The Navy released its 2014 Retention Study to better understand the current perceptions of U.S. Navy sailors. Specifically, what impacts their decision-making when deciding to remain in uniformed service or to seek employment elsewhere? The study also sought to understand the three core areas underpinning a sailor’s perception of the quality of service they experience, namely quality of work, quality of life, and quality of leadership.
Perceptions about the Littoral Combat Ship are perhaps the most concerning results of the surface warfare ofﬁcer component of the survey. Sixty percent of respondents do not want to serve on an LCS – this was relatively stable across rank and experience. Most do not believe costs will decrease signiﬁcantly. Only 16% believe it will be “an excellent surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, or mine counter-measures platform.” Finally, respondents were skeptical about its survivability in combat. Sixty percent “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with the statement “LCS will be survivable in combat operations.” Only 8% agreed. Skepticism actually increased with age and rank – 70% of lieutenant commanders and commanders disagreed with the statement, and 72% of captains and ﬂag ofﬁcers disagreed. There is slight skepticism as to whether a tour on an LCS is valuable for ofﬁcers: 25% agree that the SWO career track supports a LCS tour, while 30% disagree.
Regarding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, personnel from the Naval aviation community, when asked if the Joint Strike Fighter was the “right aircraft for Naval Aviation,” 60% “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed”, and 22% were neutral. Only 10% “agreed” or “strongly agreed.” Conversely, when asked if they would prefer an Advanced Super Hornet over the Joint Strike Fighter, 62% “strongly agreed” or “agreed,” and 20% were “neutral.” One commentator, a JSF pilot, noted that much of the community has yet to see the JSF in action, which — when coupled with years of negative press — may be one reason for the deep skepticism about the F-35.
As to unmanned aerial vehicles or autonomously-piloted aircraft, 58% of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that “unmanned platforms will increase naval aviation capabilities,” while only 20% “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed.”
Navy personnel also want to stop the highlighting the reliefs for cause of commanding ofﬁcers, command master chiefs, and other senior enlisted advisers. What was originally intended to demonstrate accountability to the public has, instead, resulted in a signiﬁcant breach of trust with sailors and resulting in an almost “reality tv” mentality. Several recent high-proﬁle ﬁrings have demonstrated the negative impact of a rush to inform the press, as a plurality of sailors remarked that once the Navy has gone public there is no chance for the sailor to recover, regardless of the ultimate disposition of the case.
According to the report, the reality is the Navy cannot effectively do more with less … it can only do less with less, and a belief to the contrary has resulted in incredibly high operational tempo and a plummeting perception of work/life balance.
The report provides opportunities to do stories with more insight about how Navy personnel feel about their conditions, equipment, ships and aircraft.
To read and download the report, go here.