Attrition: The Navy is Auctioning Layoffs


June 20, 2006: The U.S. Navy is holding an auction, in which surplus officers bid on how much cashthey will accept to leave the service before their contracts are up. While the U.S. Army has had to use a lot of imagination to keep the ranks filled with volunteers during wartime, the navy has had a an equally rough time getting rid of people. There's no shortage of people wanting to join the navy, but with fewer ships and more automation, the navy needs far fewer sailors and officers.

There are many navy job categories that have more officers than are needed. Not all the potentially surplus officers need leave, as many of them can retrain for another specialty. A job category might have hundreds of officers who could be let go, but only about 50 have to go. So all the officers eligible for departure would be able to made a bid, on the amount of money they would take to leave before their contract is up. Those with the lowest bids would be able to take that amount of money and leave.

The army thought it could get thousands of surplus sailors and officers to transfer to the army instead. This didn't work out as well as expected, with only a few hundred surplus navy personnel making the switch. Apparently service preference and loyalty was stronger than anticipated. That, plus the fact that the army is doing most of the fighting in the war on terror. Although casualty rates have been going down in Iraq, over the last 40 months, army personnel sent there stood a four percent chance of getting killed or wounded. Serving at sea in the navy, which is a dangerous environment, has a casualty rate less than a forth of that.


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