The Navy exceeded its retention targets for fiscal year 2020, the service announced in December — and now is working to release some sailors ahead of their contractual obligations to balance out overmanned ratings.

“Building upon the retention gains in the last few years, the Navy remains committed to retaining the right talent and experience in the right pay grades and ratings,” Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr. wrote in a NAVADMIN Dec. 23.

For Zone A, those with up to six years of service, the retention rate was 69 percent. That’s up from the 57 percent target the Navy established. For Zone B, those who have between six and 10 years of service, the retention rate was 76 percent, an increase from the 67 percent benchmark.

Likewise, for Zone C — those with between 10 and 14 years of service — the retention rate was 89 percent, ahead of the 82 percent benchmark. Those retention numbers for Zones A through C include those serving in the Reserves, and the retention benchmarks will remain the same for FY21.

One side effect stemming from exceeding these retention targets is that “some enlisted ratings have become overmanned, creating imbalances in the fleet,” Nowell said.

As a result, the Navy announced this fall it was aiming to release 714 sailors from 23 ratings to leave the Navy early under the Enlisted Early Transition Program to restore the proper quotas for each rating. Furthermore, Nowell said there will be additional conversion opportunities so sailors can move from overmanned to undermanned ratings.

“As we move into FY-21, the Navy will make a concerted effort to provide balanced enlisted ratings and improve community-rating health across the Fleet,” Nowell said.

“Leadership and engagement at every level is needed to sustain our level of retention, with a renewed focus on strengthening undermanned ratings and providing for expanded career progression opportunities for our sailors,” Nowell said.

In October the Navy revealed that it had also exceeded its enlisted recruiting goals for fiscal 2020 — despite the COVID-19 pandemic upending the Navy’s recruiting efforts. The service’s accession goal for fiscal 2020 was 39,600 sailors and the service ultimately welcomed a total of 39,678 new sailors.

“Since COVID became a part of our lives this past March, we’ve managed to hit our recruiting goals for FY20,” Nowell told reporters in October. “We met those goals, in fact, we exceeded them.”

The enlisted accession goal for fiscal year 2021 is 38,000 personnel, Cmdr. Lara Bollinger, a spokeswoman for Navy Recruiting Command, told Navy Times in October.

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