Over the past six months, the service has instituted measures to address gaps in critical positions, offering cash and other perks to compel sailors to head back out to sea. While those measures are still taking hold, Navy officials said last week that more must be done to address the at-sea manning issue -- including involuntary measures -- as nearly one-third of its total enlisted ratings are currently unfilled.This is data specific to the hollowing of the force. It isn't the cost of building ships that is shrinking the fleet, it is the cost of manning ships that is shrinking the Navy. Those costs aren't coming down, and the fiscal environment for the Navy isn't getting better anytime soon. In my opinion the Navy needs to be very transparent on this issue.
As a result, existing programs are being expanded and new measures implemented to ensure these billets are staffed properly, according to a Navy news release.
“As our Navy is in ever-increasing demand around the world, filling these gap billets at sea has become more critical,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk said in the release. “These actions should reduce the short-notice actions to man high-priority billets, such as cross-decking and diverts.”
The Navy is separating nearly 3,000 midcareer sailors this year in 31 other fields that are overmanned.
In the end, hollowing the force is not necessarily the worst option, and can be done selectively as the Navy gets over small hurdles. The problem is that without more transparency from the Navy, we have no idea what size the hurdle is, and whether the measures being taken are to simply stop the bleeding or fix the problem.
More likely, the measures Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has put into action are simply intended to stop the bleeding, because the sense I get talking to folks in those units and on those ships with serious manpower shortages is that the problem isn't going to be solved quickly.