November 14, 2009: The U.S. Navy has completed their first annual review of their senior NCOs (Chief Petty Officers with 20 or more years of service). Of the 5,686 chiefs reviewed, 97 percent were judged fit to continue serving. The other 158 must retire before next July 1st, or be dismissed from the navy.
While officers command the navy, and the ships, it's the "Chiefs" who run the navy. Those chiefs with over twenty years service (and thus eligible for retirement at half pay) are considered the most essential. But it was always known that some of these senior chiefs were just coasting, and not living up to their responsibilities. Thus review boards were established to measure the performance, over the past five years, of all the most senior chiefs. Anyone with disciplinary problems, or low performance evaluations, would be in danger of not being "continued.". Retirement could cost some chiefs a lot of money, because those with less than 30 years service, will lose out on the 75 percent pay you get when you retire at 30 or more years. The navy did not set any quotas for how many chiefs to boot, they just wanted the low performers gone.
Aside from wanting to improve the quality of the senior NCO force, the additional retirements make it possible for more qualified chiefs to get promoted, and for junior NCOs to become chiefs. Because of the recession, more senior chiefs are putting off retirement, and promotions to chief have slowed.
This is all part of a downsizing program, "Perform To Serve" (PTS), that was instituted six years ago. PTS is an effort to get rid of people the navy doesn't need (not possessing needed skills) or want (disciplinary or physical fitness problems). Initially only first term sailors, seeking to reenlist, had to basically reapply for their jobs. Recently, junior NCOs also had to do so, including those with 10-14 years of service. Last year, 90 percent of those who applied, kept their jobs. The other ten percent were either offered a job in another area, or told they could not reenlist.
Changing technology has caused shortages in some jobs, and surpluses in others. The PTS program allows sailors in overmanned jobs to take aptitude tests to see if they qualify for training in another job. Some sailors can't make the cut, and have to leave.