I believe it to be a fact conceded by all officers and others interested in the naval service that the efficiency of the fleet would be greatly increased if we had a larger continuous service force.
The pay and possibilities for the future offered by the Government are sufficient to allow the Navy Department to compete successfully with civil institutions in securing men, but, for some reason or another, these men do not continue in the service. To-day we find of the enlisted force about 76 per cent of the men on their first enlistment, about 16 per cent on the second enlistment, and only about 4 per cent on third enlistment, with the rest scattering. If such a condition is to continue our fleet will always be a training fleet, and though the results of cruising and target practice show a high state of efficiency, we are convinced that a higher percentage of efficiency can be attained by having a larger number of continuous service men.
The following table will exhibit the condition of the enlisted force in fleet to-day with respect to length of service:
No. on 1st. 2d. 3d. 4th and Gun-pointers who
Board. upwards fired at previous
Rhode Island 786 642 103 41
Louisiana 840 694 92 32 22 31
Ohio 708 573 95 15 25 26
Kansas 853 696 100 14 43 79
Missouri 714 578 101 16 19 25
Georgia 809 716 66 15 12 51
Virginia 775 606 124 29 16 31
Wisconsin 620 510 82 17 11 42
It is reported that the continuous service force is increasing, that more men are now re-enlisting, but this increase is small, as is shown by the following official figures:
1905 (Entire Year).
Total number of men in service 41,021
Total continuous service men 4,897
Percentage of continuous service men 11.9%
June 30, 1905.
Number of men in service 30,804
Continuous service men 4,897 15.9%
1908 (Entire Year).
Total number of men in service 55,956
Total continuous service men 7,456 13.3%
June 30, 1908.
Number of men in service 39,048
Continuous service men 7,456 19.1%
If any considerable number of men have re-enlisted since June, 1908, such re-enlistments have undoubtedly been influenced by the fact that there is a prospect of a twenty-five year retirement law being enacted.
Modern wars have been short; wars of the future promise to be shorter. There will be no time to train men during war. The fleet must be manned by trained men, if we are to compete successfully with a fleet manned by continuous service men. Admiral Beresford has said that, "You may take two years to build a battleship, but it takes six years to make a first-class seaman gunner." The Admiral is quite right, and does not make the estimate of time too long. The needs for a continuous service force, around which may revolve the comers and goers, seem to me to be obvious and need no argument, and if the United States Navy is to attain the highest state of efficiency and to maintain that standard, it must increase the number of continuous service men very considerably.
The great question in considering the enlisted personnel of the navy is—"How shall we induce men to remain in the service?"—and I submit that this question is second in importance to no other question affecting the efficiency of the fleet, and demands the serious consideration of the proper authorities.
The methods of manning our navy by voluntary enlistment, and the effect of our institutions upon the character of our men make it absolutely necessary that in any effort to create a larger continuous service force we must consider the demands of the enlisted men so far as is possible.
Serving in a military profession in a non-military country makes the conditions in our service very different from those that exist in a military country, where men may still serve the State in various capacities after retiring from actual service, and in our country, it would be quite impossible, for instance, to establish a twelve-year enlistment term as is done in England.
The question—"How shall we induce men to remain in the service?"—can best be answered after we find out why men do not re-enlist, and, to my mind, the source of this information is the men themselves.
At the St. Helena Station, where there has been assembled at one time as many as 3700 men, and where the commanding officer is always able to come in contact with a large number of general service men, there have been called meetings of all the men at the station who had been in the service one enlistment or more. The commanding officer presided at these meetings, but had no voice in the proceedings, other than to state the object of the meeting, which was to discuss the requirements of the service from the enlisted man's view point, and to submit specific subjects for discussion.
The results obtained at this meeting lead one to believe that the men of the service fully appreciate the efforts which are being made by the Navy Department and the Bureau of Navigation to improve the condition of the enlisted personnel; that the pay of the navy is sufficient, and satisfactory, though it might be better equalized; that the status of petty officers in the navy might be better established, by making petty officers of only the ratings which from a military view point should be petty officers; that the term of enlistment (four years) is best suited to the conditions in our country; that the food and messing facilities for the enlisted personnel are entirely satisfactory, and that the men are generally very happy and contented, so long as they are in the service.
