Navy FLOCs and Poverty Guidelines…not worth the paper they are written on

Don’t forget to read the previous two posts:

Part 1: Navy Community Outreach

Part 2: HYT+

To round out the last portion of NAVADMIN messages that tell us the Navy is in bad shape all around, let’s start with the Basic Needs Allowance. On initial reading, it doesn’t seem too bad. It basically says we’re going to pay Sailors that fall below 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines an additional amount of money:

2.  In line with reference (a), reference (b) established Department of Defense policy for BNA.  Reference (c) authorizes the Chief of Naval Personnel to implement BNA policy.  The BNA program provides a monthly allowance to Sailors whose gross household income (GHI) and household size place them below 130 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) for their permanent duty station (PDS) location.
BNA provides additional income to address the difference between GHI from the previous calendar year (CY) and 130 percent of the FPG for the current CY.  BNA is payable to eligible Sailors who voluntarily apply beginning on or 
after 23 December 2022.  These references, frequently asked questions, templates, and other BNA resources can be found here:  https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/References/Pay-Benefits/N130C/.

OK, so what IS the Federal Poverty Level? You can conveniently find them here:

Now, if you’re thinking “That looks like a really, really small amount of money…” you’d be right. A little bit of Excel magic brings us some insight:

So, what do we learn from this? Well, if you’re a married E1 and your spouse doesn’t work, you might meet the threshold. If you’re an E2 or E3, married with a baby at home, you’ll probably meet the threshold. If you’re anything else…probably not. For this chart, I’m only counting basic pay, which means that if you got some sort of bonus that would count towards your income, you’re probably above the cap.

Here’s the other catch too….you don’t sit at those junior ranks for very long. Sailors can promote relatively quickly to E-5, which by 4 years of service is making over 3,000 a month. So unless you have three kids by then, you’re not meeting these guidelines.

At best, this is helping super new, dirt poor Sailors, who are likely living on the ship, eating at the galley for free and are unlikely to be married. But for the vast majority, this does nothing. Maybe in a week when they release the new federal poverty guidelines I’ll be proven wrong, but I don’t see this making a big impact. And given that advancement is getting easier with everyone leaving, that makes it even less likely to be impactful to the average Sailor.

Speaking of more things not worth the paper they are written on…NAVADMIN 290/22. This NAVADMIN offers a Flag Letter of Commendation for each person you sign up for the Navy. Sounds like a good deal right?

4.  In order to incentivize Sailors to assist in this effort, CNRC has authorized a Flag Letter of Commendation (FLOC) (max of 2) for any Sailor who provides a referral that ultimately leads to a future Sailor contract.  These 
FLOCs are worth one point each towards advancement and can make all the difference when final multiple scores are calculated.

Except…one point doesn’t normally do that much. Answering one more question correctly on your advancement exam, which probably requires less time then it takes to recruit someone, would be worth more. FLOCs are nice gestures, but they are relatively meaningless in terms of actual impact compared to actual awards. Worse still, they offer zero incentives to officers, so the Navy hasn’t done anything to stem that tide.

Where does this leave us? Honestly, in no better shape. While the Navy plans on a community outreach blitz to bring up its image, its not addressing many of the systemic problems inside its ranks, whether its low pay, unaccountable leadership, or a lack of strategic direction. People are smart enough to see through the shiny veneer and gift wrap, so these measures aren’t going to bump up Navy numbers.

Long term, unless the Navy gets a grip on how far its fallen and why people don’t trust it anymore, its not going to persuade people to join.

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.

Navy Community Outreach for 2023…fail or success?

First, Merry Christmas everyone! I’m writing this early in the morning while the family is sleeping on vacation. I hope all you wonderful readers are enjoying some much needed time off with your families!

I was going to write something fun and positive, but you know, the Navy had to go and release a whole bunch of juicy NAVADMINs that just show how desperate it truly is to retain talent, and in a few cases, how it very much is not acknowledging the reasons it is losing that talent. Remember in my previous posts how I said we’ll see a lowering of standards to bring people in, more monetary incentives to stay and eventually a total relaxing of rules on getting out, followed by forcing people to stay? Well, we’re probably almost at the forcing part. I have one aviator friend that had his retirement denied because the Coast Guard (not the Navy, but facing the same issues as the Navy) simply couldn’t afford to let him go. Thankfully he’s approved now for 2023, but he learned the definition of “orders” real fast. He won’t be the last.

