Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the establishment of Task Force Innovation (TFI) within the Department of the Navy Jan. 22. The TFI will focus its efforts on three main areas. The first, according to the memorandum signed by Mabus, is leveraging innovative practices to create and maintain an adaptive workforce of Sailors, Marines and civilians.
CHIPS asked the office of the Chief of Naval Personnel to respond to questions regarding the Navy’s efforts to promote diversity within the ranks and its recruiting efforts to reach out to diverse communities across the country.
In response, Cmdr. Renee Squier, head of Navy Diversity, Inclusion, and Women's Policy and Commander, Navy Recruiting Rear Adm. Annie B. Andrews, responded in writing to questions in March.
Q: Now, 96 percent of all Navy jobs are open to women, and women make up some 18 percent of the total force, but Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has said that he would like to see more women join the Navy, as well as to retain the women who are already serving. Are there any studies or actions the Navy is conducting to retain women in the workforce and attract women as new recruits?
Cmdr. Squier: On Jan 24, 2013, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced the rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule (DGCAR). Navy is on track to comply with this change, and is committed to removing barriers and gender-restrictive policies that prevent service members from rising to their highest potential based on each person’s ability.
Our approach to increasing [the number of] women in the Navy is to better balance female presence in operational and sea duty billets, as well as across all paygrades. Family concerns remain the most important influence on retaining talent and we believe reducing barriers for professional competition by opening all Navy occupations while providing a more family-friendly environment and greater career flexibility will help us continue to increase women serving in the Navy.
Q: Mr. Mabus has said that the Navy’s plan to integrate women into the submarine force has been successful. I was surprised to hear that the Navy did not conduct any preliminary studies leading to such a significant force change. Can you talk about the current status of the effort?
Cmdr. Squier: In May 2013, a flag officer-led task force comprised of subject matter experts from across the Navy developed a comprehensive plan to integrate enlisted women into the submarine force. The final plan was submitted and approved by CNO on June 30, 2014, and SECNAV on July 1, 2014. Formal congressional notification was completed December 2014, opening positions on OHIO and VIRGINIA-class submarines to the assignment of enlisted women and officer positions on OHIO, VIRGINIA, and SEAWOLF-class submarines. All submarine occupations and Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs) are now open to women.
In order to preserve unit readiness, cohesion, and morale, lessons learned from the surface, aviation, and female officer submarine integration will be used to ensure success. Navy policy assigns an experienced or warfare qualified female officer aboard prior to the integration of junior officers or enlisted women.
Q: Are the remaining four percent of jobs in the Navy not open to women, combat and Special Forces jobs?
Cmdr. Squier: The remaining positions currently closed to women include select Navy jobs in Special Operations (SEAL/SWCC and enabler positions), Marine Corps Ground Combat Units, and enlisted positions on Frigates, Coastal Patrol Craft, and Mine Countermeasures Ships. Navy is taking a deliberate approach to evaluating the remaining closed positions and expects to have no closed occupations, a limited number of closed positions, and equal professional opportunity for women in every officer designator and enlisted rating by Jan. 1, 2016.
Q: CNO Jonathan Greenert and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran recently answered questions regarding Navy personnel issues such as fleet manning gaps and modernizing the Navy's outdated personnel system. What are some the changes to the (enlisted and officer) personnel system that the Navy is proposing to fill critical manning gaps as well as to modernize the personnel system to meet the expectations of a 21st century workforce?
Cmdr. Squier: Efforts here are in modernizing a system over 40 years-old.
We are working hard to modernize our information technology to bring personnel systems into the 21st century. NETC (Naval Education and Training Command) has embarked on another generation of virtual training for the fleet with use of avatars and other computer-generated aids which reach our newest generation while providing a greater fidelity than we ever imagined.
There is much work to be done in aligning the different databases and requirements for the tools Sailors use which includes the multiple passwords needed to account for personnel information, training and placement. This is an important effort and will be able to give the Fleet more information as it develops.
Q: What are some to the ways that the Navy is adjusting to the expectations of young adults who value work/life flexibility, innovation, to work with the latest technologies, upward mobility and connection with family and friends?
Cmdr. Squier: We are actively working to increase work/life flexibility in order to attract and retain the nation’s top talent. In 2009, we introduced the Career Intermission Program, which allows Sailors to transition from active duty to the Individual Ready Reserve for up to three years to pursue personal or professional goals before returning to active duty service. After six successful years, we are now looking for ways to further expand the program by increasing eligibility for officer and enlisted personnel and tailoring program benefits to retain important skills.
