Attrition: In The New Navy, Only The Lite Survive


February 25, 2009: The U.S. Navy downsizing program, which is trying to get rid of people it doesn't need (not possessing needed skills) or want (disciplinary or physical fitness problems) is running into problems. Too many people want to stay. That is, more sailors want to stay in once their enlistment contracts are up. This is particularly the case with sailors serving their first term (usually four years.) The navy expects half of them to re-enlist, but currently, 62 percent are doing so. First term re-enlistments are particularly valuable, because it's easier to put these men and women in specialties that are growing. Many of the older sailors are in jobs that are no longer needed, and it's more expensive to retrain older, and higher ranking, personnel. The growing number of sailors eager to stay in has allowed the navy to reduce re-enlistment bonuses, and raise performance standards in general.

The navy currently has a strength of 332,000, and wants to get that down to 326,000 within the next two years. At the same time, the navy wants to keep scarce, hard-to-train and difficult-to-keep technical specialists. In particular, there are always shortages of nuclear power techs for submarines, and special operations troops (SEALs and their support people). And then there are the new recruits, most of whom are only in (deliberately) for one term (usually four years). These have to be replaced, along with those who stay in, but later decide to get out. There's less of this with a recession going on.

Another way to downsize effectively is to raise all sorts of standards, forcing out those who don't measure up. This includes going after, well, appearance. The navy has already cracked down on sailors and officers who are overweight. Many more sailors are dieting and showing up at the gym regularly. In the new navy, only the lite survive



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