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submarine than he would have encountered at ma^g other commands, but it did not allow ample opP°r' tunity for the enlisted personnel to make signified contributions to the mission of the ship without undue supervision. Many tasks suited to the talentS of junior men were assigned to senior petty officefS with the understanding that they were not to de^e
J-oday s Navyman is different from his predecessors, and that difference has been reflected in a host of problems which have made it more difficult for the Navy to operate as it should. A 1977 interview with Vice Admiral James D. Watkins, then Chief of Naval Personnel, illustrates the point. “Changing times outran us,” Admiral Watkins stated in explaining high desertion rates, the exodus of senior petty officers, and difficulties posed by functional illiteracy. Another reason he cited for the Navy’s personnel problems was that it “simply did not recognize the new breed” of sailor coming into the Navy. Admiral Watkins described members of this new breed as being less well equipped than past Navymen to adjust to military life, less ready to accept authority without rationale, and well aware of their individual rights.
Certainly these are very real problems and of great concern to naval leadership at all levels. Two of the problems—desertion and illiteracy—have been present during the entire history of the U.S. Navy. This does not diminish their seriousness, but the reason for our concern in these areas is their alarming rise during the past few years. Illiteracy at any level is a greater problem than previously in today’s vastly more technical Navy. Desertion is even more weakening to a naval force already reduced in manpower.
In addition to concern over the rise in these problem areas, even greater concern should lie with the two newest problems: the increased exodus of highly qualified petty officers and the demands of the new breed of sailor. These two problems may be interrelated when we consider that many of our senior petty officers have 6-12 years of service and therefore form the fringe of the generation now entering naval service. They are so closely related in their mores and socialization that by looking at both groups we may observe the development and emergence of the new breed. This new group is not restricted to the enlisted community, so we may expect to see a steady rise in the number of junior officers leaving the service unless the underlying causes are addressed in the immediate future.
It is possible then that, although worded differently on reenlistment decision sheets, the radical factors which account for the separation of both junior and senior personnel are similar. The new breed sailors have been taught by the Navy about the Nuremberg War Crime Trials and decisions regarding blind obedience to orders and authority. They know about Korea and have lived through the Vie1' nam War, Mylai massacre, and Watergate scandal- These lessons have taught members of the new ge°' eration that they may indeed be legally and morally bound to question some orders of their superiors. amount of sidestepping issues will be sufficient t0 coerce these men into unquestioning obedience or t0 believe otherwise. Without corrective action, the>r convictions will be reflected in declining re' enlistments and rising desertions.
Another cause for the growing dissension on the part of sailors is that the educational gap between the Navy enlisted technician and his commissioned superior has dwindled to the point that in many case5 it is nonexistent. New emphasis on engineering’ physics, and mathematics in the Naval Academy and NROTC programs will again widen that gap but wiH never return it to the distance that existed during past generations.
When I was assigned as command career counsels on board a fleet ballistic-missile submarine, this one factor was reflected most often in the reenlistmeot decision sheets of senior enlisted personnel leaving the service. One highly respected, nuclear-qualifi6'1 first class petty officer with a bachelor’s degree lfl mathematics left the Navy after seven years. His rea' son was not so much the difference in pay (although civilian firms are draining our nuclear technicians by offering apparently higher incomes) but having t0 double-check work already done and the attitude 0 the command toward its middle management Pef' sonnel. This attitude was no different on board th*
gate the task to others for completion. One item the petty officer mentioned above specifically noted was chat although he had been assigned unusually high evaluation marks, neither the comment section of the evaluation nor the attitude of the command reflected justification for those marks.
Other comments from members of the crew frequently reflected a lack of understanding on the part °f management (here used to reflect naval management at any level), seeming lack of organization, fas- c>nation with numbers rather than productive results, and repeated indications of poor communication. The latter is one point on which the new breed °f sailor feels very strongly. He wishes to be informed about why he does a job, the job’s relation to the mission of the command, and the reasons for long separations from his family. Men ask these questions not for justification as often as they ask for clarification; no one has really bothered to explain to these eager young men the importance of their jobs. This failure to communicate command objectives, even during commanding officer briefings, is a symptom of an organization interested more in activ- 'ty than results. This lack of vital communication fails to produce a sense of belonging in our junior Personnel. Comments and separation statistics indiCate that our senior personnel are also being failed in this area.
