navy uses SDAP to help incentivize Sailors taking the hard duty assignments, because a few hundred dollars extra a month might motivate someone to fill that position.

SDAP has been changed for nuclear-qualified Sailors in the following manner:

Billet / NEC            Level    Pay              Change 
RDMC/EDMC/CVN DLCPO     7        525.00           +75.00 
N33Z NEC                6        450.00           New 
NPTU W/SUPERVISOR NEC   6        450.00           No change 
SEA W/SUPERVISOR NEC    5        375.00           No change 
SHORE W/SUPERVISOR NEC  3        225.00           -75.00 
SEA W/OPERATOR NEC      2        150.00           No change 
SHORE W/OPERATOR NEC    1         75.00           -75.00 
NAVADMIN 186/22

So what does that mean? In a nutshell, shore assignment SDAP was lowered, while at-sea SDAP was either added or increased. The N33Z NEC refers to an at-sea Sailor that qualifies as an Engineering Watch Supervisor (EWS), which is the senior most enlisted watchstander on a nuclear power plant.

Since SDAP is an incentive pay, this is yet more proof that the Navy is trying to push Sailors towards at-sea assignment and to qualify as an EWS at-sea. They wouldn’t bother increasing SDAP if Sailors were already filling those roles without issue.

What about technically-savvy officers? Well, NAVADMIN 188/22 changes the accession rules for the Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program (BDCP), which is a program where civilians or enlisted Sailors that have at least 60 credit hours can apply to get a commission, where they get paid while they finish their degree. It’s not as great a deal because it doesn’t pay for tuition, however it does land you a job as an officer afterwards, with the catch of requiring an 8 year commitment. If that sounds a bit long, it is, because a normal ROTC commitment used to be only 4 years…which was increased to 5 years, and for aviators, to 5 years AFTER you qualified to fly (which ends up becoming 8-10 years).

BDCP eligibility was extended to…you guessed it…the technical fields of cryptology, cyber, intelligence, networks and oceanography. The only reason to extend this program to those fields is because the normal methods of obtaining officers are not working.

The last odd NAVADMIN is 184/22, which simply says that the O-6 continuation board will immediately follow the O-7 selection board. For those not in the know, an O-6 in the Navy is a Captain and an O-7 is a Rear Admiral.

Now, normally this board is one of many that are on a routine schedule without any real attention paid to it. Remember that Captains eligible to be reviewed for selection to admiral are well past the 20 years needed to retire, and are allowed to hang out until 30 years of service. They can hang out longer if a continuation board allows it. Since the board already meets on a schedule, why would someone need a NAVADMIN to change when the board meets, and inform the rest of the Navy?

Simply put, there was a significant uptick in O-6 retirements after the last O-7 selection board. I asked a few people in the know (who asked to remain nameless) and the word was that the Navy Personnel Office apparently didn’t bother to communicate with a lot of O-6s that were not selected for O-7, and a lot of them submitted retirement requests in response to this poor treatment. While nobody is entitled to be selected for O-7, its not hard to communicate with officers to let them know they weren’t picked. Especially for someone that has given over 20 years to the Navy, you would think the Navy could reciprocate and treat them with respect. The number of retirements stung Navy manpower, hence the short NAVADMIN to try and prevent this from happening again this year.

Now, that’s all speculation, but given all the other things happening…is anyone surprised? I sure wasn’t. I am surprised at just how bad recruitment and retention are getting. I had predicted that 2023 would be the breaking point, but that was before the vaccine mandate and terrible withdrawal from Afghanistan. I think those events have accelerated a process that was underway long before this year. I see more and more servicemembers that would otherwise happily stay on a few extra years because they enjoyed the job instead decide to leave for greener pastures. When you go all out to make the Navy a miserable place to work, why would anyone be surprised that you have to increasingly bribe people to stay in?

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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