The U.S. Navy is putting together a
really novel plan to help keep personnel in uniform. And the plan is all about
letting NCOs and officers take an unpaid sabbatical, of up to two years, to do
whatever they want to do. At the end of their sabbatical period, as long as
they are still physically able, they can rejoin the navy, with their rank,
time-in-grade and other benefits intact. The sabbatical can be used for
anything from child care, or looking after an elderly parent, going to school,
working on some weird project, or just getting away from the navy for a while.
Although the navy is still downsizing, it continues
to have problems hanging on to key technical and command personnel. Chief Petty
Officers in certain key areas (like electronics, nuclear power or special
operations) are very expensive to replace. These men and women usually have ten
or more years of service, and several years of schooling, in addition to job
experience. That takes ten years, and several million dollars, to replace. So
if the availability of a sabbatical will keep a few of these NCOs or officers
in for twenty, or thirty, years of service, the program will be worth it.
The idea for these sabbaticals came up seven years
ago, The idea was to change the way people serve, so that there are "on
ramps" and "off ramps." One example used back then was navy
computer specialists who were leaving for more exciting civilian opportunities.
With the new plan, the Navy grants you two years sabbatical so's you can work
in Bill Gates' super-secret skunk works or some such, and then you come back,
possibly with a promotion and better pay, and lots of nifty new skills. The "on
ramp" part of this plan, which is not being considered at the moment, suggested
reaching out to recruit specialists from the civilian job market, offering
special commissions or enlistments, and other benefits, to potential short term
The navy expects to have all the details of the
sabbatical program worked out by the end of the year.