Our nation faces the greatest military challenges since the fall of the Soviet Union. A quick flip through recent issues of Proceedings will turn up a sea of references to “Great Power Competition,” and, more specifically, Russia and China. To confront these disrupters of our nation’s peace and prosperity, crucial attention has been paid to developing the missiles, platforms, and emerging technologies the U.S. Navy will need in the future battlespace. However, these investments are only as lethal as the warfighters who wield them.
Our team here at MyNavy HR’s mission is to recruit, retain, and manage the talent of the sailors who can win those wars and empower them throughout their careers, however long or short.
Within our nation’s thriving civilian labor market, however, the pool of possible recruits, and their desire to serve in the military, are the lowest in our nation’s history. Despite that, we must be more selective than ever before as tomorrow’s sailors will fight at the edge of human-machine integration, cyberspace, gray-zone conflict, and hyperwar. These future leaders need to be critical thinkers, life-long learners, and savvy technologists in ways unthinkable to the architects of the personnel system we inherited.
Simply put, the Navy’s personnel system is showing its age. Our legacy personnel baselines were developed at a time when bachelors and single income households defined the service. They were designed in an era of linear, industrial careers, and they were centered on our ability to mobilize a massive force in the event of World War III.
Yet, as with warfare, over the past several decades much has changed in the professional and personal lives of Americans. Sailors want to serve their nation as well as their spouses and children. They expect to have a say in key life windows and to be given some flexibility when necessary so that their personal lives and their naval careers can support—not conflict with—each other. They also want career tracks and options aligned with their interests and abilities rather than one-size-fits-all “golden paths.” Our legacy systems and policies, however, have not adapted to these expectations or common civilian workforce practices quickly enough. They are opaque, inflexible to sailors’ pay and career needs, beholden to cumbersome and poorly coordinated information technology systems, and not seen as trustworthy.
The Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education (MyNavy HR) enterprise has listened and learned. And now, we are working to provide the responsive, adaptive system our sailors desire while enabling them to push the boundaries of warfare and safeguard our nation. To win future conflicts, we must win today’s war for talent, and that requires a personnel system rooted in, not straining beneath, the twenty-first century.
To achieve that end, we are in the midst of the greatest overhaul of the naval personnel system in decades, working toward sailor-centered reforms with Sailor 2025 and an internal transformation of how we do business. In that journey, we are now steering from conceptualization and model development to execution. To all the sailors and officers in the Navy, your talent management system is transforming and we want you involved! Please read this, think about it, experience the changes, and then tell us where we are getting it right, and, more importantly, where we are getting it wrong.
Concrete Successes – Sailor 2025
We began changing the system, policies, and culture of what we now call MyNavy HR in 2015 when we launched Sailor 2025. At its core, Sailor 2025 has three pillars: personnel system modernization, Ready Relevant Learning (RRL), and career readiness (CR).
The first pillar, personnel system modernization, has led to policy and process improvements such as the Meritorious Advancement Program (MAP), through which deckplate selections are now driving nearly a fifth of advancements. While we are achieving much with process and policy improvements like MAP, the key to personnel system modernization is a shift toward a digital, responsive personnel system. A critical near-term milestone of this is the evolution of the Career Management System-Interactive Detailing (CMS-ID) into our first phase of a “Detailing Marketplace,” called MyNavy Assignment. Using this system, more billets are available to enlisted sailors further out. Moreover, in the future, sailors can get a variety of incentives such as monetary bonuses, bundled orders (two tours selected at once), and advancement-to-position—which is advancement to a higher rank, if the sailor has the experience and proficiency to fill a hard or difficult-to-fill billet. By providing greater transparency and opening up more career options, we are creating the flexible, personal system sailors want.
For officers, we are working to take full advantage of all the authorities Congress gave us in the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act. We have already implemented promotion merit reorder, allowing our highest performing officer promotees to get moved to the top of the list, receiving their new rank and pay sooner based on demonstrated merit. We are also running with our new ‘up-and-stay’ career track authorities, beginning with the professional flight instructor program. Our initial cohort of 25 aviators already is transitioning from their operational communities to longer-term assignment as dedicated trainers of student aviators. As we look to increase flexibility in officer career paths, up-and-stay options, to include the acquisition cadre, will allow us to keep great operators and experts in the roles they have self-selected and thrive in, instead of leaving the Navy with skill sets that we vitally need.
Ready Relevant Learning
The second pillar, Ready Relevant Learning, is about creating a continuum of learning across a sailor’s career. We have gone back to the fundamentals and closely examined how we train and prepare sailors for warfighting. We learned some lessons from earlier attempts to use computer-based training and have studied the pipeline and training needs of 54 rates—seeing how we can better consolidate, sequence, and focus training using twenty-first century learning technologies. Ready Relevant Learning staggers training so sailors learn when it makes sense in their career path rather than front-loading most training immediately after bootcamp. Some things can only be learned once a sailor has his or her sea legs.
Operations Specialists’ A School is the first to be redone with this new approach. The new curriculum tightens initial schooling and focuses on experiential training such as Voyage Management System skills labs. This is not PowerPoint click-through briefs. We are pushing the boundaries of simulation, virtual and augmented reality, and live-action environments to forge sailors who are ready for combat.
The final pillar, career readiness, aims to improve the personal and family readiness experience for sailors while better serving fleet needs in areas such as deployability. Equally important, as we look to confront sexual assault and suicides in the fleet, we are switching to a model of primary prevention—getting at root causes before destructive behaviors occur—through the Culture of Excellence initiative. This is a Navy-wide effort that empowers sailors by building psychological, physical, and emotional toughness, trust between all ranks, and sailor-family-Navy connectedness. The Warrior Toughness program at Recruit Training Command, Officer Training Command, NROTC units, and soon at the Naval Academy, is one example of the Culture of Excellence in action. Warrior Toughness teaches and tests new recruits, officer candidates, and midshipmen on scientifically-proven mental and physical techniques to “reset” and push through challenging, high-pressure situations.
