All tours for masters at arms, seen here demonstrating defense skills on a fellow sailor aboard carrier George H.W. Bush, have been dropped to 36 months becuase of an update to the Navy's sea-shore flow. (MC2 Timothy Walter / Navy)
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About 9,000 sailors in 10 ratings will see a change in sea and shore tour lengths as the Navy has released an update to its sea-shore flow.
It's the second update since 2008, when the Navy switched from the long-standing sea-shore rotation system to the current sea-shore flow, where tour lengths are determined by a sailor's experience level in terms of sea tours completed, instead of his paygrade.
This year's update is relatively "minor" compared with 2011, said Craig Schauppner, a senior operations research analyst for the chief of naval personnel.
"In 2011, since we'd made so many billet moves since sea-shore flow was introduced, we had a large major modification of the program," he said.
This year's changes will help increase fleet manning deficits, either at sea or on shore.
The tweaks also reflect a reduction of 514 enlisted billets. Sea duty billets dropped by 705 to 147,341, while shore duty numbers increased by 191 to 124,360.
These billet adjustments, Schauppner said, were due to force structure changes in the fleet — for example, the elimination of jobs due to ship decommissioning. On the shore side, the addition of more new billets at regional maintenance centers led to the increase in shore duty billets.
But those tweaks were so minor the percentages of sailors in sea and shore billets remain unchanged. About 54 percent are at sea and 46 percent are ashore. In general, this means sailors can still count on spending slightly more time on sea duty than ashore during a 20-year career.
How it will work
The changes will not affect anyone due to transfer before August 2013. Everyone else will automatically see their tours adjusted to the new levels.
Officials said both individuals and commands can still request exemptions to either policy, though approval will come on a case-by-case basis.
Tour lengths could change again next year, but Schauppner said officials will try to avoid it. "There's the potential for an update each year, but that's not the desire," he said. "We want there to be a persistence to this, that we can set these tour lengths, and sailors can count on those tour lengths throughout their careers and only change them when absolutely necessary."
The ability to keep that promise is more a reality today, he said, as the Navy's end strength stabilizes in the next few years after nearly two decades of cuts.