NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Juan M. Garcia III addressed more than 400 students and staff on manpower issues facing the Navy in the 21st century at Officer Training Command Newport (OTCN), Oct. 5, at Naval Station Newport.
In addressing the Navy's future leaders in an All Hands Call in Capt. Howard N. Kay Hall, Garcia said the last 10 years have demonstrated that the Navy's current operations tempo is not likely to change.
Garcia talked about the impact that high retention rates were having on the force.
"No one had anticipated the level of retention that we had. It was unprecedented," he said. Garcia said a retention rate of nearly 108 percent had created a choke-point for other Sailors who wanted to advance.
Garcia described the possible solutions that included moving Sailors in overmanned rates to undermanned rates. He said there was a special effort to create programs that would provide incentives to help retain the most qualified and talented Sailors.
Garcia said the CNO decided on a one-time solution to help solve the problem that included establishing an Enlisted Retention Board.
"To reduce the numbers, we had to separate approximately 3,000 Sailors," Garcia said.
Garcia said the solutions over time demonstrated that advancement rates were increasing.
Describing Marine Corps manning as being different, Garcia said the build-up following 9-11 has caused a need for plans to reduce the force by 20,000 Marines, 5,000 annually over four years.
On the subject of military retirement, Garcia said there are proposed changes for a shift to a 401k package. "I don't doubt that somewhere down the road we will move to a 401k," he said.
Garcia said the size of the fleet in 2013 will be 287 ships, but added that a 300 ship Navy is likely by 2019. He attributed the increase to the Navy's new class of ships.
"The size of the fleet is about right despite what is discussed in the blogosphere," Garcia said.
He said the recent 10 month-long deployments experienced by Sailors aboard the large deck ships like the USS Bataan and USS John C. Stennis are likely to be reduced to six or seven months.
On women in the Navy, Garcia said this year's selections for Sailor of the Year were all women.
"It has never been tougher to get into and stay in the Navy and Marine Corps," Garcia said. "There is no ceiling as to what you can accomplish in the Navy," Garcia said.
Garcia said the rationale for having females aboard submarines was not the result of political pressure. "It was a national security issue," he said.
Garcia said the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Program consisted of the tools that are needed to succeed. "Make sure you, your Sailors and their families are taking advantage of this program," he said.
Garcia provided comments during a question and answer session about Tricare for active duty members, the role of IA tours, and budget cuts.
He said changes in Tricare coverage for active duty members were not likely now. He said that by 2013 the Navy Reserves would be filling most of the IA tour requirements. He said that despite the large budget cuts and possible sequestration, the manpower accounts would be protected.
Garcia's visit coincides with the Navy's 237th Birthday celebration. He is the scheduled guest speaker at Naval Station Newport's Navy Birthday Ball, Oct. 5, at the Officers' Club. He is scheduled to speak about the War of 1812.
In marking the Navy's 237th Birthday, Naval Station Newport is commemorating Navy Birthday Week, Oct. 8-12, with a series of Navy Birthday Week special events and community support.
A proclamation, signed, Sept. 26, by R.I. Governor Lincoln Chaffee, designated Oct. 13, 2012 as Navy Day in the State of Rhode Island and was read at the Navy Ball, Oct. 5, by Naval Station Newport commanding officer, Capt. Douglas W. Mikatarian.
A contingent of students and staff from OTCN, a Marine Corps color guard from Marine Corps Detachment Newport, a Navy color guard from Naval Health Clinic New England, and the Navy Band Northeast marching band representing Navy in Newport is scheduled to march in the 18th annual Festa Italiana Columbus Day parade, Oct. 8, in Newport, R.I.
A team of Sailors and Marines volunteering from Naval Station Newport and its tenant commands are scheduled to visit with the residents at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, Bristol, R.I., Oct. 11, and perform volunteer service projects at the home. Navy Band Northeast is scheduled to perform an afternoon concert, Oct. 11, for the residents.
Naval Station Newport will hold a bell ringing ceremony, 9 a.m., Oct. 13, at the Chapel of Hope marking the Navy's Birthday and a reading of the CNO's birthday message.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Naval Station Newport, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsnewport/.