It appears that the recruiting and retention challenges are breaking above the ambient noise at the start of 2QFY23. We go through these cycles, but if things seem a bit different to you this time, your instincts are right. The ebb and flow of manning the Navy is a regular story - but there is one major cause that is different this time around and is beyond the control of anyone - it is an almost geographic or structural in nature as will be outlined later in the post.
Once you are past the tipping point, it is a quick ride to the bottom.
Considering the policies leadership is embracing I’m truly surprised they get anyone to join beyond the fringe.
The same incompetent "leadership" that can't manage shipbuilding or budgets, with the strategic vision of a third-grader.
Politicians in uniform, dressed up like doormen.
As we are neither Congress nor Dictators we can only offer advice that is never acted on.
Adjust ends and ways to means, reduce fleet, fully man.
In army I would say reduce units and fully man.
Never mind Strategy, they won’t tell us what it is if they have one. They don’t trust us and we shouldn’t trust them.
If the Navy has Up or Out get rid of it that’s for a Sales Force. Compensate people with raises for staying, or as the Russians do bonus for challenging positions especially command.
Perhaps also stepping further back into the realm of fantasy we could ask what is it exactly the United States government means to do? It certainly isn’t uphold the Constitution. Perhaps if this question could be answered the people who agree would step forward.
To leave the realm of dreams and to return to earth: As far as the Kitchner saying we need to buy more people, this is a revealing statement of the thought processes at that level, and at last we have a possible realistic solution; exactly- buy people. We have great success with this approach- mercenaries aka Contractors- in the land forces. This is your answer.
This my dears is your only answer. The Navy then becomes a training and recruiting pool for Contractors to man your shortfalls and ah handle delicate matters involving the inevitable true nature of war. Believe or not they’re cheaper too (no housing, etc) and more efficient by an order of magnitude. They can be dismissed instantly if problems.
As our government has morphed into a Contracting Brokerage since Clinton reinvented government this will align you better with the actual government, our actual duties ($$$) as so constituted, and frankly our society at large.
I’m deadly serious, this is a deadly business. As there’s been no naval war since 1945 you haven’t had to adapt, here is the real answer. Reminder the man said himself buy more people.
You already have a baseline with the merchant marine, which is more than the Army had.
Get with the program or perish.
And it will not be a good death.
The best long term thing for Heritage Americans would be the failure of the US Empire, and a weakening of its military helps with that. The Federal - Imperial - government is not worth serving, and since the US is increasingly a broke, overweight third world country under the age of thirty it’s likely they won’t be able to get the numbers and quality they want regardless.
The Navy really fucked themselves with the purely political mid-term stunt of draining the DEP pool. In addition to starting '23 in a hole, it completely blows up the training pipeline, so those extra warm bodies are liability, not an asset. Further, since they can't get into a school, and will spend outsized time either picking up cigarette butts at Great Mistakes, or mess cranking aboard a ship, they're going to be far more disillusioned than the average Seaman Timmy. And they're going to go home and tell everyone they know that the Navy is a clusterfuck, and under no circumstances should they trust Petty Officer Jones or any other Navy recruiter.
It somewhat boggles the mind that the Navy simultaneously can't keep ships in the Incredible Shrinking 300+ Ship Navy, and can't even come close to properly manning the dwindling resources they currently have.
Sooner or later, someone is going to realize that the answer will simply have to include fewer six or nine month deployments simply to fulfill a COCOM's desire for a bigger part of the pie. I get that there are important benefits of having sizable forces deployed, but is it worth it if the cost is simply grinding the fleet to a nub, in terms of both ships and people?
I'd like to hear the navalists discuss this, particularly someone well equipped to support the argument that it is OK to occasionally say 'NO.'
CDR Salamander; with regards to the case you make yourself;
Image, Leadership, Reputation:
(I refer you to your own lists, especially leadership):
There’s putting lipstick on a pig, then there’s putting lipstick on a corpse. You ask what shade should be chosen for the latter.
Sir, US has 3rd largest population in the world, after China and India, and by far the largest in the developed world. If we cant get 170,000 https://civicinfluencers.org/4000000-americans-turn-18-in-2021-thats-voting-power/ from the 4-million turning 18 every year, say 1 of 23, then may I suggest we reduce the armed forces to - say 800,000 vs the about 1,400,000 currently in the military, and teach the rest of the cohort to knit or something useful.
Excellent explanation of the primary Navy personnel challenges. I agree with ADM Harvey that this is the tip of the iceberg, although his comment about buying more people is way off base. The general causes are applicable to the other Services. I've never had less respect or trust in senior military or civilian officials. I have not read and heard so many people recommending that kids, particularly their kids or relatives, not join the Military, and this from military or military affiliated people. The military had major problems in the late 60's and early 70's but there were other issues back then.
It seems clear to me that the only solution left to us is to start impressing British citizens. If I remember my history correctly, they did it to us and we ended up going to war over it (among other things like our desire for the annexation of some Canadian territory) and doing pretty poorly. Now, however, the shoe is very much on the other foot...
Leadership? Lloyd Austin has destroyed US military readiness at all levers with ‘woke’ culture and the vax mandates. Who wants to deal with this insanity? Better to stay in mom’s basement & play video game war simulations.
