Navy secretary says flaws in sailor retention system led to new selection board
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The decision to create a selection board that will cut about 3,000 sailors from the ranks later this year was made at least partly because of problems with the Navy’s Perform-to-Serve program, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told servicemembers Wednesday at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Mabus met with about 1,000 sailors and Marines in front of the 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge, primarily to thank them for performing recovery missions and providing humanitarian aid in response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the central and northeast coast of Japan’s main Honshu island.
After his brief speech, he took questions from servicemembers. A Navy career counselor asked whether a policy change would be made to Perform-to-Serve, which requires sailors in grades E-6 and below with 14 years or less of service to justify why they should be allowed to re-enlist.
“There already has been,” said Mabus, who told the audience that a quota-based enlisted retention board announced this month for sailors in grades E-4 through E-8 in 31 overmanned job ratings was part of that policy change.
“The problem we had with [Perform-to-Serve] was that it only came up when it was time to re-enlist,” Mabus said. “What this meant was you kept some people that maybe we shouldn’t have ... and we got rid of some people that perhaps we should have kept.”
Perform-to-Serve was created in 2003 to evaluate first-term sailors prior to their first potential re-enlistment.
Since expanding in recent years to include mid-career sailors, it has drawn complaints from sailors who have echoed Mabus’ statement — that the program doesn’t always keep the right people in the Navy.
For now, 16,000 sailors in the 31 ratings targeted by the enlisted retention board must watch out for both the board and Perform-to-Serve.
Perform-to-Serve’s future remains unclear, Mabus said in a conversation with Stars and Stripes following the meeting with servicemembers.
“I think that decision is still to be made ... whether Perform-to-Serve stays around, I think, depends on basically how we have to shape the force,” he said.
Mabus said he also did not yet know whether the enlisted retention board would continue beyond the planned August and September board proceedings.
Both Perform-to Serve and the retention board allow sailors who may be involuntarily separated from the Navy to apply to retrain for undermanned job ratings
“I hope that a lot of people will take us up on [retraining],” Mabus said.
Mabus’ meeting with Yokosuka servicemembers came a day after he held a similar meeting with servicemembers in South Korea. Earlier on Wednesday, Mabus viewed some of the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
“The partnership between America and Japan was made way stronger by your actions,” Mabus told servicemembers.