U.S. Navy’s Top Officer Assesses Effects of “Set and Drift” on Navy

U.S. Navy's Top Officer Assesses Effects of "Set and Drift" on Navy

While generally satisfied with the progress of the service, the Navy’s top officer is using his latest position report to assess the effects of “set and drift” on the status of the U.S. Navy.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert spoke about his report – issued on October 31 – during a roundtable with reporters in his Pentagon office the day after.

Set and drift at sea “is current, it’s wind, it’s things you didn’t think about – something that takes you a little bit off,” he said. “Then you deal with it, you adjust a bit, and you move on ahead.”

Position Report: 2012 addresses what the Navy needs to work on, the admiral said. The report is based on the three tenets of the service: “Warfighting first, operate forward and be ready.”

Much of what the service planned when Greenert came into his position last year, he said, is on track.

The Navy has reinforced aid to warfighters by deploying new mine hunting and neutralizing equipment to the Arabian Gulf, and also has fielded improved torpedoes, advanced electromagnetic sensors and up-gunned patrol craft in the region. And the USS Ponce (LPD 15) is deployed to the region as a forward staging base.

The Navy and Marine Corps are working to reinvigorate amphibious warfare skills, Greenert said. In the past year, 25 ships and 14,000 Sailors and Marines honed those skills in Exercise Bold Alligator, he noted.

Operating forward has meant an increasing number of ships and sailors deploying, the admiral said. The Navy has made progress in rebalancing ships’ homeports to 60 percent in the Pacific and 40 percent in the Atlantic, rather than the 50-50 split that was the norm before a shift in strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

Being ready has meant filling billets on ships. The Navy has improved advancement and re-enlistment opportunities across the board by reducing overmanned ratings and revising re-enlistment processes to ensure fairness, the admiral said in his report.

An enlisted retention board also affected the service. “The impact of it, what we needed to do, the marketing of it, making sure it’s transparent, making sure we give our folks every opportunity to do a deliberate transition for them” are important and must be accomplished, the admiral said.

The board was needed “to get our fit right – to get our people in billets at sea where they need to be, [with] the right skill set, with the right seniority in the right rating,” he explained. The admiral said the Navy will not conduct another enlisted retention board during his watch.

Greenert said he expects the Navy will fill the personnel gaps and will have the right mix for the fleet, and that the effort would be complete in September.

But “set and drift” did affect the service over the past year, Greenert acknowledged.

“The thing that we didn’t foresee a year ago was the level of [operational tempo] that the Navy has,” he said. “Mainly, it is the request for forces that extended past their deployments.” The need for two carriers in the Arabian Gulf, four extra minesweepers in the Arabian Gulf and more helicopters in the region was “not anticipated to continue as long,” he added.

Looking ahead, Greenert said, he will reinstate tracking of individual operational tempo. “This is important for the overall health of the force,” he said.

Another area that needs more attention, the admiral said, is the crime of sexual assault. “The number of events being reported has not declined, and I’m not satisfied,” he said. “There will be a renewed emphasis. I like the strategy we have in place. I am satisfied that the track laid out by the Navy is good, but I personally am going to put more attention on that.”

The number of suicides in the Navy is creeping up, “and we don’t know why,” Greenert said.

“We need to work on that — work on the resilience of our folks, make sure the programs we are putting in place are properly implanted and getting to the people who need them,” he said.

Greenert said he will issue more position reports as warranted.

Naval Today Staff, November 2, 2012; Image: US Navy