Many of these problems were anticipated years ago. In his address to the Naval Academy graduating class of 1943, Admiral Ernest J. King pointed out: “We cannot forget—we must not forget—in our haste to arm ourselves, that we must also equip our men, not with machines alone, but with the training—and the spirit—that will bring about the teamwork which enables us to be strong in battle, steadfast in danger, and indomitable should disaster threaten.”2
Crnest J. Kir>£, speech to the Naval Academy graduating class of 1943, ^napolis, Maryland, 19 June 1942. The speech is in Arthur A. Ageton and William P. Mack, The Naval Officer's Guide, eighth edition (AnnaPolis: United States Naval Institute, 1970), pp. 552-556.
Surely a force unable to maintain that spirit during peace will be hard pressed to command it during war.
The comments of enlisted personnel would indicate that although most are better trained than their World War II counterparts, they do not feel the spirit of teamwork of which Admiral King spoke. Many junior officers who have left the service during the past few years expressed the same sentiments. More articulate than some of the enlisted men, they were able to voice the confusion over the Navy’s seeming desire for activity whether it produced results or not. They felt very much like the sailor who carried an empty bucket about the ship, knowing that as long as he looked busy, no one would question what he was doing.
Were that sailor’s attitude an isolated one, observed on board a single ship, then we might first question the level of the crew’s morale. But when we pose that question, let us consider more of Admiral King’s advice to the class of 194.3:
“We must also realize that men are not effective, individually or collectively, unless they are imbued with high morale. Morale may be defined as a state of mind wherein there is confidence, courage and zeal among men united together in a common effort.”
Once again, we encounter that important idea of teamwork or united effort. Therefore, in considering possible solutions, we should look for the one that will foster the vital spirit of self-actuating desire.
Among the remedies proposed by Vice Admiral Watkins were bonuses to retain boiler technicians, stricter action against deserters, remedial reading centers, and leadership-management training. The proposed bonus for boiler technicians is not a new solution to the problem of undermanning or making an unpleasant task more appealing. It is a solution that has been tried with some success for many years, initially as the regular reenlistment bonus, then in combination with a variable reenlistment bonus, and now as the selective reenlistment bonus. None of these has been totally effective. Although each in turn has brought us needed manpower, they have not earned us the necessary team members.
The admiral’s remedy for reducing the number of men deserting from their ships has been a Navy policy since 9 January 1978. It calls for deserters to be
Many of his contemporaries found Admiral Ernie King aloof, austere, impatient. But that is not the image he projected in a memorable speech to the graduating class of 1943.
returned to the ships when apprehended, rather than being given shore duty. In my view, this approach will not be very effective, because the fundamental causes of desertion—hard work, long hours, and a lack of the privileges traditionally accorded to petty officers—have not been addressed. Making Navy ships better places in which to live and work is the answer to the problem. Right or wrong, for today5 breed of sailor, personal convictions and desires outweigh the sense of duty and loyalty to country.
Last on the admiral’s list was training in leadership and management skills. But we have had leadership training for several years. That was one of the
main aims of the Human Resources Managemeot Support System. While fulfilling its other tasks^j race and inter-cultural relations and drug and alcoho abuse control—the system has only weakly llC tempted, if at all, the job of improving managemef^ of the Navy’s human resources. ,
Proceedings / March 1
Like the anti-desertion measure, the problem ,s that we have been attempting to treat the symptorIlS rather than cure the illness. The remedy has b^ placed, and placed repeatedly, before every naval 0 fleer. A little attention to the words of Admiral Kinh
would have brought it to light: . I suggest you
consult a blank fitness report—and consult it often—as a guide to your evaluation of yourselves.”