Big Navy has accepted that 2023 is going to suck, bigly, and is pulling out all the stops to bring in enlisted talent. This week we got not one, or two, or even three NAVADMINs, but FOUR NAVADMINs related to retention in some way.

NAVADMIN 287/22 – NAVY COMMUNITY OUTREACH PLAN

NAVADMIN 288/22 – HIGH YEAR TENURE PLUS PILOT

NAVADMIN 289/22 – BASIC NEEDS ALLOWANCE

NAVADMIN 290/22 – EVERY SAILOR IS A RECRUITER

I’m going to break this into multiple posts, so we’re only focused on 287/22 for this post. Since none of these address officer retention, we’ll stay focused on our enlisted Sailors.

As background, for any organization, people come and go for a variety of reasons, but the ease of recruiting talent boils down to a few key things:

  1. Do you pay well?
  2. Do people believe in your mission?
  3. Do people believe in your leadership?

If you get those three things right, for the most part, you can compete for talent. The Navy doesn’t do any of these very well at this moment. Enlisted pay and benefits were always low, made worse by changes to the Basic Housing Allowance and retirement made years ago. While the Navy has a really important mission, it did a terrible job emphasizing this during the Iraq/Afghanistan years, and thus it absorbed part of the blame when we pulled out surrendered to the Taliban. In terms of leadership, well, it tends to be focused on making annual uniform changes rather than producing ships, submarines and aircraft on-time and on-budget that can fight our nations wars. Heck, it took Elon Musk to bring down the cost of satellite launches such that we have even a small chance of regaining our space dominance. It’s too bad he’s not in ship building, because we desperately need someone with his business expertise in that particular area.

With that in mind, let’s look at the long NAVADMIN about Community Outreach. I’m not kidding about long, its wordy even for me. It starts off with the normal fluffy garbage that all these messages tend to use, but then in section three it gets pretty blunt, pretty fast:

  1. Data
    a. Today, 26 percent of Americans consider the Navy as the most important service to our country’s national security, trailing only the Air Force’s 27 percent. This is a 14 percent increase since 2009 and a 1 percent increase from 2021.
    b. While the Navy continues to be viewed very favorably by the public, each of the services have experienced at least a 10 percent decrease in favorability during the past six years. In 2016, 82 percent of the country viewed the Navy favorably. Today, that number is 70 percent.
    c. In 2011, 57 percent of Americans said they would recommend joining the Navy. Today, 43 percent say they would.
    d. Three quarters of U.S. adults under 25 say they are not interested at all in joining any branch of the military.
    e. The percentage of Americans between the ages of 16 and 21 who say they will either definitely or probably join the military has fallen to 9 percent. The lowest point since 2007.

I mean, dang. That’s like the beginning to the movie Up! level of smack-you-in-the-face. To which I say “Damn right!” You have to start by acknowledging the problem you have.

Unfortunately, we get it wrong almost immediately in section five:

  1. Objectives
    a. Ensure 50 percent of all in-person community outreach engagements focus on 13-29 year-olds and 50 percent of all engagements within this age group focus on 13-29 year-old women.
    b. Increase the number of women under 30 who view the Navy favorably from 46 percent to 49 percent.
    c. Increase the number of African Americans who view the Navy as most important to national security from 17 percent to 24 percent.
    d. Increase the number of Hispanic Americans who view the Navy as the most important to national security from 24 percent to 28 percent.
    e. Increase the number of Americans over 25 who recommend joining the Navy from 43 percent to 48 percent.
    f. Increase the number of Americans under 25 who are considering joining the Navy from 12 percent to 15 percent.

Quotas anyone? Listing women and minorities right at the top isn’t a good look. You could have hidden that away, or at least said something like “We are America’s Navy, and we will increase all American’s trust in our Navy. We will also work particularly closely with some communities, such as African Americans, that have a markedly lower trust in our Navy than the average population.”

Sheesh, maybe I should sit on these HR boards…wait, never mind.

The rest of the NAVADMIN lists a TON of programs, and I can’t do it justice with a summary, so I’ll list them here with a grade for effectiveness.

