Sailors take an oath of re-enlistment aboard the Carrier Ronald Reagan. The Navy just announced re-up bonuses in effort to keep talented Sailors. (Spike Call / Navy)
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To a fleet wracked with deployment and funding uncertainties, the Navy's top officer has a message: We want to keep you.
“I want to bring people in and I want to hold onto people,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert, who added he was concerned that sailors would be discouraged by the budget woes and decide to leave. “We are hiring, and I will do everything I can to take care of them.”
In an exclusive interview with Navy Times, Greenert emphasized that the service is sweetening many re-up bonuses to keep talented sailors in and aims to enlist 3,000 more sailors.
“I am about 3,000 below where I want to be and we have the valve pretty wide open, so if there is a message here, we are hiring,” Greenert said in the March 26 interview.
Despite the budget woes in Washington, the Navy is actually offering the largest increases in re-enlistment bonuses since 2009. Officials are also considering bringing back enlistment bonuses to entice new recruits to enlist in critical skills.
Ten years of cuts took the Navy on a 60,000-sailor slide from a force of more than 380,000 in 2003, to 317,464 as of March 28. The current strength numbers are 5,236 below the fiscal 2013 authorized end strength of 322,700.
Already this year, the Navy has increased its initial fiscal year recruiting goal of 35,000 by 2,650.
The service is planning to target 15 ratings that are in need of junior-level sailors. These ratings were underrecruited in past years because they were overmanned. Now the Navy is making up for an increased need, explained Lt. Haylee Sims, spokeswoman for the chief of naval personnel. She said the service plans to target 14 ratings that need these most junior-level sailors (click here for the list).
In the past, enlistment bonuses for new recruits have hit $20,000.
For those already in the ranks, Greenert is breathing new life into the selective re-enlistment bonus program — a monetary perk that had been significantly cut during the last few years of the drawdown.
“I am underobligating, and that is not what I want to do,” Greenert said of the manning shortfall. “I want to bring people in and I want to hold onto people.”
The SRB update, released that same day, is the first since the service announced its initial fiscal 2013 award levels last September.
The Navy is planning to spend $134 million for new re-up bonuses this fiscal year — $39 million more than the service spent in fiscal 2012.
And it'll probably need every penny of that plus-up as the service has 127 separate skill and re-enlistment zone combinations that rate some level of bonus, that max out at $90,000.
With this update, 18 new skill and zone combinations have been added to the list, while increasing 42 others. Fifty-nine skill and zone combinations will remain the same.
On the downside, eight combinations will see reductions and another seven skills are being eliminated.
Breaking it down
Increased bonus levels go into effect immediately. Sailors have until April 25 to re-up under the previous program.
Here's a zone-by-zone look at what's hot and not:
Zone A (sailors with up to six years of service). There are 54 rating and skill combinations that qualify for a bonus. Thirty of those won't see any change, while 15 will increase and two will decrease.
New this update are the seven combinations, including all three aviation boatswain's mate ratings, aviation structural mechanic and aviation ordnanceman, as well as boatswain's mate and electrician mate. All these editions are open to the whole rating, instead of specific Navy enlisted classifications.
On the losing end are three ratings that won't qualify anymore; helicopter rescue swimmer; all cryptologic technicians (collections); and cryptologic technicians (maintenance) with the 9225 ship's signals Navy enlisted classification.
Zone B (more than six years of service, but less than 10). Fifty-three rating and skill combinations qualify in this zone. Twenty-two won't change, 19 combinations increase and four were dropped.
New arrivals are naval aircrewman (operator); surface engineers in damage controlman, gas turbine (mechanical), hull maintenance technician and machinery repairman specialities; intelligence specialist submarine qualified weapons machinist's mates; and interior communications electricians.
Just two Zone B ratings will disappear: CTMs with the 9225 ship's signals NEC and Navy divers with the first class diver 5342 NEC.
Zone C (sailors with more than 10 years of service, but less than 14). Right now, 20 rating and skill combinations qualify for bonuses.
Seven of those ratings will not see any changes while eight will see increases. Two will decrease.
The three additions in this zone are aviation boatswain's mates (aircraft handling); cryptologic technicians (technical) with the 9135 Navy enlisted classification; and intelligence specialists with the 3913 NEC.
Only one combination was eliminated: special warfare operators with the 5392 NEC.
Staff writer Sam Fellman contributed to this story.