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Talking with Sailors

Squashing Rumors with SECNAV


Editor's note: All Hands Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus to discuss the direction of today's Navy while also debunking scuttlebutt of the fleet.

Q1. You've been doing All Hands Calls throughout the fleet are there any rumors, myths, or something you would like to set straight for us.

A: I have been doing a lot of All Hands Calls, I've been doing it ever since I've gotten here. Some of the things that people are concerned about, I mean they are concerned about the budget here and the uncertainty of what's going to happen. We've got a little more certainty now in '14 and '15 but the worry that I have, and I tell them this at All Hands Calls, is what happens in '16? What happens if we go back to sequester? They are concerned about our operations tempo and the fact that our cruises and our deployments are getting so long and what that does to them, what that does to their families what it does to planning and this sort of stuff. I talk to them about things we've gone back to, we are increasing sea-pay both career sea-pay and career sea-pay premium. So if you've been at sea for more than three years we are going to up your sea-pay. If you've been to sea for more than three years in a row then we are going to up it to premium. And if you're an E-5 to an E-9 and you've been to sea for eight years during your career you are going to get sea-pay regardless of when you are assigned to a ship.

They are concerned about retirement, and there is a commission studying retirement but one of the things that everybody has said about this commission is that regardless of whether or not they come out with any changes, they are not due to report out until next year. The thinking is that whatever was set up whatever system you join under, that is the system you are going to retire under. So I think that's one rumor, one myth that we can knock down.

And as I said, a lot of it is the uncertainty. What does it mean for individual Sailors and what it means to individual Marines? That is one of the reasons that we have set up the 21st Century Sailor and Marine. So you can go to the website and check out some of these rumors. That if somebody tells you something...and I know, I was in the Navy and rumors do get started and if you don't rumor bust them, they become the truth or at least what people think on a ship or on a base or whatever and we have one place you can go as 21st Century Sailor and Marine and look at what's out there. Those are some of the things I've been hearing and if you're a Sailor out there then I'm probably coming to an All Hands Call near you soon.

Q2. We've all heard about the deployment lengths and the changes and the potential for the carrier strike group going to a regular eight month deployment. Is that something that is going to be platform specific to the carrier groups? is that looking?

A: It's going to start with the carrier groups and surface combatants that go out with carrier groups. And your right it's going to be a 36 month cycle, with one eight month deployment. It's also when do you train up, when do you do maintenance. Getting those things very regular so people can plan so that we know how long the deployment is going to be. Now circumstances get a vote. So the deployment may need to be extended. We're going to move that to all ship types. We're starting with the Carriers, the strike groups and the surface combatants, that's the plan. It's helpful to everybody, it's helpful to Sailors and their families, it's helpful in terms keeping those ships maintained making sure they reached their normal lifespan. Making sure when we send a ship out it's been through the regular training cycle and that everyone is trained up and ready to go out when they do deploy.

Q3. Are we looking at a reduction in force size for the Navy?

A: Not for the Navy. Pretty much the force size we have today is the force size accord. If congress passes the President's budget that we put in for FY-15 and you look at 5 years it's almost exactly the same size in 19 as it is in 15.

Q4. Is there anything you would like to add Mr. Secretary?

A: Well I want to tell the Sailors and Marines, thank you for what you do, thank you for what you do every day. I don't think people in this country understand as much what Sailors and Marines do because we are America's away team. Even though we're coming out of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan there are no permanent homecomings for Sailors or Marines. We're always deployed, always out forward. And so America doesn't get to see how skilled people are in the Navy, how professional they are, how patriotic they are, how intense they are about doing a great job and so one of my jobs I think is too thank Sailors and Marines for that and the protection they give all of us, the other 99 percent that don't serve in uniform. Everyday whether that 99 percent recognizes or not they should be and think they are appreciative of the people standing the watch.