Thank You for Your Service

By lex, on July 10th, 2011

Don’t let the screen door hit you:

With more sailors staying in the military amid a slumping economic recovery, the U.S. Navy is taking the unprecedented step of firing low-ranking petty officers to help rein in spending.

The Navy plans to let go of 3,000 young sailors after economic uncertainty put the service in the unusual position of having a manpower surplus.

The Navy has forecasting models of first and second term attrition that didn’t hold up well with 9.2% unemployment. And when you’re in the savings mode, manpower cuts save real money, now. Weapons systems savings typically take years to manifest themselves, and invariably leave the fleet with aging gear that is less effective and more expensive to maintain.

If I recall correctly, the Navy budgets an average of $80,000 for an enlisted sailor, taking into account not merely his salary, but also his associated benefits. So three thousand former sailors in FY12 will generate an immediate manpower savings of $240 million. It’s a cold calculus, but a necessary one: Navy isn’t a jobs program, and can’t be the bill payer for bad corporate and governmental decisions.

In August, the Navy will convene a board to review the cases of 16,000 sailors and eliminate 3,000 positions, about 1 percent of the force. Navy officials say the jobs cuts will be based on experience and individual performance records.

And also on job specialty, I presume: Some ratings are typically more overmanned than others.

A hard thing for those on the whip end of the rope, of course. And their families. And non-trivial risk to the sea service as well. Thirteen thousand sailors who made the cut will remember that there was a cut, if and when the economy turns around.

We’ve managed reductions in force before. Never that well, I’m sorry to say.

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