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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Fleet Reserve Association opposes the U.S. Navy’s planned reduction in force, but it wants enlisted sailors to weigh in on the issue and participate in a Web survey.

“We think the plan is flawed,” said Michel Garrett, spokesman for the watchdog organization in Alexandria, Va. “It’s a shortsighted policy to draw down troops in order to save money, and we think this will have a severe effect on morale.

“But we still want them to participate in the survey. The survey is geared at getting a sense of what the enlisted Navy sailor thinks about what is happening,” Garrett said.

The Navy plans to reduce its force by 7,900 active-duty sailors and 2,500 reservists in fiscal 2005, which starts Oct. 1. The FRA said the service has plans to cut the force by 40,000 officers and enlisted sailors over the next six years, but Navy officials said Wednesday there are no defined numbers beyond fiscal 2005.

Navy leaders have said the service is too big for today’s needs, and that paring it down makes good fiscal sense. In March, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark defended the plan, telling members of Congress that Navy’s technology makes the service’s equipment smarter and reduces the need for people.

“I don’t want my sailors to think I would cut a sailor to build a ship … but I don’t want to invest one penny in a human resource the Navy doesn’t need,” Clark said.

But money is not the driving reason behind cutting the number sailors, said Navy spokeswoman Sharon Anderson.

“We do expect cost savings,” Anderson said, “as you would whenever you have fewer people, but that’s not the reason we’re doing this. We’re doing this to meet requirements.”

Participants who complete the FRA’s online survey do so anonymously since “members often are hesitant to criticize policy,” Garrett said. By the same token, the organization has no way of gauging how many times a person might complete a survey or if they are an enlisted sailor or in the Navy at all, Garrett said.

“It’s not completely scientific; we know that,” Garrett said.

FRA is a professional military association that represents Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel on Capitol Hill.

“The input from this survey will assist FRA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of active and reserve personnel serving in the U.S. Navy,” FRA National Executive Secretary Joe Barnes said in a statement. “The Navy says that it can save $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion annually for each 10,000 sailors it cuts from the force. It fails, however, to give any clue as to the cost savings of cutting the same number of civilian or contract workers.”

FRA is conducting a survey on its Web site at www.fra.org/surveys. It opened Monday and runs through the end of September.


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