July 21, 2007: As the U.S. Navy sheds 20,000 people
over the next few years (to a lower strength of 320,000), it's also getting
back to its roots. That means more sailors will be assigned to ships. Most of
the reduction in personnel will come out of land-based jobs ("shore billets").
Eventually, the navy wants sailors, on average spending 63 percent of their
time assigned to a ship. That doesn't mean that sailors will spend 63 percent
of their time at sea. Normally, a ship spends less than half the year a sea,
often only a few months a year. So the new plan would have sailors, on average,
spending about twenty percent of their time at sea. In wartime, that would
increase. The navy also has a bonus plan, offering up to $18,000 for sailors
with scarce shipboard skills to voluntarily spend more time aboard a ship.
The navy, like the other services, is trying to
cope with the influx of a lot of new technology. Many traditional navy jobs are
being automated, leaving veteran sailors out of a job. Not wanting to lose
these veterans, especially those who had become chiefs (Chief Petty Officers,
or senior NCOs), retraining is being offered. This is not as big of a burden as
it might seem, as most sailors spend a lot of time acquiring new skills. Since
steam began replacing sail 150 years ago, new technology has been coming to
sailors are an ever increasing rate.