The Navy’s effort to trim spending through the concept of minimum manning showed promise in theory until material assessments revealed a downward trend in mission readiness. In January 2011, then-Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert declared that “minimum manning is over.” That was followed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ announcement that 6,000 sailors would be reallocated back to the Fleet. While minimum manning was an attractive notion, cutting manpower alone does not work, as the recent past shows. The answer, however, is not to declare minimum manning a failure. It was minimum training, not minimum manning that forced those sailors back to the Fleet.
Maximizing Minimum Manning
The Navy can get more from less. Using fewer but better-prepared engineers will cut costs and improve readiness. The key is in the training.Few days passed during 2011 in which the words “deficit,” “budgetary constraints,” and “fiscal responsibility”—in context with the Department of Defense—weren’t in the headlines, ominously raising the prospect of deep cuts in Pentagon spending. With the failure of the supercommittee in November, the Budget Control Act dictates a reduction in federal spending of $1.2 trillion over ten years, which could mean billions lost to the Navy. Just before this issue went to press, House and Senate conferees agreed to lop $43 billion from overall DOD spending for the current fiscal year. Whatever final numbers eventually are agreed on, they will not alter one fundamental truth: The Department of the Navy must start finding ways to cut costs while improving mission readiness.
By Lieutenant Johannes Schonberg, U.S. Navy