Does the Navy Need the 1700 Community?

By Janice Graham

The mission of the fleet support community is to support Navy and joint operations through managing the support establishment and developing highly specialized technical and analytical capabilities. This mission is executed in three professional areas, or core competencies:

  • Logistics support (LS) is composed of two subcomponents. Shore installation management includes installation administration, fiscal management, port and base operations, civilian personnel management, installation security and law enforcement, environmental controls, and facilities and support management. Logistics/sealift support includes ocean transportation planning and management, strategic sealift, and planning for peacetime, contingency, and wartime operations.
  • Manpower, personnel, and training (MPT) includes four subcomponents. Personnel management focuses on development and implementation of personnel policy and the management of personnel programs, systems, and records. Personnel accession deals with accessions plans and policy, recruiting, and military entrance processing. MPT analysis includes manpower engineering and planning, fleet requirements, and personnel research. Personnel development focuses on training executed through training organizations and doctrine and policy development on various staffs.
  • Space and electronic warfare (SEW) comprises four subcomponents. Space systems operations and engineering focuses on satellite operations and management of satellite systems and program management. Communications and information systems encompasses a wide range of systems and activities to support information systems flow, such as limited-area networks and area networks, the global command-and-control system, and program management for C4I. Information warfare focuses on offensive and defensive applications in electronic warfare, C4, and information tracking. The integrated undersea surveillance system concentrates on the collection of operational intelligence information as well as oceanographic and undersea geological information. (This mission will transfer to the intelligence community no later than 2010.)

The rationale for creating the 1100 community was to provide the vast majority of female officers—who were prohibited by law from serving in warfare units—an avenue to serve in the Navy. Assignments typically were in shore-based functions, and commonly were viewed as less important and less relevant than warfare assignments. Thus, the community was plagued with a reputation as having an officer corps less valuable and less respected than the warfare-qualified corps of officers.

In the effort by the 1100 community's leadership to gain respect and relevance for the community, career paths in the community and what was important for continued promotion often changed. In 1982, leadership positions in administration, personnel, and support functions were critical for promotion. In 1984, operational-type (as close to a warfare assignment as possible) tours were key. In 1986, a track was developed to provide specialists in certain fields—political-military, logistics, communications, and others—and the requirement for an executive officer/commanding officer (XO/CO) assignment was eliminated if this was the chosen path. Four years later, the track no longer was discussed, because many who had followed it had been passed over for promotion.

Community Demographics

With the drawdown in force structure following the end of the Cold War coupled with the uncertainty that followed the rescission of the combat exclusion law, community guidance was that leadership positions were still important, but not critical for promotion. Because there no longer were enough XO/CO billets, sustained superior performance in whatever job one held was the focus. Current guidance is sustained superior performance, with the caveat that the job must develop expertise within one of the three core competencies. Allegedly, command is essential for promotion only if relevant to the core competency.

According to the 1700 community head detailer, today's community is in flux. Still downsizing, the target number of officers in this gender-neutral (though still primarily female) community is 1,650. The community has far too many commanders and too few captains. The situation is so critical that recent data indicate that future promotion to O-5 will be at the 18- (and perhaps even 19-) year point.

The percentage of officers in each core competency is still developing. The current percentages are SEW, 30%; MPT, 55%; and LS, 15%—the target percentages are SEW, 40%; MPT, 40%; and LS, 20%. There are no new accessions into the community, with the exception of a small number of training attritions and some attritions from the Naval Academy. Instead, fleet support officers are accessed from lateral transfer/redesignation boards that convene twice a year, and unrestricted line officers must be warfare qualified prior to redesignation.

The decision to require warfare qualification prior to entry into the community was made in an effort to enhance the credibility of the community by filling it with officers who have a working knowledge of the operational side of the Navy. But some individuals have called this an attempt to add a patina of legitimacy to the community.

A hallmark of the 1700 community was the establishment of a discreet billet base, whereas the 1100 community filled mainly the 1000-coded billets that the warfare communities were unable or unwilling to fill. Although the establishment of a discreet billet base generally is viewed as a positive move, many have complained about the loss of flexibility in detailing 1700s.

The Future of the Community

Two central questions must be addressed when assessing the continued viability of the 1700 community: Can the Navy afford to keep nonwarfighters in its ranks in the current era of fiscal constraint and downsizing? Did the establishment of the 1700 community make the Navy more effective? To address these questions, it is useful to analyze the community by core competency.

Because of its technical orientation, the least congruent of the three core competencies is space and electronic warfare. But this core competency is the most likely of the three to develop an officer corps with expertise required for the Navy in the 21st century. A 1995-96 Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel task force on information assurance recommended that this core competency be studied to ascertain the feasibility of combining its officers with the 1610 cryptology community (where functions and billets tended to overlap anyway) to create a new and different information warfare community.