Fleet Weeks – A
Navy Weeks – B+
Media Production Visits – C-
Sailor recognition – B
Naval Aviation Outreach – A
Continental Port Visits – A
Executive Engagement – F
Namesake Visits – A
Navy Band Tours – B
Social Media – B-
Entertainment – A
NCAs – C

Fleet Weeks and Aviation Outreach is a solid A. Naval aviation does a great job making it look cool, and there are enough pilots of every color and gender that it has a pretty broad appeal no matter what. This is bolstered by good ties with the entertainment industry, so more Netflix and History Channel shows on Naval Aviation is just going to help recruitment efforts.

It’s good to see Continental Port visits on there, and we need to do MORE of these. Fleet Week is nice, but it is simply too big for most cities to handle. Destroyers, frigates and even landing craft can pull into smaller ports, and should be doing that on a near constant basis. Not only does it promote spending more time underway practicing basic seamanship, but the small towns tend to come out in droves to support Sailors. The best receptions I ever get are from small towns that normally don’t see Sailors in uniform, and I think the Navy should budget more time for these on a permanent basis.

The namesake visits are long overdue. We name vessels after states, cities, Naval heroes and corrupt politicians, but it seems only the last one ever makes the news. I’d be all about naming vessels, especially the new frigates, after cities with higher-than-normal Navy Sailors. Often times the namesake visits happen but are very underreported, so advertising them better would be nice.

The choice of cities for Navy Week is…interesting? Using Wikipedia to see gross demographic data, some of the choices are obvious. Others, like Tri-Cities, TN (which I didn’t know was a thing until now, sorry Tennessee!) don’t make much sense. Maybe the under-25 population is higher there? That would explain Lincoln, NE, a traditional college town. More importantly, why not Detroit, MI, or other cities the rust belt? I’m guessing some of it may relate to availability, since if the city doesn’t let you come in, you’re just going to look elsewhere.

Overall White/Black/Hispanic percentages

Miami, FL: 11/16/72
Tucson, AZ: 43/5/42
Shreveport, LA: 35/55/4
Tri-Cities, TN: 96/2/1
Wilmington, NC: 71/18/8
St. Louis, MO: 43/43/5
Oklahoma City, OK: 49/14/21
Milwaukee, WI: 32/38/20
Billings, MT: 90/1/1
Lincoln, NE: 85/4/7
Cleveland, OH: 32/47/13
Salt Lake City, UT: 63/3/21
Salem, OR: 79/1/20
Philadelphia, PA: 34/38/15
Indianapolis, IN: 50/27/13

Same goes for Navy Band tours. Canada? Puerto Rico? At least we had some band performances at Navy Weeks. I’ve already written about Navy’s Social Media, and I stand by my assessment that its not bad, but not great.

Navy recognition has been very, very underused, and often the only calls are “quota based.” I saw one recently asking specifically for stories about female Naval officer achievements. Uhm…OK? At a previous command, I regularly sent my Sailors awards (with their permission) to their hometown news program. That actually motivated many Sailors to stay in, since many small towns held them up on a big pedestal when they visited during the holidays. It’s good to see it expanded, but I don’t see command’s doing much with it.

Media production visits and NCAs gets a solid C from me. I’ve never heard of NCAs before, and reading more about it makes it sound like a lobbying agency. That’s fine, but its not going to inspire young people to think highly of the Navy. Same goes with more boring media about the “importance of the Ohio replacement program.” No young person is inspire by the “Ohio replacement program.” It’s lammmme. Call it the “Punch Putin into the Stone Age” submarine. Again, this is more lobbying, and more appropriate for a different NAVADMIN.

Executive engagement gets a solid F. Our Navy Executives have done a dismal job at…everything. They can’t build ships or submarines on time or on schedule. That can’t get Congress to build more shipyards. They can’t hold their own accountable when they violate the UCMJ. They make excuses for why the Navy has abysmal infrastructure that literally kills Sailors. To top it off, they then typically roll into jobs to work on the same programs they mismanaged in the first place.

Nobody is inspired by these people. The best thing they could do is simply retire and stay out of the way of more capable people. Authorizing more flag officer travel isn’t going to solve our community outreach issues.

I’d give this NAVADMIN a solid “B+”. It’s got some really good ideas, and it finally spells out in clear language many of the issues the Navy has. But it then delves into quotas and lobbying that won’t do anything, and I worry that the Navy will focus on authorizing more flag travel instead of authorizing more small port visits. Execution is key, so we’ll see how it plays out this coming 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.

