Navy HYT+…mediocrity coming to a Navy near you!

Part two of a post from a week ago:

Post 1: Navy’s Community Outreach

I want to start by saying I don’t understand why everything is “+” now. We have Disney+, ESPN+, Daily Wire+…seriously? Is there some marketing guy driving around in a beat-up car telling everyone “You got to add a plus-sign at the end of your logo and then, THEN you make the BIG MONEY!”

Well, whomever that guy is, he must have talked to the Navy, because they rolled out High Year Tenure PLUS! Now, you might wonder, what the heck is High Year Tenure? In the military, the service only lets you stay a certain number of years at a particular rank. For example, if you’re an E-5 in the Navy (a Second-Class Petty Officer), you can normally only stay in for 16 years. At 16 years, if you don’t promote to E-6, you have to leave the Navy because you’re over High Year Tenure. Some military members call this the “up or out” program, which is probably the best simple description.

HYT has been around forever, and it gets changed over time. For example, HYT for E-4s used to be 20 years, so years ago you could theoretically do the same job in the same rank for 20 years, retire as a fairly junior member and get a small retirement. But over time, HYT bumped up so that members had to be at least an E-6 to get a 20 year retirement, and on the officer side at least an O-4.

Part of the point of HYT was to bring in new talent. The military relies on bringing in lots of young, talented individuals at the low end and then grows them over years into more senior leaders. HYT helps ensure that you either promote or leave, thereby opening holes for others to advance into. But when you can’t recruit, kicked out a ton of people over the COVID vaccine, and can’t draft people (at least not yet), then you have to resort to something else, in this case, HYT+!

Right out of the block, we get a contradiction: the first paragraph says HYT+ “offers a new opportunity for talented and experienced Sailors to continue their Navy careers beyond the HYT limits listed in reference (a). This pilot also offers additional looks for advancement and more time to build retirement benefits, to include E5 retirement.” Yet two paragraphs down, it essentially makes it mandatory:

b.  In order to facilitate this pilot program, all AC and TAR enlisted HYT dates occurring between 1 March 2023 and 30 September 2024 are hereby suspended, with the exception of CMDCM, CMDCS and nuclear trained master chiefs.  HYT Plus eligible AC and TAR Sailors with a HYT date in that time frame will no longer be involuntarily separated or involuntarily transferred to the fleet reserve due to reaching HYT as prescribed in reference (a).  The decision to remain on active duty beyond the normal end of active obligated service (EAOS) is voluntary and will not require the submission of a HYT waiver request.  Sailors who otherwise would have reached HYT between 1 March 2023 and 30 September 2024, but opt to transfer to the fleet reserve, or separate at their EAOS will be deemed a voluntary separation.

So….you get opted in by default? We assume everyone in the military is “talented and experienced?” Uhm…I call hogwash on that. We have a lot mediocre people that can’t promote because they are mediocre. But hey, let’s keep them around for numbers right?

What if you’re slated to retire? No problem! “HYT Plus eligible Sailors who are approved for HYT-based separation or retirement on or before 28 February 2023 may opt into the HYT Plus pilot any time prior to their separation or retirement date.”

We’ve seen suspensions of HYT like this before. When COVID impacted recruit training in 2020, the Navy allowed people to stay an additional year, even if they had an approved retirement. This worked because many companies weren’t hiring, so Sailors looking at a crappy job market got another year of pay and a guaranteed salary for their family. But that’s gone now. Any Sailor with skills will get snapped up in this incredibly competitive job market. The Navy already struggles to retain expert cyber expertise, and is at the point of recruiting people in the lowest percentile scoring on the ASVAB, the mandatory (at least for now) entrance exam into the military. Because nothing says “recruit more cyber people” like bringing in people that can barely write their name on the entrance exam!

So is this going to work? Not as intended. As my logo above indicates, it will keep mediocre people in that would normally struggle to find civilian employment because they don’t have competitive skill sets. Since you don’t have to promote and stay competitive, you’ll have more people doing just enough to get by, get to 20 years for a retirement….oh wait, we got rid of that, so people will simply leave anyway, typically when they have the skills needed (paid by Uncle Sam) to find a better job. Worse still, when you fill up with mediocrity, it pushes out those that want challenging assignments or want to push the envelope. We’re going to have less Mavericks in the service, since they get frustrated with the system and leave for companies that place more value on that skillset.

In short, HYT+ is going to drive the military to mediocrity. Rather than actually assess why people aren’t joining and fixing those systemic issues, the military is using a full bag of internal tricks to try and stay out of hot water. But its not solving the problem. It’s the equivalent of stopping a brush fire while the forest burns in the background. You might get a small improvement in the short run, but the big systemic problem is going to crush you in 2023-2024, just like I predicted years ago.

So, good luck with HYT+! Maybe it’ll be better than Disney+ in the New Year!

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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