It is much more difficult to determine any uniqueness, or requirement, that the remaining two core competencies brought to the Navy. Furthermore, in order to build the 1700 community's discreet billet base, critical XO and CO billets were taken from the communities that also performed shore station support roles, such as the Supply Corps, limited duty/commissioned warrant officer (LDO/CWO), and even unrestricted line (URL) communities. Significant animosity toward the 1700 community exists within these communities, as they now suffer from diminished opportunities for command and promotion.

Considerable—in fact near complete—overlap in mission and billets exists between the logistics support core competency and the Supply Corps (3100 designator). Within the shore installation management subcomponent, overlap exists in all fiscal management areas. A recent GAO audit of Navy financial management practices indicated that Supply Corps officers serve in more than 50% of the Navy's comptroller billets, a function the 1700 community incorrectly has argued resides in the URL community but ought to belong to 1700s. Both 3100 and 1700 officers receive quotas each year to attend the Naval Postgraduate School in the financial management curricula.

A review of the billets in the logistics/sealift support subcomponent indicates complete overlap with the Supply Corps. Both 1700 and 3100 officers serve in transportation, logistics, and logistics planner billets at the Military Sealift Command; Military Traffic Management Command; Naval Transportation Support Center; Air Force Mobility Command; and at the Joint Staff, fleet commanders-in-chief, and various unified commands. Several other mission areas and billets belonging to this core competency include civilian personnel management, law enforcement/security officer, bachelor quarters manager, brig officer, and other facilities and support management positions. Many believe that the Navy would be better served by outsourcing these functions. Significant overlap in mission and billets also exists between the manpower, personnel, and training core competency and the LDO/CWO community in the areas of personnel management, personnel accession, MPT analysis, training, and personnel policy development. As a result of transferring many of this community's billets to the 1700 community, animosity is apparent here as well, as the transfer often was referred to as a "hostile takeover." Furthermore, many argue that the training functions currently performed by 1700s are better filled by LDO/CWOs, where subject-matter expertise combined with leadership skills allows these officers to fully understand the requirements of enlisted technicians, making for a more effective executive or commanding officer.

What is most apparent when reviewing the billets and mission areas—in this core competency in particular—is the need to conduct a complete billet review to determine which billets must be performed by Navy personnel, and which billets would be better privatized or outsourced. Clearly, billets such as "Head, Navy Travel and Transportation Branch"—where it takes 18 to 24 months to become conversant with the Joint Federal Travel Regulations and other laws, are filled better by civilians who can stay in a billet long enough to develop such expertise. "Quality-of-life" positions—such as the family services officer—no longer should be filled by Navy personnel. Personnel support detachments as well as billets in personnel research, manpower engineering, and management of personnel programs also are options for outsourcing. The number of MPT billets determined to be better performed by a Navy officer is likely to be so small that they could be turned over (and in many cases returned) to the LDO/CWO community. Another option would be to develop a small officer community along the lines of the Army's Adjutant General Corps.

The decision to stand up a new restricted line community appears to have been based more on keeping a cadre of officers happy—the fact that the vast majority were women compounded the problem—rather than what was best for the Navy of the future. The decision to stand up the community was made before the areas of expertise were defined fully. The result has been that individuals within the 1700 community are struggling to gain viable career paths because the community has been unable to carve out a niche hat is neither duplicated elsewhere in the Navy, nor more effectively outsourced or privatized.

Can the Navy afford nonwarfighters in its ranks in the current era of fiscal constraint and downsizing? Clearly, "yes"—if the nonwarfighters (staff and restricted line) perform a critical mission that warfighters are unable to perform. Did the establishment of the 1700 community make for a more effective Navy? The answer to this question appears to be "no," because the critical shore station functions in large part already are either performed by other communities or are better outsourced.

The 1700 community's mission and vision must be reviewed to determine the community's proper place in the Navy's future. If a review concludes that duplication of expertise and mission exists, the affected members of the 1700 community and the Navy both would be better served by transitioning those core competencies to the other communities. To avoid degrading the efficiency of the affected communities and their personnel, a transition process should include measures, such as appropriate wording in precepts to promotion boards, to accommodate the more senior individuals through the next 10- to 12-year period. A controlled and managed transition would meld these areas of expertise with already sustainable, relevant communities.

Ms. Graham wrote this article while she was a lieutenant commander serving as Assistant for Political-Military Affairs, Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel —and a member of the 1700 community. She left the Navy in October 1998 and is now a Research Associate at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Rosslyn, Virginia.

 

Janice Graham is a retired Navy officer and a 1991 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School. Currently, she is a research associate at The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Rosslyn, Virginia, and a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University.

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