The United States Navy is the strongest and most technologically advanced navy in the world, but it is failing its sailors and by extension, ultimately America. How can it be fixed? Here are a few ideas.
Scrap the Brass
Why do we have more admirals than ships in the Navy? There are no acceptable answers to that question other than to say we made a long line of mistakes. I’m not suggesting that all admirals, or even most of them, are not high quality employees. What I’m saying is that stars cost the taxpayer more money than they are worth. It’s not just the Admiral; it’s the Lieutenant that’s making his coffee, the driver, the car, the fatter pension, etc. Those perks are excessive, unnecessary, and expensive.
Most of the work that actually needs to be done, can be done by lower-ranking officers. For situations where a higher rank is required for international or inter-service political purposes, send a real admiral or assign a temporary rank to a senior Captain.
Keep True to The Sailors
Recently the navy reduced its force by about 3,000 sailors only to turn around and offer retention bonuses to others because they couldn’t fill all the ships at sea. That is idiotic.
On the officer side, many quality officers who had successful careers have been forced out due to the “up or out” policy as the budget reduced the number of people selected for promotion. As they march out the door to be successful outside the military, they watch their former leaders with DUI convictions get promoted to very senior ranks.
Retention should be based on quality and experience, and be far less subject to timing. By retaining fully qualified personnel, it saves money in training replacements, both in formal schools and in costly mistakes.
A leader arguing that their sailors should be paid less and have their benefits reduced is nothing short of an absolute betrayal of those that defend our country. Admirals and Master Chiefs need to fight to keep military pay and benefits, not cut the financial throats of sailors and their families.
Retain the Warfighters
The Navy is split into several communities, some having had more involvement in recent conflicts than others, notably the SEALs and EOD. The navy seems to have forgotten though the number of Individual Augmentees, Sea Bees, aviators, and medical staff that have real, not simulated combat experience. On several occasions those warfighters’ careers were negatively impacted by their combat tours because the nature of what they were doing was not understood and hence undervalued by “Big Navy.” If the navy is to be a war-fighting force, they should not punish those who were willing to do the war fighting, they should encourage them.
Ignore Political Correctness
How many human trafficking, sexual assault, equal opportunities, and bleeding-heart-love-in PowerPoint presentations do military personnel need to endure in a month? One month I sat through six. Six, sexual assault awareness classes in a month — and no, I was not on trial for anything.
Here’s a news flash for the navy. As bad as all those things are, and I’m not diminishing their effects on the victims or commands, your endless string of classes is not going to stop a rapist. It will however insult your quality personnel if they get the impression you think all your sailors are rapists.
Further: War does not care about people’s feelings, and bullets are not bigots.
Focus On The Present War
We still have sailors in Afghanistan. We also have sailors near the Horn of Africa and other places doing great, often unreported work. With all that is going on, why are there a never-ending string of online courses and surveys taking time away from our sailors’ real training needs? Why are so many leaders unfamiliar with real combat and as such not preparing their sailors appropriately?
Spend Money Intelligently
Offices do not need to be pretty; they need to be functional and safe. They should not be redecorated on a whim. Ceremonies are part of military life, but how extravagant do they really need to be to make their point? Command coins, ball-caps, shirts, etc. were never a good use of taxpayers’ money.
Should the commissaries remain subsidized? Yes. Could they cut or eliminate the subsidies for any convenience-type foods found in the commissaries? You know, the ones that pump empty calories into service members and their families, giving birth to the term “dependapotomus” and feeding an obesity epidemic? Yes.
The latest issue that senior leadership is using to justify keel-hauling navy families however is defense procurement in general, things like the Joint Strike Fighter, an over reliance on contractors, and an inability to acceptance responsibility. Simplify acquisitions, increase transparency when appropriate, and provide uncompromised oversight.
And one last word on wasteful navy spending: uniforms.
My single greatest concern for the navy however, is a lack of war-fighter mentality amongst the rank and file, which has been fostered by improperly developed leaders. The administrator-type logic has conquered the upper echelons and left juniors with a clear message, “Put your career before service, and you will do well.” Saying you want to cut sailors’ benefits and pay, so as to spend more money on weapons is not a war-fighting mentality, it just demonstrates an inability to manage what is already an exorbitant amount of money in a responsible way.
The good news is that all is not lost and there are several officers and enlisted personnel well equipped to lead a strong navy and fix the mindset from within. Those are some of my thoughts, what are yours?