He's filled thousands of open fleet jobs, ushered in new long-deployment pay, and eased body fat standards.
"The ability to put the quality inside of our calculus and be able to tailor our compensation packages and tailor a compensation approach to retaining talent — we are going to have to do that with this new retirement program," Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran said. "It starts in fiscal year 2018, two years from this January. We are going to have to be ready to look at it differently."
In nearly three years on the job, Moran has worked to even out opportunities as the service has emerged from a decade-long drawdown and then enlisted retention boards that trimmed the ranks lower than planned, worsening manpower shortages in operational commands.
Moran has worked to spread opportunities to once-clogged ratings and to build a sense of stability to sailors' careers following these disruptions.
"Priority wise, I would tell you nothing has changed…trust, balance, and stability — that is not going to change," Moran said in a Dec. 16 interview with Navy Times. "We always have to work on the trust side of things both up the chain and down the chain and I think we have made improvements there and we continue to work on it, that is a constant effort on our part."
Paying for fleet duty
Thousands of sailors have been added to the fleet as the Navy reversed cuts that strained crews. Sailors aboard the carrier Harry S. Truman manned the rails when the carrier departed Norfolk on Nov. 16.
Photo Credit: MCSN B. Siens/Navy
"We believe this has improved Sailors' propensity to serve at sea," Moran said in a follow-up email to the interview. "We've worked hard to improve fleet manning and over the past two years we've reduced gaps at sea significantly."
Moran's detailers have made headway in closing the thousands of open fleet jobs, a left-over from downsizing ship crews that has frustrated smaller crews faced with the same amount of work.
The gap has fallen from 12,740 billets in 2012 to 1,779, according to official measurements of "fill," where manning is calculated based on the number of sailors with the proper rating and paygrade.
As of December, the "fit" level stood at 91 percent, with 11,421 billets lacking sailors with the proper NEC, paygrate and rating combination.
"We are back in a very good place across the fleet, over 98 percent filled today of all our sea duty billets," Moran said. "We are bumping up against our promise of 92 percent fit."
Moran wants re-enlistment packages to offer coveted schools and assignments, in addition to bonus cash. Fire Controlman 2nd Class Ryan Nowlin, a sailor on destroyer Arleigh Burke, earned a hefty bonus in 2014.
Photo Credit: MC2 Carlos M. Vazquez/Navy
Moran wants more sailors to qualify for re-up cash and wants to offer more perks as part of that contract.
That corporate-style approach is part of a larger rethink that Moran believes is needed as the service confronts a strengthening economy and, especially, a new retirement system that will replace the 20-year cliff-vesting system. The new system, which sailors can opt into, will provide retirement money for more than the one-in-five who reach the 20-year retirement today. It will offer sailors a 401(k)-style retirement savings account that the military will contribute to, with a corresponding drop in pension payments.
Moran says the Navy is developing plans with the new retirement system to take effect in fiscal year 2018; sailors serving before Jan. 1, 2018 will be grandfathered into the existing retirement system, but those who joined after Jan. 1, 2006, will be able to opt into the new, blended retirement system.
"We are going to have to be ready to look at it differently," he said. "The laws and statutes that govern how we shape the force are based on the calculus that is part of the retirement system that has been around for decades."
The smaller pensions and earlier retirement contributions could reduce the incentive for some to stay to their 20-year mark.
He's confident that the Navy will be able to modify its bonus offerings, saying that only 20 percent of the changes will need lawmakers to enact new laws.
"Retention is a factor in our advancement planning as we advance to vacancies," he said. "I think we will remain close to the 10-year-average for the foreseeable future."
"I was impressed with how command leadership implemented the first full season of MAP and complied with the intent of the program," Moran said. "This year, we promoted 2,282 sailors and used 99.6 percent of available quotas. Only eight quotas went unused."
MAP advancements from the 3-month window in the summer were then factored into setting overall advancement quotas.
"The real value here … is that we [now] have excellent accounting of where and how we advanced these sailors — a dramatic improvement from years under the [Command Advancement Program] where we were far less effective at accounting," he said. "Going forward, we will be able to do a better job at managing advancements by rate and paygrade."
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.