It seemed to be the general opinion of the men assembled at this meeting that the one great reason why men do not continue in the service is that, with our present retirement and pension laws, there is not a sufficient guarantee that, sometime in the future, these men will be able to realize their hopes of an independent home life, with a habitation that they can support as the result of their hard work and efforts in their country's service. The enlisted men of the navy realize that, with the strenuous conditions which must necessarily exist in a modern fleet, the average man may not survive in good physical condition the thirty-years service required by the present law, and further, the enlisted men of the navy find that, though they may serve three, four, five or six enlistments, and become incapacitated for the service by causes incident to the service, they cannot receive sufficient means to enable them to live properly after condemnation by medical survey.
In other words, our retirement and pension laws are not satisfactory. If we examine the retired list of the enlisted force we will find there are only about 240 men on that list, and that most of these men have had but very little sea service; they are men who have been employed in various capacities on shore.
The amount of a pension under the present laws is so small that it is insufficient to induce men to remain in the service after the second enlistment, and so run the risk of being physically incapacitated before the retirement age, or of remaining in the service long enough to make it impossible to renew or take up civil occupation.
With the strenuous life in a modern battle fleet, men do not survive the thirty-years service before retirement, or they leave the service while they are in good physical condition for civil employment. Men desirable for the United States Navy, men who think seriously of choosing a profession or occupation for life, thoughtful, intelligent men, will not accept the conditions, as a business risk, that are offered by the naval service in the matter of retirement and pension under the present laws.
With the first enlistment this is not so much a matter of consideration, but after the second enlistment a man finds himself with considerable money saved, and he begins to look at the future in a serious business way, as a matter of dollars and cents, and he has before him two propositions—First: "I am in good physical condition, I have not been in the navy long enough to lose touch with relatives and friends on shore, I have learned a good trade in the navy, or I have improved in knowledge of my trade by my service in the navy, and the probabilities are that I can get good employment in civil life. I am thinking seriously of getting married, and of eventually having a habitation of my own, where I can enjoy a normal life. Shall I leave the service while I am still in good health, and have sufficient money to make a start in civil life?" or, Second: "Shall I remain in the service until I have lost touch with relatives and friends in civil life, and become too old to engage in any kind of business, and run the risk of being incapacitated before I have had sufficient service for retirement, by causes incident to a strenuous service, and then find myself with a pension too small for proper living?"
It is considered that the pension laws are just and proper in the cases of men without considerable length of service, say up to ten years, but that after a man has served ten years or more the amount of pension is insufficient for the amount of service rendered and the effects of that length of service in incapacitating a man for employment on shore.
Our retirement and pension laws are not operative in as much as we can get no results from them, and if these laws do not suit the conditions of the service in getting desired results, they should be repealed and other laws enacted which will meet the requirements of our service, and provide a means for increasing the continuous service force of the navy.
I propose the following draft of a bill which, if enacted, would in the opinion of the enlisted men, do away with several of the principal causes that prevent men from continuing in the service.
Be it Enacted, That when an enlisted man shall have served twenty-five years in the navy, he shall, upon application to the President, be placed on the retired list with seventy-five per centum of the pay he may then be in receipt of, and that he shall receive allowances as follows: nine dollars and fifty cents per month in lieu of rations and clothing, and six dollars and twenty-five cents per month in lieu of quarters, fuel and light. Provided, That in case the applicant has served twenty years in the engineering ratings of the navy, he shall be placed on the retired list, upon application to the President, as above provided with pay and allowances as set forth in section 2 of this Act.
SECTION 2. That when an enlisted man has served ten years in the navy, and less than twenty-five years, and has become incapacitated for further service through disease or injury incident to his service, he shall, upon the recommendation of a board of survey consisting of three officers, one of whom shall be a medical officer, be placed on the retired list, with pay, to be determined by multiplying one thirty-second of the amount of pay he may then be receiving by the whole number of years' service the man may have, and that he shall receive allowances as those provided for in section I of this Act.
SECTION 3. That in computing the necessary service for retirement, all service in the army, navy and marine corps shall be credited.
SECTION 4. That where the pension for disability under pension laws heretofore in force would be greater than the aggregate of the pay and allowances provided for under this Act, nothing in this Act shall be construed to prevent a man eligible for the benefits of this Act from waiving said benefits and otherwise applying for a pension for his disability.
