Chief of Naval Personnel Holds All-Hands Calls with Groton Submarine Community

Story Number: NNS160729-13Release Date: 7/29/2016 12:16:00 PM
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By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Owsley, Naval Submarine Support Center, New London

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP), Vice Adm. Robert Burke held two all-hands calls July 26 with members of the Groton submarine community to discuss widespread changes coming to the personnel field and answer questions from the Sailors at Naval Submarine Base New London.

Burke primarily spoke about the Sailor 2025 initiative, which currently contains 43 individual programs to modernize and improve the personnel process within the Navy, but he also addressed the blended retirement and fielded questions from the audience.

"This is an exciting time because, frankly, we're turning the whole personnel business upside down and really trying to change the way we do business," said Burke.

Burke explained that we are on the road to change, because of where we had been.

"We went through some really tough manning times in 2011 and 2012, we worked our way out of the situation but realized we had some significant challenges," said Burke. "We threw more money at it and made the old industrial-age machine crank a little bit faster to get Sailors on ships at sea. We aren't going to be able to do that in the future, it's expensive, it's inefficient and we just can't keep doing business the way that we have been doing it."

Burke put the size of the task in perspective by explaining that every year approximately 40,000 join the Navy and approximately 40,000 leave the Navy, while approximately 90,000 execute Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.

Burke is looking at options to take Naval Personnel from the industrial age to the information age.

"We view Sailor 2025 as a living, breathing, evolving set of initiatives, and frankly I get a lot of what we are going to do from all-hands calls like this," said Burke. "Listening to your ideas, listening to things that are working or aren't working. We're going out and looking hard at industry best practices, bringing those and the things that make sense to do in the military and putting them in place."

Burke is mixing out of the box thinking with a reasonable approach to testing and implementation, using pilot programs with small numbers of Sailors or running a new system alongside an existing system to compare the two in order to evaluate the new system.

Sailor 2025 consists of three main courses of action:
1. A complete modernization of the personnel system
2. Changing how we train the bulk of Sailors going to the fleet
3. Enriching our Navy culture

Burke's idea to modernize the personnel system starts with transparency and a more hands on approach in the detailing process.

"I think folks like you, today want to see the inner workings of what's going on to understand what the choices are," said Burke. "You can face the reality if there are five jobs on the slate that we're showing you, that you may not be eligible for, you can deal with that, but you want to know what the criteria and the options are."

Burke described a couple of pilot program that are shifting the detailing process to something closer to the professional networking site, LinkedIn.

"It's really about cutting out the middle man," said Burke. "You get a list of all the jobs, not just the one's listed on CMSID, you can talk directly to the commands and they can talk directly to you and you have a discussion."

Burke said one pilot program has been completed and it went pretty well. A second, larger pilot program with approximately 400 people will allow Burke and his office to learn more about the potential new detailing process.

"If we do this right, we'll put ourselves out of the detailing business and it'll go more towards moderating a forum where Sailors and gaining commands are having a discussion" said Burke. Just like applying for a job in the real world."

Burke said the LinkedIn style of detailing would require more work for the Sailor, but would offer more transparency, choices and options.

Burke is also looking at more and varied educational opportunities, some at civilian institutions, offering four-year degrees in addition to the Seaman to Admiral 21 program.

"This year we are piloting 15 four-year degree programs for enlisted folks, next year it will go to 30 and those are full-time, in-resident programs," said Burke.

Learning doesn't just occur on college campuses though.

"We're sending folks, enlisted and officer alike to places like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft and letting them work out there for two years," said Burke. "Learn as much as they can and then bring those techniques back to the Navy."

Another major piece of the personnel modernization is tailored compensation, which Burke said, aims to connect disparate incentive pays like SDP and AIP. A compensation package could be offered that would be the best fit for the Sailor, their family and the Navy. Burke gave an example of Sailor possibly choosing to take less pay to stay in area that works for their family or perhaps more pay for doing multiple sea tours in a row, or taking a hard to fill billet.

Burke also envisions a future where the majority of your personnel business could be done through an app on your smart phone, with call center and in-person support for issues that can't be solved through the app.

Another portion of the personnel system is the Personal Support Detachment network. Burke started a top-down review of every process at the PSD, actively looking for ways to remove the potential for errors to occur while processing a Sailor's paperwork.

"The idea is eventually, within two to three years, when you get to your new duty station, you scan your CAC card and all of your pays are straightened out and that's it, that's all you have to do."

