The far-reaching career changes envisioned by the Navy's enlisted leader raise this raises questions about long-standing enlisted advancement rules. But the question is then, Stevens told the crowd, How do you advance such a sailor who is qualified in many different ratings? How to do you evaluate their performance? Even more challenging is how to you evaluate performance of a person like that? He said. 

This is a situation similar to that of the littoral combat ship crews, who are often called "hybrid" sailors because the small crew size — roughly 40 in the ship's crew and 25 with the mission package installed — compels them to cross-train and fulfill many different tasks. In many ways, it’s a very similar situation to that being encountered by littoral combat ship sailors who have been called "hybrid sailors" and who qualify in different ratings and NEC’s. Some of The rules have been changed so for these sailors can that allow them to collect re-up bonuses for any skill they hold, even if what they wear on their sleeve is the  wrong rating

Right now, LCS sailors still advance in their parent rating — as in, the rating that they wear on their sleeve — but Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens says more far-reaching changes may be warranted.  that these are things the working group must wrestle with, but as he told the sailors in Norfolk, most likely they’d have to find another way.

Stevens laid out his vision for a outlined to the sailors a milestones-based system. As it currently stands, a sailor's performance on the latest advancement test is factored into their overall performance and skills, including job evaluations, awards and education. Those scores are then used to rank eligible sailors; personnel officials then advance the sailors according to quotas set by rating.

What if instead, sailors could get advanced anytime there was an opening?

That would mean more opportunity and pay year-round. It would also likely spell the end of the semi-annual advancement exam, which has a section that quizzes takers on their rating knowledge.

"Maybe you go so far as to get rid of the Navy-wide exam because he has all these skills and specialties," Stevens said.

Navy advancement officials always say that the reason for only purpose for the semi-annual advancement exam system is to rank order sailors based on their knowledge level, which results in changing rankings for eligible sailors twice a year. 

Stevens said the Navy could set up a continuous rank order, based on factors like qualifications evaluations and time in grade. This would allow a sailor to So, Stevens said. what if there was a continuous rank order of each rating and paygrade, where sailors always know where they stand against their peers — and to work harder to move up.

t that would take into account time in grade and service as well as the qualifications and certifications the sailor had wracked up.

"What if we had a promotion system in place that with all these skill sets, and a given time in grade that we’re going to promote you to first class petty officer?" Stevens proposed to the crowd. "What if there was a system like that where promotion was predictable?"

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Stevens have said that one consistent message from sailors is their demand for more And that’s the goal, from CNO Richardson down to Stevens because one thing they hear from sailors is that they want predictable advancement. They’d know where they stand and work harder to gain more points to move themselves up the list. Things like qualifications, certifications and qualifying in other ratings and performance evaluations could be given point values. With a continuous list, sailors could advance year-round as vacancies occur.

Officials are still trying to work through how the service would rank sailors who hold multiple ratings, in a way that rewards them for their broader skills rather than penalize them against more specialized peers who only work in their rating.

Another thing that must be on the table then, is the Navy's evaluation process to measure a sailor's job performance over a set amount of time.

But one thing is also clear to Stevens and that any new personnel system will need a performance evaluation process that fits it.

"If we go to a system like this, the evaluation system we have today won’t work," he saidtold the sailors. "We’ll be forced to look at something else, some other kind of performance evaluation to align ourselves better this potentially new personnel system we’re talking about."

To be sure, the changes that MCPON envisions are for more senior sailors, who already know their rating well and are broadening to other fields.And, he said, this wouldn’t be for raw recruits. 

"I don't think you'll see this in a first enlistment," he said. "You'll come in and learn a particular occupational specialty, then, if you showed the capacity to expand, you'll go from there."

Again, he said, fleshing out the basic idea will to this initial working group to brainstorm the way forward.

What's next

Stevens is proposing a sea change in enlisted careers. It will fall to the next working group to figure out whether they're feasible. Stevens says the ideas he’s presenting are the shell of an idea that would have to be fleshed out and developed. That’s what the working group being set up will initially do.  And then those recommendations will be reviewed by a devil's advocate One that’s done, Stevens said, their recommendations must be looked at by a devils’ advocate — a "red cell" in Stevens' words called it — to find all the holes in the plan. 

That task is likely to take months as the Navy first searches for and then progressively implements a scheme better than the But, before before anything would replace the existing personnel system, a new one must be found to be just as good as the one it’s replacing

Stevens estimates that shifting to a new system like this would take at least three What is clear, Stevens said is the Navy is willing to look at such deep fundamental change and what it would take to realize it. Should the Navy elect to go down this path, it would be a minimum of 3 to five years before they could field a totally new system like this

Still, from Secretary Mabus on down, though, Navy leadership is ready and willing to deep look at the possibilities as they look towards the future and the desire to attract and retain the best and brightest new recruits.

In fact, not all ratings will fit into this mold today, and some will would have to be reworked to suit it. One examples here is hospital corpsman, the largest rating in the Navy at nearly 25,000 strong. But within the corpsman rating are many, many specialties, currently identified by Navy Enlisted Classifications. Potentially, These sailors could seek to diversify more within their own rating. 

"Not everybody will be able to do this," Stevens cautioned. "We can't have people that only have a fundamental idea of what they're doing — we need people that are somewhat experts in their field."

"But wherever we can, there's opportunity in all this, in some of our ratings and some of our fields, to provide sailors with more opportunity to expand and grow should they show the capacity."

As far as Engineman 1st Class (SW) Mark Santos, would all of this change persuade him to re-up? And what about EN1 Santos would Stevens presentation change his mind?

"If this system were up and running right now, I'd probably stay in," he said. "But as it is, I'm still on my way out."

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.

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