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Admiral: Navy must adapt in order to retain sailors

By JOSH FARLEY | Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. | Published: May 23, 2015

BREMERTON, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Mike Sullivan’s Navy career was spent aboard submarines as an electronics technician, a role he mastered in his almost 24 years of service.

Today’s sailor has much more to prepare for and jobs to do, he acknowledges.

“We’re asking them to do different things, and we’re asking them to do a lot more of them,” Sullivan said.

Recruiting and retaining top talent in today’s multifaceted Navy, especially in an increasingly competitive labor market, has been a challenge for its top brass and led to new “talent management initiatives” rolled out recently by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

This week, Vice Adm. Bill Moran, chief of Naval Personnel, visited Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in support of the plan, which adds new family benefits, loosens fitness requirements, and increases opportunities for advancement, especially for women.

“The overriding principle is that this generation of young men and women have expectations of greater choice in their career opportunities,” said Moran, who as head of Navy human resources commands a budget of $29 billion and staff of 26,000. “They’d like to see a system more flexible than what we have today.”

Human resources professionals around the country are “experiencing and forecasting a tightening labor pool of technically oriented, smart young Americans,” he added.

Mabus is looking at ways to increase the ranks of women where they have typically been underrepresented. But Moran said initiatives to increase paid maternity leave from six to 12 weeks and extend child care availability by four hours each day is an overall effort to retain men and women with families — a primary reason why many depart the Navy.

Other changes, many of which came directly from the sailors themselves, are:

  • Fitness requirements will be more flexible and specific to each sailor.
  • Ensuring an environment “intolerant of sexual assault,” to include programs geared toward prevention, response, supporting those who come forward and prohibiting retaliation.
  • Emphasizing the “attracting, recruiting and retaining” of women into Navy posts where the gender is underrepresented.
  • Become more family friendly by expanding paid maternity leave and extend child care hours.
  • Increase opportunities for bonuses and advancement.
  • Unisex uniforms will be created in an effort to “unite us as sailors and marines,” the memo says.

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Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. William Moran

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