Expect Navy boards to do less job cutting, personnel chief says

By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 23, 2012

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A decision to cut nearly 3,000 sailors from overmanned ratings this year means that fewer sailors are expected to be separated through other boards in the coming years, the Navy’s personnel chief said Thursday following an all-hands forum with sailors.

Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk acknowledged the unpopularity of the enlisted retention board, which is involuntarily separating sailors in 31 different jobs this year due to a combination of budgetary pressure and a record re-enlistment rate approaching 70 percent. However, he said the board accomplished the Navy’s goal of easing the strain on Perform to Serve, a performance-based evaluation program that separates sailors with up to 14 years of service in a wide variety of job fields.

Although detailed figures were unavailable Thursday, Van Buskirk said that the rate at which Perform to Serve is separating sailors has dropped to about 10 percent of those being evaluated, averaged across all job fields. That figure is much closer to where the Navy wants to be as it continues to pare down its force to fit its budget.

“When you look at somewhere around 10 to 20 percent, it’s a pretty healthy region from a quality perspective,” Van Buskirk said. “You want to have some selectivity as you go on, so you can have a high quality core of personnel.”

Van Buskirk added that there are no enlisted retention boards planned through fiscal 2014.

“I hope we never have to do it again,” he said.

However, Van Buskirk reiterated that the reasoning for the decisions made by boards on whether sailors will keep their jobs should not be disclosed to the sailors receiving their walking papers.

Earlier this month, two sailors whom their superiors said they rated quite highly told Stars and Stripes that they did not understand why they were being separated from active duty. Neither sailor had any disciplinary problems or other typical “red flags,” and felt that sailors with lesser records were being retained.

In a follow-up query, Navy officials said that no records of the proceedings were kept that could shed light on those decisions.

Van Buskirk said that the boards rely on evaluation reports and personnel records, and that he considered them to be fair.

“In a board, whether it’s for a sailor or whether it’s for an officer, there are always proceedings that for the sanctity for the board, as you would expect and want, are not for public viewing,” Van Buskirk said. “That’s critical for how we operate and how we continue to operate.”


Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, chief of naval personnel, answers a question from a sailor during an all-hands forum Feb. 23, 2012, at Yokosuka Naval Base. Van Buskirk said that he did not foresee convening another enlisted retention board, which this year will cut about 3,000 sailors from the ranks, through at least fiscal year 2014.


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