Our current emphasis on talent management includes initiatives to introduce additional flexibility to career paths and expand the programs used to develop our employees. For example, we are looking at ways to ease the transition of personnel between the active and reserve components and to offer greater autonomy in career progression based upon performance and milestone attainment.
To develop our employees and encourage innovative ideas, we are examining expansion of internships with industry to allow personnel access to civilian sector best practices, which they can bring back to the Navy.
In addition to our larger Navy-wide programs and initiatives underway, commands are encouraged to continue to find ways to be flexible in line with mission requirements. Using successful industry practices such as flexible work arrangements and compressed work weeks, commands can assist Sailors who have a need for increased workplace flexibility.
Q: How does the Navy reward and recognize top performers and innovators?
Cmdr. Squier: We have bonus programs to retain Sailors in critical skills and ratings. We are also looking at ways to empower commanders and provide them tools to recognize and reward their top talent.
Q: Diversity in thinking, or disruptive thinking, is valued in the commercial marketplace for the ability to generate new ideas and innovations that make an organization more successful. The CNO has established his own Innovation Cell to promote innovation. But it has been found that young adults who are attracted to government service, in general, have many of the same characteristics which can lead to a more homogenous workforce. How can the Navy attract the kind of young people who can be change agents for the Navy?
Rear Adm. Andrews: The mission of Navy Recruiting Command (NRC) Diversity is to employ proven and cost-effective recruiting strategies and techniques to attract the best talent and imagination that America has to offer, wherever it may be. We will do so by employing an aligned strategic outreach effort to identify and recruit from a broad pool of diverse candidates. The Navy has been in the cutting-edge of technology and is finding innovative ways to attract talented and diverse individuals. NRC Diversity accomplishes this objective by partnering with traditional and emerging affinity groups and also, employs a Navy City Outreach Program at locations across the country primarily to promote outreach, engagement, and awareness in the diverse communities.
We can attract change agents to the Navy by demonstrating the ability to change, not only in the areas of evolving defense technology, but in the areas of organizational culture, command climate, and peer-to-peer acceptance. When young people see the Navy cares about change and that feedback processes (command climate surveys, EO reporting, etc.) are in place, they might begin to self-identify with the Navy and pursue the opportunities we offer over other options.
Q: I understand that the Navy must have professional standards of dress but in attracting young adults from different ethnicities and religious groups who adhere to diverse cultural or religious standards for body art, hair styles, facial hair and modes of dress, is there a way to accommodate their beliefs? Does the Navy set recruiting goals for recruiting individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural groups?
Rear Adm. Andrews: The Navy is committed to fair and equitable treatment of all hands, by all hands, at all times. Commander, Navy Recruiting Command is committed to a work environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. Every person has the expectation to be treated equitably and will be provided equal treatment and opportunity, regardless of protected category, which includes race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or age.
The Navy does not set goals for recruiting individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural groups. Instead, the Navy strives to reach diverse populations by partnering with traditional and emerging affinity groups and also, employs a Navy City Outreach Program at locations across the country primarily to promote outreach, engagement, and awareness in the diverse communities. By doing so, the Navy pursues diverse environments to increase the likelihood of recruiting more diverse, qualified people.
Q: Young adults have an expectation for open and transparent communications. Navy leadership must communicate across cross-cultural, cross-gender and cross-generational groups. How is leadership tackling this challenge?
Cmdr. Squier: Social media continues to grow as the preferred communication avenue. Navy is actively engaged in the many social media platforms and sees this as the way to develop two-way communication to our Sailors, families and American public.
Q: The senior enlisted advisers from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force were on Capitol Hill, Feb. 25, to testify before the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on military construction, Veterans Affairs and related agencies on quality of life concerns in the services. They talked about the stress on the force and uncertainty over possible scaling back of healthcare benefits, compensation and family programs, as well as job security, were the top concerns among the force they testified. How is the Navy addressing these concerns?
Cmdr. Squier: As you know leadership is working through the Commission's recommendations to better understand the impact and potential of their recommendations. When we have concrete information we will communicate that with our Sailors and their families. Right now we are emphasizing that these are recommendations and that leadership supports grandfathering [the] current system for those serving now.
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