Shortly after newly appointed Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer was sworn into office, the U.S. Navy announced that it will be sending 1,100 senior enlisted personnel back to sea. The service says that it has 3,000 at-sea enlisted supervisory positions left vacant, and the reassignments will go towards filling the gap. Unlike recent changes for junior enlisteds, the new plan – the Chief Petty Officer Redistribution Policy – is not voluntary.
Most of the sailors affected will be drawn from the ranks of 25 ratings designations that are overmanned ashore, the Navy said in a statement. These specialties include aviation technicians, machinists, boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, electronics technicians and many others, including positions in both surface and subsurface warfare. The new policy will make senior enlisted sailors' sea-shore rotations secondary to the fleet's manning needs. Chiefs will be considered eligible for reassignment to duty at sea if their assignment is in excess of authorized supervisor billets, or if they are assigned to a billet of a lower paygrade than their rank allows.
Newly promoted chiefs are likely to be affected, and this is by design. "Every year we advance to vacancies, anointing new leaders, but subsequently failing to then recapitalize on these selections by moving them into the very jobs we selected them for," explained Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith in a message to the fleet. "The exception to this has been the submarine community, which leverages their new talent pool by routinely assigning them back to sea wherever there are gaps . . . [and] extrapolating this process across the entire chiefs mess will help decrease manning gaps for operational units."
"Chiefs are the Navy's critical leadership element," said Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke. "It is essential that we have our deck-plate leaders, including newly selected chiefs, where it counts – on ships and submarines, in aviation squadrons, and in other operational or Fleet production units on the leading edge of our combat teams."