Navy's master chief petty officer meets with sailors at Atsugi
March 27, 2003
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — Fighting a global war on terror doesn’t come cheap.
That’s why sailors need to be patient with current funding constraints, the Navy’s top enlisted leader told 600 sailors Monday.
“Where’s your Navy today with respect to that campaign?” asked Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott, during an all-hands call at the base theater.
A sailor mumbled, “Everywhere.”
“Exactly,” Scott said.
Since Oct. 7, 2001, when combat operations rolled out after the Sept. 11 attacks, “we’ve been engaged just about everywhere, and most recently, starting on Wednesday,” Scott added, referring to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“This is going to go on a while, and we’re going to have some challenges out in front of us, but I know that every one of you is up to the challenge. So if you’re not there today, you’ll be there tomorrow.”
Of the Navy’s 305 ships, 221 are at sea, and 167 are forward-deployed, Scott said. More than 75,000 sailors are deployed.
The current ops tempo is costing a lot of money, in steaming and flight hours, forcing the Navy to make some tough decisions when it comes to funding various programs, Scott said.
The Navy has an extra 6,500 sailors on active duty — for which it’s not programmed — along with 7,200 reservists called up, he said.
Most sailors appeared somber at talk of the war, but they had other issues on their minds, too.
For instance, Petty Officer 2nd Class Glendon Turner, a cook in the galley, asked whether the Navy had any plans to make its tuition-assistance program equitable with other services.
“I’m a strong user of the Navy college system, and I was counting on tuition assistance,” he said.
Said Scott, “There’s no more money to add to it at this moment,” but “hopefully, we’re going to see a time where we’re going to be able to increase the tuition-assistance benefit.”
The Navy chose to fund a “12-hour cap versus a monetary cap,” Scott said, because “we also want to make sure it’s an equitable program across all of the Navy.”
Scott said the Navy is also experiencing some funding constraints for permanent changes of station.
“If you’re negotiating with the detailer for orders right now, you’re going to see we have some difficulties,” he said. “We’re having to prioritize billets with the available resources that we have.”
There may be some relief in sight, Scott said: The Bush administration is asking Congress for supplemental budget increases.
But, he said, “We’re in a war. We have to make sure the first priority is getting the mission done.”