In order to redesign how the vast majority of the Navy is trained will focus on ready relevant learning, which focuses on getting the right training to Sailors at the right time.

Burke said a lot of the Navy still sends Sailors through "A" and "C" school upfront. Burke said the "C" school was more of a maintainer school that didn't typically come into play until the end of a Sailor's the first sea tour, but was most useful during their second sea tour.

"Only about half of our Sailors go on to that second sea tour, so it's not very smart for us to train everybody on that "C" school, and it just delays folks from getting to their first ship," said Burke.

Burke plans to send Sailors back to school later in their career, where the training will be timely and allow them to train on the latest equipment.

"We've got cases right now ... where chiefs are showing up to ships, seeing a new control or a new sonar system for the first time as the chief, yet they are expected to be the expert on it," said Burke. "Doing the right training at the right time will help avoid that. They'll get an inoculation on the new system, then truly be the expert before they go back to the ship."

Burke is also looking at how people learn instead of just when they learn as well as taking what works in some communities and introducing it to others.

"We know that people don't learn very well from power point presentations and chalkboard classrooms so it's all about putting hands on, doing lots of reps and sets, gaining confidence in what you are doing in all sorts of circumstances," said Burke.

He admits that there aren't enough simulators to train everyone this way, but a cheaper alternative has been used in the submarine force for the last 10 years, MRTS is a mobile reconfigurable training system, which is essentially a classroom full of flat screens that can be configured to a submarine radio room one hour and a Tomahawk vertical launch system the next.

MRTS has crossed from the submarine force to the aviation community, where the system is being used to train aircraft carrier air traffic controllers.

As the Navy moves into what used to be the realm of science fiction with research on energy weapons like rail guns and lasers, the personnel world has its own new technology.

"One of the most exciting technologies that we're bringing to bear is artificial intelligence," said Burke.

The new software is being used to train the Navy's cyber warfare experts.

"We're teaching them five years-worth of cyber warfare experience in about three to six months, now using artificial intelligence," said Burke. "They sit with this computer and it coaches them along."

Burke and his office are looking for other training applications for the artificial intelligence systems throughout the Navy.

What started as renaming ratings has shifted to a new way of looking at Navy ratings and career fields.

"Today there are 89 rates in the Navy and 12 career fields," said Burke. "What if we redrew those lines so that ratings with very similar training, background and experience, with just one or two more schools, could cross-rate and do something else? Now that opens up different detailing options for you, different homeports if you could do it on a different class of ship."

Making it easier to cross-rate into a similar career field gives the Sailor more flexibility and the Navy a better fit of the right Sailor, with the right skills, in the right job.

Burke also discussed the possibility of aligning ratings with civilian jobs and attaching a certificate to a rating exam, which would allow a Sailor to be certified as an apprentice, journeyman or even up to master.

The third piece of Sailor 2025 is an enriched culture with more diversity. Burke said diversity isn't just race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, but also diversity of thoughts, the way people look at problems, the way people solve problems and the way people think. We have to make that part of our planning process to build diverse teams in order to find the best solutions.

Outside of the Navy, Burke said, "We're working really hard on family friendly services to make it much easier to start a family and to keep on track in your career path."

To aid that goal Child Development Centers have longer hours of operation and over the next year Burke also plans to increase their capacity.

Another program, initially aimed at making it easier to start a family, is the Career Intermission Program, which allows an opportunity for personnel to take 2-3 years off from the Navy. In your time off your promotion and advancement exams freeze and you come back in where you left off.

Burke wants to enrich our Navy by establishing a culture of fitness.

"We changed the PRT program a year ago and we're going to continue to modify it," said Burke. "The idea of monthly spot checks is really meant to drive the idea that you need to be healthy and in shape all year long."

Burke suggested that if spot checks and a culture of fitness worked there would be less need for two PRT's a year, even possibly doing away with the PRT and its administrative burden all together.

Burke also discussed the blended retirement, which offers those with less than 12 years of service on Jan. 1, 2018, the option to keep the current retirement plan or to opt into the blended option that pays 40 percent of base pay as opposed to 50 percent of base pay after 20 years of service, but adds the ability to have some of your TSP investments matched.

Service members entering the Navy after Jan 1, 2018 will fall under the blended retirement plan. Burke said to expect more training, financial calculators and apps to help Sailors make a smart decision that is best for them and their families.

Burke then opened the floor to questions that ranged from the tattoo policy for special programs, like recruit training commanders, to combining the various databases where personnel information is stored to the possibility of allowing Sailors to buy additional leave.

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