AEGEAN SEA (Oct. 25, 2015) Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Eleanor Lopez, from Queens, New York, opens the stern gate for a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) departure in the well deck control room of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) during Egemen 2015, Oct. 25, 2015. Egemen is a Turkish-led and hosted amphibious exercise designed to increase tactical proficiencies and interoperability among participants. Kearsarge, deployed as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ryre Arciaga/Released)
In case you’re wondering,Now that the Navy has a budget, the outlook for re-up bonuses this year is bright — and that's not the only good news. good and money is on the rise.
In fiscal 2016, the Navy plans to spend over $156 million alone on new bonus contracts. That's a nearly $17 million increase and over double the increase they planned heading into fiscal '15.
Officials have heard sailors' complaints about re-enlistment bonuses and are now eyeing radical new options to entice more to stay. As it is, only 9,100 sailors were expected to re-up for bonus bucks in fiscal 2015, which ended in September. Many sailors aren't in career fields or skill sets that qualify for big re-up cash.
Now, officials are looking at spreading money to more sailors and also considering new perks, from getting a choice assignment, earning a higher incentive pay or getting a coveted school. The push for corporate-style bonuses will allow the Navy to offer sailors more perks and flexibility in signing up, and an independent think tank recently drafted recommendations for how the scheme should work. XX,000 sailors But not only is the money good, Plans are on the table to take re-enlistment away from the simply monetary enticements to a new level as Navy officials are now eyeing future plans for bonus packages that which include money, but also a bevy other options and perks, too.
It's part of a plan announced in May by Secretary of the Navy Ray Magus when he set the Navy towards what he calls a more corporate style of bonuses and enticements which he says will better help the service attract the best sailors and officers into the ranks — and keep them there for a career.
Bonuses are only one part of the plan. They're looking to throw much more into the , are a key part of their plan. But now, officials aren’t looking simply at throwing money at the problem as they have with the current Selective Reenlistment Bonus offerings. program — they’re looking to toss much, much more into the mix.
"In order to continue to recruit and retain the very best, we need modern personnel policies and retention tools that offer flexibility and choice," said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. "We are continuing to look at a variety of options that will help us do just that — including the way bonuses are paid to our sailors."
These days, sailors and their families want greater control over their futures. The Navy's personnel boss says and Moran agreed that future bonus and incentive plans will most likely include desired locations, coveted schools and Navy Enlisted Classifications, hard-to-get assignments and not only bonus dough. money, but could also include incentive pays as well as choice billets or geographic locations and even coveted schools.
"We regularly hear from our folks that flat rate bonuses by themselves are less and less of a reason for high quality sailors to stay Navy," said CNP Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel. "To ensure we keep the right people with the right skills, we need to continue to improve and refine the SRB process."
Officials are coming up with some radical offerings and expect to sailor-test them in And over the next few years. The moves could guarantee more sailors the perks they want, while also saving the Navy some money, officials could be testing out some new bonus ideas, and they’re in the early stages if brainstorming some radical ways of taking bonus programs to the next level.
"Our personnel initiatives are aimed at empowering commanding officers, having flexible policies, better tools, and more choices for those who might otherwise not join the Navy or consider leaving," Christensen said. "It's about opportunity, agility and a wider aperture of what service means. It's not just about the money."
Some ideas, officials say, can be handled by simply changing existing Navy rulespolicy. Other programs and details might require the OK from the Defense Department and Congress, as they're based on military-wide policies or law. to ask for help from DoD and even Congress to change the rules, as Mabus said in his May speech.
A source familiar with the discussions said they’re still evaluating the policy and legal moves necessary to start experimenting with new bonus offeringsprograms and packages.
"No proposals have yet been submitted," the source said. "However, we're assessing what needs to be done and the best time to do it."
In offering bonuses, officials take into account the need for experienced and top-notch talent people in the most critical skills, and weighs that against the Navy's ability to train new sailors off the street.
But Some skills you can't be found on the street. They require can only be acquired through longevity and experience.
Many officers, for example, are offered big retention bonuses if their initial service obligation is expiring to entice them into critical jobs like has or is about to pass to keep them in the ranks for until they fill critical milestone billets such as for department head and command.
Enlisted with up to 14 years are eligible for SRB money. Those with more years are eligible for On the enlisted side, there's the Selective Reenlistment Bonus for those with up to 14 years of service and Enlisted Supervisor Retention Pay to keep those with critical skills in the ranks above that level.
The Navy pays out bonuses at five different maximum levels, depending on the Navy's need for a given skill: $30,000, $45,000, $60,000, $75,000 and $100,000.
In fiscal 2016This year, the Navy plans to spend $156.4 million for new SRB contracts, $16.7 million more than the $139.7 million they spent in fiscal 2015. and nearly $6.8 million more than in fiscal
What a sailor can get is based on a formula with a "multiple" the Navy attaches to their rating or Navy Enlisted Classification. That multiple is then factored with their basic pay and the number of months they're re-enlisting for, up to the payout max.
