The Navy is trending towards Battleship

…and not in a good way

We’re seeing more news on people leaving the military, even when within one or two years of retirement. First it was Marine Corps Lt Col Stuart Scheller. Next it was Army Lt Col Paul Hague. I’m sure over the next two months we’ll get about one of these every two weeks before it dies down. They’ll make the news, people will comment needlessly on Twitter, and then life will go on.

That’s not the real story. The real story is that for every one of these very public resignations, there are thousands that are quietly leaving. These people aren’t willing to throw away a pension if they are close to it. For the ones that are ending their first five year commitment, they are simply preparing now to walk away. They won’t make a big stink about it. They won’t leave five page resignation letters talking about Marxism, transgender policy and imbedded racism. Nope. These people will simply leave. They won’t make a ruckus or create waves, they’ll simply vote with their feet.

The military will cover this up. Not like X-Files “I want to believe” sort of cover up. It’ll just not make headlines. You’ll hear things like “We’re short on fighter pilots” now and again, but nothing earth shattering will make the news. The media that cover military stories focus almost exclusively on operations, because operations is sexy. It’s sexy and cool to interview the Blue Angels and look at drones landing on an aircraft carrier. It’s boring to look at numbers. That stuff is for nerds.

But nerds rule, and the numbers already look bad on the Navy side. The best indicator of what is called “community health” is how well you’re filling control grade officers, specifically the O-4 (LCDR), O-5 (CDR) and O-6 (CAPT) ranks. These are important for a few reasons.

  • Almost all of your commanding officers and executive officers come from these ranks. These officers control the day-to-day operations and they have by far the biggest impact on Sailor morale. If morale is suffering and things are getting done, this is the first place to check.
  • These people are lifers. They’ve stayed past 10 years, so they are “in it” for the long haul. They either love what they do, or at least don’t hate it enough to quit.
  • These ranks have the not-fun jobs. These ranks run the show from the background. The sexy jobs flying fast planes, driving boats and shooting at bad people are now past. That makes these jobs harder to fill.

So how is the Navy doing in this area? Easiest way to check is selection rates. The Navy’s officer manning is a pyramid. There are lots of O-1, O-2 and O-3 young officers at the bottom. The ideal selection rate to O-4 is 70%, meaning that 30% of otherwise qualified people are not selected. That seems brutal, but it allows you to pick the best. It also takes into account people that leave anyway, since O-3s that are eligible for promotion would also be finishing their first 5-year committment.

As we go up the pyramid, it gets harder. Ideal selection to O-5 is only 60% of eligible people, and selection to O-6 is about 50%. You only want the best people in positions of command and responsibility, and there aren’t as many jobs that high up, so you’re naturally going to shed more people. Also, these ranks allow people to stay until retirement, so you’ll have more non-selected officers that fill slots until they retire.

So how are selection rates now? LCDR selection rate is roughly 90%, CDR is 80% and CAPT is around 65%. This varies a lot by community, with some communities significantly higher.

That’s bad. High selection rates mean not enough people are staying in until they are eligible for promotion. In a business environment, you can simply hire people from outside or promote younger people, but the military is only allowed to pick 10% from what they call “below zone” officers, who are typically 1-2 years younger than officers that are “in zone” for selection. Now, you can pick officers that were previously passed over for promotion, and in many cases, these officers are otherwise great selections. But officers that are passed over once are likely planning their exit already. Once they see opportunity elsewhere, many are going to walk away.

Worse still, look at the communities with the highest selection rates. For CAPT, these are Cryptologic Warfare (85%) and Information Professional (70%). For CDR, these are…the same group, and the same for LCDR. Cryptologic Warfare officers make and break codes, specializing in cyber warfare, signals intelligence and electronic warfare. Information Professionals connect and maintain Navy communications. Both groups require significant engineering backgrounds, and yet both groups are leaving in droves. If the people that conduct the most advanced warfare areas are leaving, it means we aren’t providing enough incentives for them to stay around compared to what they can achieve in industry.