We won’t have quotas in the Navy…oh wait…

From Dilbert

It’s no secret that the Navy, like the other military services, has paid attention to race and gender when it comes to promotions. This is captured through a variety of fields in an officer’s official record, as well as through an official photograph of the officer that is presented at any selection board. The picture requirement was originally removed in 2016 but reinstated in 2018 by NAVADMIN 265/18:

This NAVADMIN cancels reference (a) and reinstates the requirement 
to display the Official Photograph for all Officer Selection Boards. This
policy change is the result of board feedback received since the removal of
the photograph requirement that the photographs aid the board’s ability to
assess the Title 10 requirements of an officer’s ability to perform the
duties of the next higher grade.

NAVADMIN 265/18

If you are skeptical how a photo helps a board member assess whether Naval Officers can execute Title 10 requirements, you’re not alone. Maybe Navy Officers need to double as Instagram models? Maybe Public Affairs got tired of submitting photos of ugly officers that couldn’t measure up to Taylor Kitsch and Rhianna? Or maybe it was a way of weeding out people that checked “Other” on the ethnicity list? I’ll let you decide.

At least the Navy did this in the background. Truth be told, evaluating your selection results to ensure nobody is discriminated against isn’t a bad thing. But its a slippery slope to quotas, and given the number of people lobbying for such a setup, its no surprise that it finally happened.

Courtesy of MyNavyHR, here are the statistics from the O-6 (Captain) promotion board conducted this year:

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I’ve only copied the first page here, which covers 1110 (Surface Warfare), 1120 (Submarines), 1130 (SEAL), 1140 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), and 13XX series (Aviation). Follow the link to get the rest of the 17 pages that cover other specialized communities.

I think the most frustrating part here is that this tells White Males that you have no background that the board cares about. Whether you came from difficult circumstances, are second-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe, or otherwise had some difficulty to overcome, none of that matters. You’re not the right color. Your background and story don’t matter.

I can’t recommend entering the Navy, especially the officer corps, while this nonsense continues. Between reducing the retirement and other benefits, non-stop wars designed to prop-up the military industrial complex paid on the backs of young men and women, or the increasing use of the military for dumb political stunts, its simply not worth it to join. This proves that even if you join with the intention of changing things, you won’t make it to the higher ranks to do so.

The only real chance for change is a change in President and an absolute evisceration of the membership at the top of the Pentagon. You can probably cut the Admiralty it in half without many problems, given the ratio of admirals to ships nowadays. You’ll need to deeply cut and remove a large chunk of the Pentagon and HR staff that pushes these sort of policies. Most importantly, and perhaps the hardest part, will be restoring our nation’s confidence that we select the best officers to place in harm’s way when the nation needs them the most.

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. Please share this story with your friends, especially those considering joining the military, and consider donating to DaTechGuy. If you liked this article, consider purchasing the author’s book to support his writing endeavors.

The Navy’s poor poker face on manpower issues

It’s not often I get immediate verification of something I blog about. For example, I wrote about how we’re going to have to accept that Russia will in fact win in Ukraine, and at first that prediction looked incorrect, but as the conflict grinds on, its becoming more obvious that Russia can’t afford to lose, even at a terrible cost. I could be wrong, maybe Ukraine will pull out a big “W” in the end, but I still think its unlikely.

But the Navy’s manpower crisis…wow. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. Since the last article, Navy has released three more NAVADMIN messages that prove the Navy is in a middle-management manpower crunch.

The first is NAVADMIN 176/22, which seems like a mundane update to retirement policy. The second paragraph is most interesting:

2.  Reference (c) modified the service-in-grade (SIG) (also known as time-in-grade) requirements for O-4s.  Specifically, reference (c) modified reference (d) to require 3-years SIG for voluntary regular retirement eligibility. 
NAVADMIN 176/22

Normally you can retire as an O-4 after only two years. This isn’t a huge change, however, it might push more people to stay an extra year.

But then NAVADMIN 177/22 came out, talking about incentive pay for submarine commanding officer special mission billets. There is plenty of competition to become a submarine CO, so many good people don’t select for submarine command. They can select for CO Special Mission, which is basically a way of saying “we need you to stay in the Navy to fill billets at higher levels” because so many submarine O-5’s retire at 20 years. It’s a problem that has waxed and waned over the years, but is now becoming increasingly difficult to manage.