Ask what our readiness to sail is regardless of manning. It makes a dire picture worse.
I ❤️🇺🇸 but it has no fight in it.
It can’t be defended, we can’t turn our backs on the rest.
As for salvaging and preserving the Navy; buy more people, as the good and honest Admiral said, and wait for better times, or better chances. Buy contractors.
Or you won’t have a Navy, for reasons you sailors well list above. This is survival time for America, not reform.
Look the facts in the face and deal with what we really have, not what we should have.
Really, really, excellent piece you've written to very nicely explain the enormous impact of demographics on Navy (and by implication, the other branches of the military) personnel and recruitment, along with other known challenging factors.
One typo to correct if you can:
"I see a lot of reacting, pulling from the historical took box... "
LOTR - Fool of a Took https://youtu.be/5cZ4ABUo6TU via @YouTube
I recall we all liked hard work and a challenging job. It's what we who hadn't yet received a draft notice signed up for. An adventure. Long and frequent deployments and problems with under manning offered great opportunities to learn your trade and to promote. But burn-out can happen. I was a 19 year old surplus RD2 on a DE in 1967 with 2 years 1½ months service and was transferred to a deploying DDG. We had no Chief or RD1. CIC was short-handed so I became LPO under an RD2 6 months senior to me. That cruise made my career, and after that I was a 30 year man. Got promoted to RD1 before I sewed on my first hash-mark because of those opportunities. I loved my Navy then and for the next 22 years.
Later in 1982 I served 4 years aboard an Oliver Hazard Perry FFG. Those ships were minimum manned by design. That design never realistically took into account all the sweep/swab/wax/buff, chip & paint and watching standing the minimum manned crew had to do. The CNO's new drug policy saw us lose a lot of people too. They were not missed, but it made us stay undermanned until they were replaced. Retention wasn't great. In my 4th year aboard, we transferred to the NRF program. We became more minimally manned as a result. We were promised TAR replacements for some of the people we lost. Others would be replaced by the SELRES who drilled aboard on underway weekends once a month and 2 week drills once a year, underway. The promised TAR reliefs were mostly forced convertees from TAR's in the admin fields, with a long training pipeline for technical "A" Schools and follow-on equipment training. The SELRES were good people. But they weren't there often enough to be of much help. But that was OK because they were there to train. The TAR's? I don't know. In my final year I never saw one. I heard that many of the TAR's were resentful about being sent to sea duty (as it was not part of their "contract"). Also, the TAR's I was tracking for my own division were having difficulty in their schools that involved frequent setbacks. Setbacks that would have been "drops" for a Regular. But those TAR convertees were a scarce resource and HAD to complete their training. I always suspected they wanted to be dropped and go back ashore to be YN's and PN's again. Retention went into the toilet that final year I was aboard. You cannot stay perpetually under manned and overworked in a fast food restaurant or in the Navy without retention falling off. I cite the undermanning on that Frigate because I was there for 4 years and served with good Sailors for most of their enlistments and saw them pack it in and leave in the end. Some JO's too. That Frigate was like a small friendly town. I liked it enough to extend a year. That ship should have been a reenlistment incentive. But people just burned out and left. Sadder still was 1 suicide, 3 mental breakdowns that got them sent ashore, a big string of ruined knees from off-duty tackle football with beer as both a sedative and lubricant, 1 Seaman who had his wife run over his foot with their car, 1 desertion, failed drug tests, OTH discharges for too frequent disciplinary & alcohol problems.
You want to attract people? Make the job and the career attractive. I only have anecdotes, not answers.
Regarding your TEMADD question (ie, where are the TEMADDs going?), the answer is actually to deploying ships. This is a Rob Peter to Pay Paul game that TYCOMs play, where they take sailors with certain "critical" NECs and pull them off one ship to fill a gap on another. Typically, the sailors are grabbed from ships in maintenance and put on ships that are either deployed or about to deploy.
I've been on the receiving end of this a couple of times. For example, when I was on my CSIO tour on an LHD, I had to send off one of my best network admins for 6 months to support another ship on its deployment. They got back to us right as we were getting out of maintenance, and then went through workups with us and deployed again. Since they had 6 months between deployments, they didn't trip any PERSTEMPO alarms...however, that sailor's two year time period was a heavy yard period (which is very busy for the IT rating), a deployment on a different ship where they went aboard and stepped into an LPO at sea role, followed by a compressed workup cycle (thanks to the avail running long), followed by another deployment that ended up 1) extended, 2) shifted from C6F to C5F (yay), and 3) losing port calls due to the onset of COVID-19. This sailor, by the way, has all the skills, experience, and certifications needed to get out and easily pull a 6-figure salary in an IT or cyber role. And we wonder why there are retention and recruiting issues!
And this to say nothing of the ship that is giving up the sailor to support the non-optional TYCOM directive to provide said sailor. That ship just has to make do with what they have, regardless of impacts to training, duty rotation, testing, etc.
So in that sense, getting rid of TEMADDs is a very good thing, as it will get rid of a band-aid that is probalby helping to mask just how dire the shortfall in certain rates really is.