Navy Changes Enlisted Detailing Process
When Sonar Technician 2nd Class Christopher Hess entered his nine-month detailing window he logged into the Navy's Career Management System Interactive Detailing (CMS-ID) website and looked at what jobs the Navy was advertising for his rate.
During the next month, Hess said he was unable to log in to CMS/ID because his ship was at sea and had limited Internet bandwidth available. His chain of command advised him to email his detailer explaining the situation, but Hess figured he'd wait until the next detailing window at his six-month-mark. Shortly after the monthly detailing cycle closed, Hess was shocked to find out he had been given orders.
I got a call from my [personnel specialist 1st class] saying 'Hey, your orders came in. You're going to Whidbey Island,' which was a complete surprise to me," said Hess.
His detailer selected him for orders to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. at the Naval Ocean Processing Facility.
"I was under the impression that I had three months to look at orders until I was in the 'needs of the Navy,'" Hess said. "I was extremely frustrated because I felt like I had very little decision in the rest of my career."
When the Navy published Navy administrative message (NAVADMIN) 226/12 in July, it changed the business rules for the enlisted detailing process.
The fleet-wide message stated that "red" and "green zone" job advertisements would be eliminated. Red zone billets were known as "must-fills," and the detailer had to write orders to those billets each month either with volunteers or non-volunteers. Generally, green zone billets were available for anyone to apply, and if no one applied, those billets would roll over into the next month.
"What was happening was that Sailors were waiting for that one job. They weren't choosing red zone jobs because there was some sort of an idea that red was bad. It wasn't bad, it was just priority," said Scott Barbier, branch head for the enlisted readiness and support branch at Navy Personnel Command (NPC) in Millington, Tenn. "We were finding that ... we were having units out to deploy without certain critical jobs filled by the distribution system. So we did a complete review and [changed] how we do our advertisements so there is just a green zone. These are the highest priority jobs for the fleet."
The Navy did away with the color coding, and since the release of NAVADMIN 226/12 every billet advertised has been considered a "must fill." This means that fewer billets are posted each month, and Sailors don't have as many choices as they did under the old system.
How It Works
Sailors can still negotiate for orders when they are within seven to nine months of their projected rotation date at their current duty station. They can still review advertised billets on CMS/ID during the application phase and apply for a maximum of five jobs. The application phase is typically 10 days, which allows Sailors time to research available billets and discuss options with their family and chain of command.
Once a Sailor applies for a job on CMS/ID, the applicant's information is sent to the command that has the open billet. While that command can't see an applicant's name, social security number or gender, they can see the applicant's qualifications and are able to rank them in order of desirability. The detailer will then take this information and use it to decide which Sailor will be assigned.
Master Chief Culinary Specialist Paul Marshall, the senior enlisted advisor of enlisted distribution at NPC, said that doesn't mean a command will always get the Sailor they choose.
"It could very well be that Sailor is not the right fit for that billet," Marshall said. "I had a scenario where the command ranked a particular senior chief as their number one guy, but yet the senior chief ranked that command as his last choice. So as the Sailor's advocate, we went on the side with the senior chief."
What You Need To Know
Detailers attempt to fill billets using a Sailor's desired selections, but fleet readiness requirements always take top priority. Detailers must also follow prescribed sea/shore rotation guidelines published in NAVADMIN 361/12. There are some exceptions to this, which include sea duty incentive pay and the voluntary sea duty program. Other factors detailers consider when assigning billets are the Sailor's qualifications, career progression, and the cost of moving the Sailor's family to a new location.
"There are 23 questions we look at when assigning billets," said Marshall. "It's not taken lightly."
Additionally, there is an algorithm used to decide how many jobs are advertised. That number is typically 45-65 percent of the number of Sailors in their negotiation window each month.
We put out a smaller percentage of requisitions [jobs] compared to the number of Sailors than we used to," said Barbier. "What we want to do is have a balance. We want to have enough jobs that Sailors have a choice, but also put out few enough jobs that [we] continue to have enough Sailors in subsequent cycles."
Each month, detailers typically assign advertised jobs first to Sailors in their seven-month window. If there are still billets available, the detailers can assign them to Sailors in their eight-month window, but there is no hard and fast rule. The priority is to get the right Sailor in the right billet. However, even though it's rare, it is possible for Sailors to be assigned a billet in their first negotiation month.
"We do our very best not to grab that Sailor in the first month of negotiating, non-voluntarily, for a billet. But it is possible," said Chief Quartermaster Samir Patel, the lead quartermaster detailer. "The point we're trying to get across is each billet gets filled on CMS each and every month. And if I've got a Sailor in his first month, and he or she is the best candidate for a billet, then he or she is a fit."
Even though Hess said he understood all the advertised billets had to be filled each month, he said he was surprised he was assigned a job so early in the negotiation process.
"I just thought there would be more people in line before me," he said.
This misunderstanding about the changes in the process have led some Sailors to be discouraged about trying to apply for jobs at all, said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Lois Bourne, a divisional career counselor aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1).
"It doesn't really make any sense to go on CMS/ID because it's not your choice," Bourne said. "You're being forced to go where the Navy needs you to go. A lot of Sailors have that perception like, 'There's no need for me to pick.'"
Officials at NPC disagree.
"The bottom line is, mission first, Sailors always. And [Sailors] do have a choice - a choice based on the priorities set by the Navy," said Marshall.
Sailors put themselves at risk for receiving a billet they never wanted if they only apply for a few jobs, or worse, don't apply at all. If the detailers don't know what Sailors want, they can't help them get it. By making applications in CMS/ID, Sailors are at least being considered for those jobs.
"[Sailors] can opt not to apply for any billets during the CMS cycle," Patel said. "If you're not making those applications, you're letting us make the decision for you."
Patel added even if Sailors can't get orders to a specific desired location, they may be able to get orders to that geographic area and should be open to that possibility.
"You may want to go to Norfolk, and it might be your only decision," he said. "But hey, what about South Carolina? It's not that far. Take the blinders off."
Sailors should also consider applying for special duty, such as recruiting or recruit division commander, in order to achieve their desires.
"I have six Sailors going to recruiting duty. They don't want to, but they feel like it's the only way for them to get home," said Navy Counselor 1st Class Tammy Scott, a command career counselor aboard Wasp.
Scott said after spending up to five years on a ship, Sailors are looking forward to shore duty in a location closer to their families.
"I can understand 'slam orders' for sea duty because we're Sailors ... that's what we do. We may not like where we're going ... but we know we're going out to sea. Just give us a chance to negotiate for shore duty," she said.
Even though NAVADMIN 226/12 was written primarily to fill gaps at sea, Marshall said there were also gaps for shore duty locations that needed to be addressed.
"There are priority shore duty billets out there, and shore duty has a mission as well," he explained.
Once a detailer has assigned all the billets for that month, the final list of selections still has to go through a chop chain with rating specialists and placement coordinators. It's not often that a detailer's billet assignments are changed by this process, but it can happen.
"The only time placement gets involved is if [the detailer's selection] is not meeting the requirements of the job," said Barbier. "If they're not providing somebody with the right skillset or the right pay grade, we get involved and ask questions, but ultimately, it's the detailer's decision."