The NAVADMIN allocates a bonus of $20,000 annually for members that sign a 3-5 year commitment. That is an awful lot of money, especially considering an O-5 submariner is likely making over $150K a year anyway. The eligibility requirements make it very obvious what problem they are solving:

    b.  Have completed at least 19 years of Active Duty Commissioned Service (ADCS) and not more than 25 years of ADCS at the start of the period of additional obligated service. 
NAVADMIN 177/22

Which really means “prevent people from retiring right at 20 years and keep them in a bit longer by throwing $20K a year at them.”

Essentially, these two officer-related NAVADMINs are trying to stem the departure of mid-grade Naval Officers. Gee, I wonder why mid-grade Naval Officers would be leaving in the first place? I’ll let you debate that in the comments.

So are there applicable actions on the enlisted Sailor side? You betcha! The most interesting is NAVADMIN 178/22. The first two paragraphs lay it out pretty well:

1.  This NAVADMIN announces a pilot program for Senior Enlisted Advance to Position (SEA2P) designed to keep deploying units mission-ready by aggressively filling critical at-sea leadership billets.  The pilot program will convene a billet selection board consisting of senior representatives from Fleet and participating type commander (TYCOM) staffs to select those Sailors who are best and fully qualified to advance and fill specific priority sea billets.  The pilot includes the Nimitz Strike Group on the West Coast and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group on the East Coast. Additionally, the pilot will include USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73). Factors for consideration in determining best and fully qualified applicants include sustained superior performance, documented qualifications, platform experience, and potential to succeed in the billet.  Sailors selected must obligate service (OBLISERV) to complete 36 months in the SEA2P billet and will be permanently advanced upon reporting to their ultimate duty station.  This pilot will be limited to critical E8 and E9 sea billets and is 
separate from reference (a). 
 
2.  To be eligible for SEA2P, Sailors must have been selected or screened as a non-select for advancement to E8 or E9 by the respective fiscal year (FY) 2023 selection boards, or be advancement-eligible for the respective FY-24 boards in line with reference (b).  Time-in-rate (TIR) waivers will be approved for FY-24 advancement-eligible Sailors who are selected for SEA2P.  All Sailors selected for SEA2P billets should expect to receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders with a transfer date as early as  30-45 days after selection. 
NAVADMIN 178/22

In one long sentence this says: “We are critically undermanned at sea in senior enlisted positions, yet somehow we have lots of people that haven’t selected for advancement to these senior enlisted positions, so now they can apply to fill this position and get permanently promoted when they finish the tour.”

Now, my first question is: if we don’t have enough senior people to fill these jobs, but we have people that aren’t selecting for senior positions, why don’t we just select more people? Enlisted management sits almost entirely in the Department of the Navy’s purview, unlike Naval Officers that face considerable Congressional oversight as to their selection and promotion. The DoN doesn’t appear to be upping the selection rate, and is instead opting for a tightly controlled board that meets in relative secrecy to pick people for specific jobs. There are advantages to this, since you can force someone to take sea-duty orders, but you could do that anyway (to an extent), so I’m not sure why they are opting for this method.

These NAVADMINs, coming on the heels of the messages I previously talked about, are just another indicator that the Navy is experiencing a massive flight of talent that is really getting senior leadership concerned. I think they would be far better off addressing the real concerns of junior officers and junior enlisted, and to be fair, Navy Sailors get plenty of surveys about the health of the force, but then the Navy doesn’t appear to act on any of these issues. Just like the suicide crisis on the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, Navy has all the data, but isn’t choosing to solve the correct problem.

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. If you enjoyed this article, please like it, share it on social media, and send a tip to Peter in DaTipJar. You can also buy one of my books for yourself or a friend to help me out.

Starry perks and suicide

Easy to miss in the midst of the Ukraine Conflict and Supreme Court leaks is the fact that the Navy is dealing, poorly, with a suicide epidemic (at the time of this article we’re up to 7 Sailors) onboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73). Now, you might think “Is the George Washington underway on another long, stressful deployment?” That would be an intelligent question to ask, and sadly the answer is “no.” George Washington is in the shipyard in Newport News, VA.