This is the canary in the coal mine. The numbers are trending worse, not better. This has been happening for the past three fiscal years. Now, combine this with a job market that is begging people to work, and one that is rapidly adopting the use of advanced technology to replace low-skilled jobs. The first people to leave the Navy, much like the first people to leave the fictional company in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, are the engineers and people with technical skills. Others in the chain will take notice, and short of significant business setbacks, people with good skills will bail. Once they have “Gone Galt,” the Navy is going to struggle to find competent leaders.

I used to laugh at movies like “Battleship,” where the only tactics the military seems to use are bum-rush the bad guy with big guns, resembling the often suicidal battle charges from the Civil War. Sadly, that’s what we’re going to get when its not worth it for smart people to stay around.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. All data was publicly available at https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/Career-Management/Boards/Active-Duty-Officer/.

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They’ve Thrown It All Away

4th Doctor: Count, do you realize what will happen if you try to go back to the time before history began?
Count Scarlioni: Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t care one jot.

Doctor Who: City of Death 1979

“Future generations, your own descendants who will rise up after you, as well as the foreigners who will come here from far-off lands, when they see the calamities of this land and the ills with which the LORD has smitten it all its soil being nothing but sulphur and salt, a burnt-out waste, unsown and unfruitful, without a blade of grass, destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his furious wrath they and all the nations will ask,

‘Why has the LORD dealt thus with this land? Why this fierce outburst of wrath?’

And the answer will be, ‘Because they forsook the covenant which the LORD, the God of their fathers, had made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they went and served other gods and adored them, gods whom they did not know and whom he had not let fall to their lot:

Deuteronomy 29:21-25

One of the things that made America different than many other countries has been its institutions and our trust in them.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of Sir Humphrey bureaucrats, plenty of bad teachers, plenty of shady pols, bad cop and the odd incompetent Doctor but as a whole our institutions were trusted and moreover DESERVED OUR TRUST.

This has always been one of the draws of America to people of other lands, particularly people persecuted for their political beliefs.

That is why our foes spent so much time investing in culture, in schools to pervert what children are taught, in movies and news to shape the messages given to the public and in the net to restrict what is allowable to be posted and said.

Some of us tried to fight against these things but were attacked by the left who were determined to see this through, by our own side because they though it would be too “controversial” and obscure an economic message but most of all by the professional political class who thought such a fight would harm their chances of winning and thus securing generational wealth for them and theirs.

A few people put out the warning. Folks like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and to a lesser degree Donald Trump who instead fought the culture war not by pointing out the dangers of the left but of the successes of America and American Culture in a way that had been discouraged everywhere else.

Well that message is now gone, given away by courts unwilling to tackle the steal of an election and what has happened in less than sixty days.

The trust in our institutions is gone. The CDC, the military, the presidency, the press the lot.

Now to be fair the left pushed distrust in the institutions for a while and among but now those of us who defended those institutions has seen those who would use them as a weapon against their political enemies rise to the top It has taken less than twelve months for this to rise to its fullest level.

The biggest of these institutions that have gone for this has been the military.

No other institution in the country had a better reputation, and no wonder, no other military in the history in the world has been used for just and right more than the US military. No other military in the world is more trusted than the US Military and as a rule when the US Military is deployed civilians of whatever country they are deployed to have less to fear than the military of any other (particularly the UN).

More over it was not uncommon for US soldiers at restaurants to find that their tab had been picked up by ordinary citizens not out of fear or intimidation like you might see in a 3rd world tinpot dictatorship but because of the love and respect they enjoyed.

It has taken 240 days for the grifters to take this trust built over 240 years away.

Now the top brass, the ones that were advanced by the Obama administration don’t seem to care. They don’t see the military as an honorable career dedicated to protecting America and Americans but see themselves at the top of a gravy train that’s cashing in. They see us as simply rabble to be controlled and as long as they are rewarded in terms of finances and power they’re indifferent. Their only mission is themselves.

They have followed the other institutions into this same rabbit hole

The real question is what will the junior officers do and will the ones who actually believe in the military’s mission bother to stay? Who will bother to enlist in such an army and what will they do when they can’t get the bodies to sign up?

And again the Army is just one aspect of this problem in government, medicine and academia.

John Adams said that public business has to be done by someone. If we chase out the honest and honorable then then we’ll have what we have.

Our enemies have played this very well.