SECTION 5. That all Acts and parts of Acts so far as they are in confliction with this Act, are hereby repealed.
In presenting argument for the enactment of this proposed bill, attention is invited to the fact that on November 30, 1908, the then Secretary of the Navy strongly approved the bill, H. R. 19,361; this bill was a straight retirement bill, retiring enlisted men after a total of twenty-five years' actual service. That the Navy Department approved such bill makes it require no further argument, but I quote the letter of approval referred to as it so fully sets forth the reasons why the retirement of enlisted men of the navy after twenty-five years of service is just and reasonable.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 1908.
H. R. 19,361.—PROVIDING FOR THE RETIREMENT OF PETTY OFFICERS AND ENLISTED MEN OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY.
Sir.—In reply to your letter of the 15th instant, requesting the views and recommendation of the department upon a bill (H. R. 19,361) "providing for the retirement of petty officers and enlisted men of the United States Navy," I have the honor to recommend that this bill be given favorable consideration.
Under existing laws it is possible for enlisted men of the army and marine corps to retire after fifteen years' actual service, time served in our insular possessions being credited as double time for purpose of retirement. In practice an enlisted man of the army or marine corps who has served but five years in our insular possessions would be entitled to retirement after a total of twenty-five years' actual service. On the other hand, enlisted men of the navy, although their duties constantly take them away from home and into climates injurious to their health, are now required to render thirty years' actual service before receiving the benefits of retirement.
Experience has shown that after twenty-five years' active service in the navy the average enlisted man, by reason of the stress of his duties, has terminated his usefulness to the service and must either be discharged without provision or retained in the navy, when no longer capable, in order that he may obtain the benefits of the thirty-year retirement law. It is believed that the enactment of the bill in question, providing for retirement after twenty-five years, will do much to encourage enlistments in the navy, as well as the re-enlistment therein of experienced men, resulting in increased efficiency of the enlisted personnel.
TRUMAN H. NEWBERRY, Secretary.
I believe it is an acknowledged fact that men of the engineer's force cannot stand the physical wear and tear for over twenty years, and though the proposed bill provides that a man of the engineer's force may retire voluntarily after twenty years' service, it will be noted that he does not get the same retirement pay that he would receive had he remained in the service the full twenty-five years, and the probabilities are that, unless a man is physically disqualified, he will not retire until after twenty-five years of service so that he may receive the maximum pay.
The following table exhibits the condition of the enlisted personnel of the navy with reference to continuous service 4 in 1908:
First enlistment 29,734
Second enlistment 5,862
Third enlistment 1,642
Fourth enlistment 668
Fifth enlistment 446
Sixth enlistment 264
Seventh enlistment 184
Eighth enlistment 112
Ninth enlistment 30
Tenth enlistment and upwards 112
It would appear from this that the most serious trouble is at the third enlistment, and that in order to correct this we should apply the inducements to remain in the service at the third enlistment, and for this reason the proposed bill provides for an allowance to men who have become physically disqualified by causes incident to the service who have had upwards of ten years' actual service, or in other words, to men in their third enlistment and upwards. It is most desirable to save to the service the 5862 men on their second enlistment.
As stated above, the Navy Department has approved a bill which would give three-fourths of a man's pay after twenty-five years' service, and in order that we may have some multiple, which will give a retired pay strictly proportionate to the length of service we convert the three-quarters into twenty-four thirty-seconds, which gives an easy and equitable multiplier to determine how much a man should receive for service proportionately less than twenty-five years.
It is a very simple matter to find cases where men have been in the service 12, 14, 16 or 18 years, with creditable records, and having been physically disqualified for the service, are dropped from the service with a pension so small as to be entirely out of proportion to the length of service, and inadequate for support.
If it is conceded that a man should receive twenty-four thirty-seconds of his pay upon retirement after twenty-five years' service, it seems equitable that he should receive twenty thirty-seconds of his pay upon retirement after twenty years of creditable service, and so on down to ten years' of service, if this retirement is occasioned by physical disability incident to his service, which prevents him from remaining in the service and receiving the benefits allowed for twenty-five years' service.
With less than ten years' service, the present pension laws are considered adequate.
