During the drawdown, right-sizing, down-sizing, reduction-in-force, or whatever name given it at the time, the Navy has experienced a steady trend of small reductions in the officer corps but dramatic reductions in the enlisted ranks. In World War II, the officer to enlisted ratio was one to ten. Today, that ratio is one to five. At the same time the enlisted crew members today are more educated, in some cases possessing higher-level education than the officers under whom they serve. The ships also are smarter. Yet, for some unexplained reason, we need more officers? The Navy now has more flag officers than ships and more staff corps officers than unrestricted line.
The U.S. Navy—together with its Marine counterpart—is the true expeditionary force. We always are first to arrive on station; whether a carrier or a frigate, which is sovereign U.S. territory, and first to bring the fight to the enemy. We project power, show the flag, provide humanitarian assistance, defend the innocent against piracy, or provide suitable launching platforms for joint and clandestine operations.
When will readiness and warfighting become the primary foci in manning considerations? Material readiness and proper training, maintenance, and outfitting of ships crews should be the highest priorities.
Over the past decade, especially the last eight years, we have seen initiatives undertaken as a result of kneejerk reactions to political influence and oversight. Foe example, we stood up Sexual Assault and Response (SAPR) program staffs headed by captains and filled with staff corps officers because of a perceived outbreak of sexual assaults by service members. The reality is that confirmed sexual assault numbers are far less than in civilian organizations. You never will read this in the general media because it goes against the political narrative, and those in elected or appointed offices are in fear of losing their positions.
Looking at the Pentagon and manpower, personnel, training, and education organizations today, we find staff officers with no operational experience outnumber seasoned combat-line officers. Decisions in the personnel arena often are made without the benefit of understanding their true operational impact. Decisions, with significant influence by the lawyers and human resource “experts,” appear to be rolling over to political agendas.
We have gone long enough with getting ships under way with less than a necessary crew. It is not “talent management” to rip a sailor off one platform to fill a gap on a ship getting under way. That is “talent manipulation!” It is disruptive not only to the crew from which you removed the sailor, but also to the crew to which you have now assigned him or her. Crews operate as families under way, not to mention the fact that you may well be ordering a sailor back to sea when he or she may just have returned from a deployment.
Navy leadership must end the practice of cannibalizing museum and boneyard equipment to maintain planes and helicopters. We must cut shore staffs until leaders report the assigned workload cannot be done with fewer people.
We have learned through blood and sweat so many times before that when we cut training dollars, we affect readiness and put lives at risk. We must say in a loud, unequivocal voice that readiness, warfighting, and substance are truly important.
We have become too top heavy, making manpower more expensive than it should be in today’s environment. We must say that the days of politics as usual, optics, and social experimentation are over! It is time to align the officer corps—as we have the enlisted corps—to warfighting first by cutting the numbers of flags to a realistic number, eliminating many of the staff corps billets, and reducing our Navy’s officer-to-enlisted ratio to better fit today’s smart Navy with smart ships.