Now, why would Navy Sailors be so stressed out that they would end their lives if they are home and not deployed underway? Well, because shipyard life is pretty tough, according to the dad of one of the Sailors:

“He loved his job. He did his 12-hour shifts. And how do you sleep on an aircraft carrier with jackhammering and smoke and smells during the day? So, he would sleep in his car,” John Sandor said about his son, who was 19. “It is just awful. No sailor should even have been living on that ship in those conditions.”

-John Sandor

You might be wondering if these poor conditions are something new, to which I will sadly tell you…nope. I had the same issues at the same shipyard 16 years ago. The 45 minute walks to get to work…that’s a thing, because the Navy never built enough parking or bus options. The article didn’t mention many other stressors, such as the rampant car break-ins, since most of the parking lots are located off the secure facility and aren’t patrolled. For female Sailors, I’ve had more than a few tell me shipyard workers regularly get away with overt catcalling during the day.

Shipyard life, with its long days and crappy working conditions, sucks.

Instead of trying to fix the housing situation, or the driving situation, or the working conditions, Big Navy’s response is…suck it up!

“What you’re not doing is sleeping in a foxhole like a Marine might be doing,” he said, adding that much of the crew goes home each night, something that can’t be said for a deployed carrier.

-Master Chief Russell Smith

I can’t make that up, go listen to the audio at the link. I give Master Chief credit, he’s not yelling at the crew, but as a senior leader, you have to know that trying to minimize the issue isn’t ever going to look good.

The Commanding Officer seems to have taken matters into his own hands, and moved 200 Sailors off the ship. Keep in mind, there are still 2,700 Sailors onboard, and if you move off, you still have the long walk and long drive to get to work. So its a catch-22: move off the ship and you add a long drive and walk to work, stay on and your sleep and off-time is horrible.

It’s also not the Commanding Officer’s job to build sufficient rooms at the shipyard. A better advocate for that would be the admiral in charge of Naval Aviation, in this case Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell. So where has he been?

Watching Top Gun.

VADM Whitesell with Tom Cruise

Yup, can’t make that up either. While the George Washington is suffering, VADM Whitesell spent this weekend watching the premiere of the new Top Gun movie with Tom Cruise. Now, I’m not knocking on Tom Cruise, because he spent part of the time talking with Sailors onboard the carrier Carl Vinson. But for VADM Whitesell, its not the best look.

Tom Cruise onboard the USS Carl Vinson

OK, so the immediate response doesn’t look very good, but maybe Big Navy put together a more comprehensive response?

The Navy plans to host a day of team-building activities and has asked each department to submit ideas for how crew members could interact off the ship, according to Lt. Cmdr. Robert Myers, a Navy spokesman. “It could be anything,” Myers said. A Super Smash Bros. video game competition and a soccer tournament are some of the suggestions that have been floated, according to one George Washington sailor, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.

NBC News

Super Smash Brothers! That’ll cheer them up! They’ll stop killing themselves if they just get to play video games!

However, that sailor doubted whether such events would fix what appears to be a mental health crisis on the ship. The sailors spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press and feared retaliation.

– NBC News

Ya think?

This whole thing makes me cry. We have Sailors in the United States that should be working in decent conditions and building themselves into warriors, and instead the conditions are so bad that they are taking their own lives. Then we have leaders that care more about the perks they get with the stars on their shoulders than about the young men and women entrusted in their care. But to top it all off, we have a Navy bureaucracy that is focused on running some morale events to patch the problem.

Nobody in this entire situation is giving us answers on how to build more housing, build a better transit service or fix the onboard sleeping conditions.

Since you’ve made it this far, do me a favor and email your Congressman. Tell him or her that if Congress can make millions of dollars go to Ukraine, it could spend a bit of money to fix glaring errors at our nations shipyards.

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, because those agencies would have you believe video games and soccer tournaments will suddenly fix years of neglect to our Sailors and the infrastructure they work on. If you enjoyed this article, please consider purchasing a book by the author or donating to this blog.

The Navy owes more than a public apology

The Navy made news, in a bad way, with its plan to decommission 24 ships. If that sounds like a lot…it is. The idea is to decommission ships that cost a lot to maintain to free up money to build new ships. That makes a lot of sense for ships that are old, such as the cruisers that are over 30 years old. But many of these ships are Littoral Combat Ships, and less than 10 years old.

Representative Elain Luria, a former Naval Officer, was quoted as saying

“The Navy owes a public apology to American taxpayers for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say serve no purpose.”

