Posted: April 10, 2018 4:42 PM

Sea Services Address Manpower Issues, Better Gender Integration

By NICK ADDE, Seapower Special Correspondent

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – With the Navy on track to grow eventually to at least 350 ships, personnel chief Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told an April 10 audience during a panel discussion at the Sea-Air-Space exposition that the service must add 21,000 new Sailors within the next five years.

“That’s a significant amount of manpower in a short amount of time for a Navy that was relatively flat or declining during the past 20-plus years,” said Burke, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel and Training.

All of this must happen “in a climate where recruiting and retention are difficult,” said Jared Serbu, the Defense Department reporter for Federal News Radio, who moderated the discussion.

Burke described his office’s effort to change moribund and outdated policies that hinder the path to the needed strength increase. Change is not only needed for the future, he said.

He described “gaps at sea” that accumulated during years of “working with under-resourced accounts.”

Nevertheless, Burke said, he is confident that the recruiting and retention effort is “on a very good trajectory with perspective toward adding manpower.”

He also emphasized that these new Sailors and officers will require — and should be afforded — the workplace “they deserve and demand from any job.”

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, Burke’s Marine Corps counterpart, largely agreed, citing the necessity to “manage the force and maintain the very best Marines.”

Rocco, the Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, described an “evaluation process designed to measure and analyze accomplishments.”

He also emphasized that the Marine Corps will continue to make progress in gender integration, “assuring that all Marines have opportunities to succeed.”

Rear Adm. William G. Kelly, the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Human Resources, alluded to the “positive effect” that implementation of outgoing Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft’s 2016 strategy for attracting the best persons available.

“The [Zukunft’s] Human Capital Strategy has had a positive impetus. It addresses numerous interests of concern expressed by our shipmates. But more needs to be done,” Kelly said. “We need a more flexible and responsive retention system.”

Dr. Shashi Kumasi, who coordinates education and training at the National Maritime Administration, noted that 7 percent of the nation’s merchant mariners are women — compared with a worldwide average of two percent.

The U.S. now has 11,768 qualified mariners with unlimited credentials available for the ready reserve fleet, Kumasi said. Under normal conditions, this number would suffice. But if the need arose to sustain operations at a higher level, such as in a national emergency, the U.S. merchant marine fleet would need an additional 30,607 mariners, he said.

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