YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sailors can expect more promotions and re-enlistment bonuses as the service starts growing again, according to the Navy’s personnel chief.
Vice Adm. Robert Burke, who also serves as deputy chief of Naval Operations, told sailors at the 7th Fleet headquarters in Japan this week that the days of pushing sailors out early are over.
Navy chiefs want a force of 350,000 sailors to meet a 355-ship goal set by President Donald Trump. The service now has less than 320,000 active-duty personnel and 280 ships.
“All of our people policies have been aligned towards pushing people out of the Navy … we’ve always needed to get smaller,” Burke said.
Now the Navy will make it harder to leave, he said.
“Advancement opportunities are going to go through the roof,” he added.
A fundamental problem is that the Navy doesn’t have enough sailors to man all its ships, Burke said.
“We aren’t where we want to be on manning and we’re going to continue to not be where we want to be until FY19 or FY20,” he said. “We’re catching up as fast as we can and we’re going to get there.”
Last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Yokosuka sailors that the service needs more ships and people to confront threats such as North Korea.
“Increasing the number of platforms is a very important part of naval power,” he said. “The [National Defense Authorization Act] talks about 355 ships as the target and we’re going to do everything we can to get there. There is a near unanimous consensus that we need more naval power than we have now.”
The Navy plans to reach its goal by increasing the number of new sailors and retaining those already in uniform, Burke said.
The service recently abolished high-tenure limits and stopped letting sailors leave before their scheduled separation dates.
Selective re-enlistment bonuses will help retain personnel in key jobs, Burke said.
Lack of funding had pushed the service into hard choices but now the Navy needs an influx of sailors to fill gaps on ships, he said.
The service usually adds 32,000 to 33,000 sailors a year but is planning to add 38,700 sailors this fiscal year and 40,000 in the fiscal year 2019, Burke said.
“To get ourselves out of the manning deficit we have right now, we need 11,000 more people in the Navy by FY23,” he said.
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