In addition to these changes for sailors, we have taken to heart feedback from spouses and launched initiatives like the MyNavy Family app, which combines 22 sources of family-relevant information in one central tool. We have also extended base fitness center hours, lengthened and made more flexible the Navy parental leave policy, prioritized the dual location of Navy couples, and increased child development center hours and capacity. We have also removed all quotas on the career intermission program (CIP), allowing Sailors to take time for family planning, personal development, or other career opportunities. Our take rates for career intermissions, while the highest among the services, are still low. Sailors have told us that it is because they believe it will harm their future advancement and promotion chances—not true! CIP is a prime example of a new era of flexibility and career readiness, but to change the culture we need Sailors to seize the chance. MyNavy HR is committed to making sure this program is works as intended: providing a needed intermission and not harming long-term career progression.
Victories in the Transformation
While Sailor 2025 is improving the sailor experience, we have also been busy overhauling our internal IT systems ever since Admirals Moran and Burke launched the transformation of MyNavy HR. Sailors would have first seen the results of these efforts in 2017 when the MyNavy Portal beta went live, providing them with a single point of entry for all MyNavy HR information and services. Rather than waiting for the perfect solution, we publicly launched a good enough beta and have been adding new functionalities each quarter. A shift to this agile model of public beta testing and iteration is essential as the pace of technological change and the need for innovation emphasizes that the Navy cannot wait five or ten years before sailors interact with a program and provide feedback. Two-way communication, rapid learning, and customer experience-based development are essential to transforming MyNavy HR.
In another major shift, in December 2018, we launched the MyRecord app, pioneering common access card (CAC)-less personnel services in the DoD by allowing sailors to review their electronic training jackets remotely from their phone or tablet using multi-factor authentication rather than needing a CAC and an NMCI computer. In addition, to tackle one of sailors’ greatest pain points in the legacy personnel system, we launched the MyPCS mobile app this past summer. It allows sailors to view simplified, plain language permanent-change-of-station (PCS) orders and use a personalized, prepopulated PCS checklist as they go through their move. Sailors can also get on the housing and child development center waiting lists via the app and submit their PCS travel claim voucher electronically. They can snap pictures of travel receipts, upload them to their automatically filled-out travel claim, sign electronically, and submit online.
We have also authorized sailors to use government credit cards to charge their PCS expenses, shifting the financial burden of a Navy move away from our Sailors and their families. To support these new capabilities, the MyNavy Career Center (MNCC) beta program was launched last September to provide Sailors 24/7 phone and email customer assistance. In addition to the original contact center in Millington, Tennessee, we recently opened a second contact center in Little Creek, Virginia. Sailors, families and retirees will no longer have to wait for customer service. While not perfect yet, we are learning and adapting MNCC processes as we go, and your feedback is essential.
Where We Are Going
Sailor 2025 and transformation are accelerating, and our vision for the future will deliver the changes sailors deserve. It starts by recruiting faster and smarter with a new model that focuses on a recruiter’s strengths and better processes recruits from doorstep to bootcamp. Once in the fleet, they will be supported by data-driven decisions that produce more accurate, timely, and reliable talent management options and assignments. Key to this is sunsetting the current 55 legacy talent management systems the Navy has assembled over these past decades into one integrated MyNavy HR system with an authoritative data environment.
In that data environment, the new performance evaluation system will create a culture of feedback, coaching, and learning while better assessing and understanding sailors’ skills, strengths, and experiences as they progress. This smart system will be augmented by Ready, Relevant, Learning’s adaptive methods and technologies that will support more targeted training and development throughout sailors’ careers. In this transparent, data-rich system, we will better be able to listen to sailors, audit programs, and continuously create solutions.
This combined ecosystem will enable us to empower, employ, and retain our best and brightest. Most important, what this vision means is that we will be spending on innovation rather than sustainment. We must take calculated risks to break free from legacy systems that are not working.
Culture is the Target
There are no silver bullets or easy answers while reimagining a system that serves over 400,000 active and reserve personnel. Instead, we have taken a hard look at methods and goals to build a model that is ever improving through fleet engagement, rapid prototyping, learning from failures, and putting sailors at the heart of new program development and execution.
All of this is a revolution in how the naval personnel system operates; however, while new technologies, policies, and programs are critical, the most important change we need is transforming the Navy’s culture. Sailor 2025 and the MyNavy HR transformation will shepherd in pay, benefit, and process improvements that will keep the Navy competitive with Fortune 500 careers. However, Navy careers are about more than compensation packages and selling products. We are an organization built on service. We are not a quid-pro-quo corporation. We do things and go places that those at Amazon or Microsoft cannot even imagine.
We must refocus on these roots. Everything we do must be anchored in warfighting. That is why we are transforming—to enable the CNO’s vision of focusing on the warfighter, warfighting and building the future Navy, all on the knife edge of Great Power Competition.
Thank You for Your Service and Your Feedback
Storms loom on our republic’s horizon. As America’s “away team,” we must all ensure the Navy is ready to be the first line of defense against those who would harm our nation. The drive toward higher readiness and lethality starts with better supporting sailors and their families. The MyNavy Team owes you the customer experience your sacrifices have earned and the training you need to defend the nation. Your feedback will keep us on track. Please keep it coming.