Armed Forces News

San Diego - April 2016: Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), speaks to the first surface warfare officers to graduate from the Anti-Submarine/Anti-Surface Warfare Tactics Instructor course. (Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Phil Ladouceur)

The Navy should take steps to improve retention of its surface warfare officers, according to the nation’s top watchdog agency. The situation is particularly important in light of two deadly ship collisions that occurred in 2017, the Government Accountability Office stated in a June report.

The separate incidents involved the destroyers McCain and Fitzgerald. In their aftermath, the Navy implemented what the GAO termed “minor changes” in the SWO career path – but has not gone far enough. Specifically, the agency noted that the Navy has not “regularly evaluated or changed this career path in over a century,” the report stated.

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GAO noted that 33 percent of all surface warfare officers remain in their community after 10 years of service, compared to 45 percent in Navy officer communities. The rate of loss is higher among female SWOs, with 12 percent choosing to remain in their jobs compared to 39 percent of their male counterparts.

The GAO offered the following recommendations:

* The Navy should use information gleaned from separation rates to develop a plan to improve retention rates.

* A plan also should address retention of female SWOs.

* The Navy should analyze logbook data to identify trends relating to competition among SWOs for limited training opportunities, and evaluate the effect of commissioning practices as well.

* The SWO and other Navy communities should examine the effect training requirements for junior officers who do not plan to stay in the SWO community has on limiting training opportunities for those who plan to remain there.

* The Navy should reevaluate the need for nuclear-trained SWOs, to assess the effects the present training approach has on career paths.

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* The Navy should establish and implement regular evaluations of the present SWO career path, to include training and policies, with an eye toward “successfully developing and retaining proficient SWOs.