Representative Elain Luria

With all due respect m’am, that is woefully insufficient.

The Littoral Combat ship was designed around speed. Everyone that talked positively about the ship said “Look, its really fast, like 50 knots fast!!” and “It’s so fast it can chase down pirates!!” The rest of us lower ranking and obviously uninformed people asked questions like:

“If we run fast all the time, doesn’t that use up a lot of gas?”

“Do we really need to drive fast if we have missiles or guns or helicopters, or other long range weapons?”

“Can it fight real enemies besides pirates?”

But these questions were low-browed. We, the dumb people, were told not to worry about this. Then, to nobody’s surprise, we found the LCS couldn’t fight in high end combat. Now, if we simply said “It wasn’t designed for that, that’s what destroyers and cruisers are for,” I could accept that line of logic. But nope! Instead we decided to put missiles and guns and more weapons on a platform that lacked the people and structural support for such weapon systems.

And now, again to nobody’s surprise, we want to decommission them.

In the mean time, no admiral or civilian in charge of LCS, or anyone that made the disastrous strategic decisions to build the ship in the first place, nor anyone in charge of the shipyards that built these ships, was fired, fined or jailed. In fact, the admirals got promoted, and their promotion was approved by Congress.

Worse still, when Congress actually tries to flex its authority and stop a promotion, such as the case with Admiral Losey, the Navy simply walks all over them and promotes the guy anyway.

So the Navy blows billions in ship building money, builds ships that we can’t use in a modern fight, and wants to decommission them so we can build other ships. Congress is MAD, and says they should apologize, but won’t actually punish anyone.

Want to bet that nothing will change? I sure am.

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. All those agencies want you to believe everything is great and you should continue to throw money at them without asking questions. By the way, if you liked this article, please consider purchasing one of my books for you or one of your friends.

The military never cared about your religion

While I don’t have a print subscription to the Military Times newspapers, I still get their morning email, and today’s headline featured the US Navy not accepting any religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine:

As the deadline for active-duty sailors to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passed Monday, the sea service has yet to grant any vaccine exemptions on the basis of religious accommodation, according to figures released Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 2,531 requests for exemption from the vaccine mandate had been filed by sailors on religious grounds, though officials could not say how many of those requests had been ruled upon.

Navy Times

I’m not surprised, because in my experience, the Navy (and most services) don’t really care about your religious beliefs. Never have, never will, because in today’s service, the service is the religion.

I noticed this trend when I first joined the Navy. I remember having to beg the Commanding Officer on my submarine to get a mere 45 minutes off on Sunday to hold Catholic services. Mind you, we weren’t on mission, at war, or even strapped for time, but he couldn’t be bothered, and it wasn’t until I talked with the squadron chaplain that I was grudgingly granted the time. This was despite the fact that there are plenty of instructions stating that time and space will be provided unless a submarine is on mission or executing critical duties. My Commanding Officer viewed my request as a nuisance, and he told me as much to my face.

It wasn’t just one CO though. At multiple duty stations, there would be this unwillingness to grant military members the time off to celebrate their faith, be it Christian, Jewish or anything else. In Bahrain, where Sunday is considered a workday, I essentially caused a small office revolt by going to noon Mass on Sunday and telling my boss I simply wasn’t going to work yet another 12 hour work day when we weren’t in crisis mode. I distinctly remember the Admiral there telling us at an all-hands call that he was expecting 6 day work weeks, and even most Saturday mornings, despite no apparent need to do so. It was like the Navy was his “god,” and he couldn’t pray enough while slogging through the mass of self-induced paperwork at his desk.

If the Navy can’t provide a simple hour for Mass once a week, its no surprise they won’t approve vaccine exemptions. Now, to be fair, I encourage people to vaccinate because I think its far better than catching COVID, but I also don’t really think its a hill worth dying on or kicking people out over, similar to why I don’t think we should be stopping everything to chase the extremely tiny number of extremists that might exist in the ranks.

Kicking people out over a COVID vaccine is just one more reason the Navy is going to be hurting for recruitment come 2024-2025. The lip service paid to everything from ship maintenance and strategy to human resources and bonuses is becoming more obvious every day. People are catching on that the Navy views itself as its own religion, and if you’re not willing to worship, then you’ll be shown the door.

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. If you liked this article, consider supporting the author by purchasing his book for either yourself or as a Christmas gift.