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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy is in the early stages of an initiative aimed at reducing the administrative burden placed on sailors and commands.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert ordered the establishment of a working group tasked with making commands across the Navy more potent and efficient after receiving complaints from sailors about “administrative distractions,” ranging from duplicate training to competing requirements, according to a Navy statement last week. The working group is led by Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, deputy to the director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion.

The Navy plans to seek feedback over the next few weeks by sending a survey to commands and launching a website for sailors, officials said. The group will also look at Navy websites that contain repetitive information.

“Our goal is to give back to our warfighters, and includes everyone from the CO to the deckplate leaders, more time to focus on the things they need to do,” Shelanski said in the statement. “These sailors need to be mission ready, they need to understand their weapons systems, they need to know how to get their ship underway safely, and they need time to do that.”

The Navy statement said one area where efficiencies might be gleaned could be in zone inspections, for example, where an officer and petty officer walk around writing things down; the data has to be entered later. The group is looking for suggestions on how this process, and others, might be improved.

“We want amazing, innovative creative young sailors of any rank to write in to us,” Shelanski said. “Here is an administrative process that I’m spending all my time on and if I had an iPad and an app, I could save three hours a day.”

The initiative will be undertaken in several phases, Shelanski said. The first includes collecting information on the scope of the problem. Navy officials then will narrow the scope of their search and seek quick solutions, followed by putting those into action. Then the process will be repeated.

The team includes captains and commanders with some lieutenants and lieutenant commanders, Shelanski said. The group is in the early stages of formation.

“What’s important though is that we are looking for input across the rank structure, and these team members will be getting input from them,” Shelanski said. “The survey will go just to commands, whereas the website will be for anyone to input.”

The working group had hoped to have the website up this week, the statement said. However, when reached through a spokesman Thursday, Shelanski said they were still waiting on an address and looking at the best way to host the site.

Shelanski said there has been an enthusiastic response across the fleet thus far.

“We think there is going to be a flood of information,” Shelanski said. “So putting together that information in a proper manner so we can systematically go through it will be a challenge. But an even bigger challenge is the cultural change that we hope to effect in the future.”

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.
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