It is believed if such a bill could be enacted that it would do away with the principal causes which prevent men from continuing in the service. It would give to men a guarantee for a desirable future in the service, at a critical time in their service, when they are trying to decide whether they will remain in the service or not. It would encourage men to accept the third and fourth enlistment, and so be almost a sure guarantee for continuous service, for it is found that generally when a man accepts his third enlistment he will continue in the service as a permanent occupation.
There is no doubt but that the climax of our profession is to be able to hit the target the greatest number of times in the shortest possible time, and we are certainly devoting most, if not all of our energies and thoughts to this one subject, but we are neglecting the one great element to permanent success in not making great efforts to secure a large continuous service force, which would allow gunnery efficiency to increase by having more or less permanent gun pointers, instead of having to create new gun pointers for each practice.
Every officer in the service is highly gratified with the increase of efficiency of gun practice, and appreciate the soundness of the methods of training at guns, but I am quite sure that it is the opinion of a large number of officers of experience that we slight other most important matters which have to do with the general efficiency of the fleet in our eagerness to excell at target practice.
The navy to-day is better known throughout the country than ever before, and has become more of an institution in the land. Many young men enter the navy for a change and an opportunity to see something of the world, without an idea of how long they expect to remain, but there are a great many men who come into the navy hoping to find permanent employment, and a large percentage of our recruits to-day represent a very important and intelligent class of our citizens, and in dealing with them we are obliged to consider the American character, which compels our people to look at things in a more or less business way, and as a matter of dollars and cents.
The Government has created many institutions for the special training of men for the navy, and it must not be forgotten that this special training is also making our men very desirable for civil employment. This is particularly the case in the artificer branch and the special branch of the service, and the men of the seaman branch are very desirable for civil employment by reason of the discipline that they have lived under in the navy, which gives to them the habit of obedience without argument.
These are points which, in devising means for retaining men in the service, we must consider. There is no way of compelling men to remain in the United States Navy, it is a matter of choice with them, and if we want to retain their services, we must give them as good opportunities for enjoying a normal life as is given in civil life.
A systematic method of detail of the enlisted force might give the opportunity for successive sea and shore duty to men who have been for eight years or more in the service.
There are various places in connection with the naval establishment where men could be employed, profitably to the Government, and to the satisfaction of the enlisted men, such as recruiting stations, recruiting rendezvous, training stations, receiving ships, and all rendezvous for general service men, magazines, the gun factory, shops at torpedo stations, in the fleet of craft used at navy yards and stations, and at navy yards. At our navy yards there is no reason why the enlisted force of the navy should not be detailed as watchmen, ship-keepers, and in the manufacturing and general storekeeper's departments.
Until we can get the conditions of the service such that men may lead approximately normal lives, we are not going to get Americans to remain in the service. We do have home ports for ships, which will allow men attached to these ships an uncertain amount of time with their families, but there is no system of shore service for our men, no guarantee or system that will assure the enlisted men that they will not spend their entire naval careers afloat and at places remote from and absolutely inaccessible to their attachments on shore. In this respect, it would seem that a man having served two enlistments in the navy might have some reasonable guarantee for a fair amount of shore duty combined with sea service in his future enlistments.
There is no doubt that our men are enthusiastic in their competition for records, that they have the esprit so necessary in getting results, but it is quite as much a fact that men do get stale with a fleet policy that prevents cruising, where the man cannot have a change of scene, climate, people and routine. With all the hard work during the cruise of the fleet around the world, that cruise was most popular, and besides attracting many recruits to the service, it gave a new start for the men of the service and a relief from the monotony of the drill grounds and fleet routine.
With a fleet of twenty battleships, four divisions could always be in formation, while the fifth was making a cruise around the world.
I have quoted the opinion of the Naval Department upon the advisability of retiring enlisted men of the navy after twenty-five years of actual service—I have investigated the causes which keep men from continuing in our service, and present a means which might do away with these causes so detrimental to the service, but unless there is some authoritative head to father this important subject nothing will be done. Much has been written on this subject and many suggestions have been made, but unless the matter is taken up by the Navy Department nothing can be accomplished.
The question of how best to induce our men to continue in the service is of such great importance to the efficiency of the fleet that I believe it to be worthy of the earnest consideration of the General Board, or of a competent board ordered for that specific purpose.