Magazine article National Defense

Navy Downsizing Force to Pay for New Ships; 'Sea Warrior' Program Will Determine Which Jobs Will Stay, Which Will Go

Magazine article National Defense

Navy Downsizing Force to Pay for New Ships; 'Sea Warrior' Program Will Determine Which Jobs Will Stay, Which Will Go

Article excerpt

To meet growing demands for U.S. maritime presence around the world and adequately support the war-fighting regional commanders, the Navy says it needs more ships, but fewer sailors.

The desired expansion of the fleet--from 292 to about 375 ships--would be financed largely with cutbacks in personnel.

Although the Defense Department has not endorsed the Navy's 375-ship goal, the expectation is that the Pentagon would not object, if the Navy paid for the additional ships with internal savings, without seeking significantly larger shipbuilding budgets.

Those internal savings only can be attained, officials said, by reducing the number of people in the Navy.

The exact scope of the downsizing has not yet been set, but it is clear that the chief of naval operations, Adm. Vernon Clark, has made this a top priority for the next two years.

"The CNO is going to recapitalize the Navy, and he is going after end-strength," said Rear Adm. Robert Cox, director of total force programming, manpower and information resource management.

Some level of downsizing already is underway. For fiscal year 2005, the Navy is budgeting for 7,900 fewer people. A senior Navy official who briefed reporters last month said the cuts would generate savings of $254 million.

The Navy believes it can simultaneously deploy more ships and downsize the force, because ships will be more technologically advanced and staffed with smaller crews. Those crews, however, will be better educated and more skilled than ever before, Cox said in a briefing to the Surface Navy Association, in Arlington, Va.

Cox is overseeing efforts to restructure the human resources, training and education programs in the Navy, under a project called "Sea Warrior."

Although the mandate from the CNO is to make the Navy more efficient and trim the size of ship crews, Cox said the approach is not to indiscriminately "cur to some level," but rather to "analytically understand the work requirements and size the force accordingly."

The current force is based on a "Cold War structure" that fails to meet the increasingly complex needs of U.S. combatant commanders, said Cox. "The combatant commander wants 'effects-based' operations, a specific effect applied to a specific mission," he said. The Sea Warrior program was designed to both satisfy the combatant commanders' demand for more skilled personnel and to reprove the retention of that skilled workforce by making the Navy a more attractive employer, offering better career opportunities.

In the process, the Navy will eliminate those jobs that no longer are viewed as relevant.

The high retention rates of the past two years have resulted in overstaffing, said Vice Adm. Timothy W. LaFleur, commander of naval surface forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He said ships today are manned at 104 percent, on average.

Cox expects the official "launch" of Sea Warrior to get under way in the fall of 2005. At that time, the Navy will introduce a "wholesale change of our human resource system," in the form of new career management programs and job requirements,

The Navy's workforce today is about 960,000 strong--including active duty, reservists, civilians and contractors. The size of the future force has yet to be determined, but "it is going to be less than what it's now," said Cox. …

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