The Navy hasn’t changed the multiple and payouts since releasing NAVADMINNavAdmin 106/15 on April 30. Officials say that they plan an update, soon, but that it probably won’t get finalized until sometime next calendar year 2016.
More re-up carrots
For most of the past half century, the service has parceledgiven out re-up bonuses in a so-called what personnel officials now call a "one-size-fits-all" system. These flat-rate bonuses are paid to any who qualifies, half upfront at re-enlistment and the rest split into annual anniversary payouts over the time of the contract. It’s strictly a flat rate bonus, paid half up frontal reenlistment and the remaining amount split in annual anniversary payments over the rest of the contract.
What This formula only takes into account is only the individual's job codes and skills, and occasionally their experience level. — and sometimes pay grade and years of service, too.
When the brassNavy wants to brainstorm new ideas, they most often turn to CNA'sthe Center for Naval Analyses, based in Arlington, Virginia. a think tank that has long done manpower and personnel research for the Navy.
In April, CNA authoreddelivered a study that examines changes to re-enlistment packages, including boosted sea pay, longer tours and more. to the Navy that looked at options to possibly package SRB and sea pay and even sea duty incentive pay to entice sailors take sea duty or to stay on for longer tours.
"This was a small study, an idea generation study and the [personnel officials]N1 folks gave us the latitude to come up with an idea and kind of run with it a little bit," said Dr. Henry Griffis research manager at CNA. "We at CNA believe this idea of tailoring packages to the shared needs of the sailor and of the Navy does have a lot of potential."
The idea is based in a principle called "non-linear pricing," which is more like a multi-option health care plan than the Navy's flat-rate re-up offerings, akin to modern cell phone or health care plans than to anything the Navy has offered before, said Gerald Cox, the CNA research analyst who hatched the idea.
Depending on where sailors are in their lives and careers, they all come to the table with different wants and needs, Cox says. The challenge to the Navy is to figure out enough of these needs and put price tags on them.
In theory, Cox said he studied offering a couple examples of plans incorporating three factors in return for re-upping — money, boosted sea pay and adjusting the length of sea duty tours.
One package could be offered to a sailor who loves servingthe Navy, but isn’t too happy about spending time at sea right now, due to family or personal needs. Instead of offering them a big bonus, officials could extend a higher sea pay stipend and promise to cap the number of months they'll be ordered to an afloat command, like a cruiser or squadron.
"This person isn't real enamored with sea duty, but they love the Navy," Cox said. "So you could offer them a low, but nominal SRB as they really don't need much push to re-enlist."
But under this sailor's plan, to get them to to take sea duty is tougher so under this plan, they'd be offered a higher monthly or yearly sea pay stipend to keep them at sea — and on top of that, the Navy would put a cap on the number of months they'd be asked to stay at sea, too.
Another sailor who loves their job but isn't enamored with the Navy could get a very different offering. But a different sailor who simply loves the job they do, but isn’t real enamored with the Navy, the package to get that sailor to take the same sea duty could look a bit different.
"It would take a hefty SRB to entice this sailor to stay in the Navy upfront," Cox said. "And because this sailor simply loves to be in an engine room, his [re-enlistment] package might have much less of a sea pay stipend, but if it was spread over a longer period of time they'd also make a lot of money."
By offering multiple plans, the Navy will find more ways to appeal to larger groups of potential re-enlistees.
"People gravitate to the type of service they want," he said. "This type of approach keeps the market of potential sailors as large as possible and it delivers both the re-enlistments and sea duty time back to the Navy at a minimum cost."
Cox says that opening up the options to include more elements simply increased the number of plans the Navy can offer and, in turn, will persuade more sailors to raise their right hand again. interest larger numbers of sailors to stay in — all for different reasons.
"The Navy’s already doing this in narrow, isolated ways with tools like the sea duty incentive pay, assignment incentive pay and things like that," Griffis said. "The challenge in moving towards these packages is to set these packages in a way that it effectively balance’s the needs of Navy with the desires of the sailors so the right numbers of sailors and quality of sailors sort themselves into these different options and everybody wins."
The new bonus offerings also are likely to save the Navy money in the long run, saved funds that Cox says could be channeled to more sailors. Another benefit of this idea is that in the long run, getting away from the one-size-fits-all model has the potential, over time, of saving money for the Navy, which Cox says could be funneled into offering more sailors bonus dollars.
The plan may need more than just the OK from the Pentagon and lawmakers. CNP has repeatedly said the Navy needs a new generation of computer systems and databases to track sailors' career moves and preferences and factor those into offerings, much like Netflix recommends movies based on ones you've seen and enjoyed before.Along with convincing lawmakers to loosen bonus rules on bonuses, Moran said the plan won’t only be to come up with new bonus ideas, but at the same time, develop the IT backbone needed to operate them successfully.
"The key to this is upgrading our old, outdated personnel system, cleaning up data and improving access across all our IT systems," Moran said. "Better information in the hands of sailors, COs and detailers will improve this and many other 'people' processes across our Navy."
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.