Block 29 of the naval officer fitness report requires the reporting senior to judge the subject’s ability to accomplish goals. Whose goals? They should be those of the command, the Navy, and of the individual himself. For goals of any type to be effective, they must be agreed upon by the supervisor and his subordinates; they must not be counterproductive to the group goals; and they must be measurable.
This requires communication among all levels of management and between management and workers. Such a system is now in operation in civilian firms, and at the top levels of Navy management under the title of management by objectives (MBO). The Navy grades its officers using MBO criteria, although many arc not aware of the fact. The system, however, has been implemented at all levels within only a few commands and even then generally allowed to lie dormant. Yet this sleeping beast could be the ansWer to our multiple personnel problems.
Management by objectives certainly is not a Panacea for all of the Navy’s personnel problems or even for all those discussed here, but it does address many of them. It provides increased communication, *t fosters a sense of teamwork because goals and ob- lectives are clearly defined for each member of the command, and it allows every level of management t0 exercise its skills. It allows each member of the 'earn to see his own.importance and worth within the Organization. MBO will not be easy to implement. It Will require the extensive training suggested by Vice Admiral Watkins and the cooperation of every level °f the chain of command.
After training in the basics of MBO, a command ^gins by discussing with each member and his sUpervisor the objectives and goals of the command. The supervisor then allows the worker to draw up a set of goals or objectives for the next 12 months. These will fall within the categories of innovative, Pmblem-solving, routine, and personal. Not every man will have goals in all of these areas, at least not mitially, but those areas that are chosen will provide ari additional measure of an individual’s value to the b^avy. The categories should be weighted so a person With goals in all three organizational areas (innova- tlVe, problem solving, and routine) is valued more '■ban one who chooses goals in only a single area. Additionally, the categories themselves are weighted. The person who has innovative goals should be more Valuable, since he will naturally be forward looking arid anticipate the best way of doing things rather '■ban one who solves problems after they occur. The problem solver will develop a proficiency at correcting deviations from normal and be more valuable than the individual who simply maintains the equipment (routine goals).
After the subordinate has chosen his goals, he and the supervisor (you) sit down and agree on his objectives. Remember, though, that they are his objectives, so that you may only suggest changes, helping him to ensure that the goals are achievable, understandable, challenging, measurable, and not counterproductive to the group goals.
Having reached an agreement, he then makes two copies, one for himself and one for you. This second copy allows you to gauge the man’s progress and to measure his effectiveness when you are completing evaluations ’or fitness reports. Periodically, the two will sit down and review the man’s progress; discuss the group goals, providing input for him to develop new goals for himself; and agree upon his new objectives as old ones are fulfilled.
Is this a time-consuming process? Yes, especially during the initial stages. However, how much time do we now spend in filling out paperwork on absentees? How much time do we spend over-supervising because group goals are not clearly defined? How much time do we spend trying to remember what an individual accomplished so that it can be included in evaluations or fitness reports?
We owe those who work under our supervision at least the time to prepare an accurate appraisal of every individual’s worth to the Navy. There is money to be saved by solving the problems outlined by Vice Admiral Watkins; bonuses will not have to be paid to buy retention of members of the Navy family. Finally, there is the satisfaction of knowing that we have helped maintain the Navy as a vital fighting arm of our country by sacrificing the familiar for new methods of management that will be appropriate for the new breed of sailor.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Chief Petty Officer Hasson grew up on naval air stations in Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Bermuda. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1965 and, following boot camp, served on board the USS Gridley (DLG-21) where he was leading petty officer in first division before separating from active duty in 1967. After a period of time working for Delta Airlines and drilling on board the USS Loeser (DE-680), he was recalled to active duty in 1972. He assisted in the establishment of Fleet Support Office, Athens, Greece, and the operations of the port services department. He then converted from boatswain’s mate to quartermaster, attended basic submarine school, and served from 1974 to 1977 in the USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631). Chief Hasson is now the assistant third-year instructor at the NROTC unit, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
r°ceedings / March 1979
George C. Wilson, “Navy, Citing Changing Times, Combats Personnel
Problems,” The Washington Post, 15 November 1977, p. A9-