Quality of Service at Issue for Sailors, Greenert Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 The Navy made some difficult choices while crafting its portion of the 2015 presidential budget proposal, the chief of naval operations told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Ninety percent of the reductions in that proposal were focused on procurement, force structure, infrastructure, acquisition and modernization, Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert said. “The area of last choice that we addressed in the budget was cost-growth of our pay and compensation,” he added.
The admiral was joined in his testimony by his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the Joint Chiefs chairman, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and the vice chairman, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr.
After spending a year traveling around the fleet, Greenert said, the vast majority of sailors and families told him they believe their total compensation packages are comparable with their civilian counterparts.
“Let me be clear: I don't believe our sailors are overpaid, nor do they believe that,” the admiral said. “Our sailors and families are not enthusiastic about our compensation reform. But they were clear to us that their quality of service, their work environment, needs to improve.”
Service members understand that in the current fiscal situation, the military services face difficult choices, Greenert told the Senate panel. “We can't have it all,” he said. “The reality within this given budget is that … we can't sustain our current personnel cost trajectory, and we need to address this problem sooner than later.”
Total force personnel costs consume about 40 percent of the Navy’s budget -- up from 32 percent in 2000 -- and that share continues to increase, the admiral said. “In fact, since 2001, we reduced Navy's end-strength 60,000 sailors,” he added. “But the growth in personnel costs alone consumes 60 percent of those savings. … And that's been a burden on our ability to balance our investments.”
The Defense Department’s compensation reform proposals would save the Navy $123 million in 2015 and $3.1 billion over five years, Greenert said. The savings would be reinvested into sailor quality-of-service enhancements, the admiral noted.
“And that includes increasing sea pay and critical-skills incentive pays to assure retention; improving 30 barracks, training buildings, morale, welfare and recreation and fitness centers; constructing barracks fitness centers and trainers; providing schools and travel for about 7,500 sailors; purchasing tactical trainers and simulators; purchasing spare parts, improved tools; and providing more maintenance opportunities,” the chief of naval operations said.
If Congress doesn’t approve all of the recommended compensation reforms, he said, the Navy would face an additional $4 billion in costs resulting from military pay raises reverting to the employment cost index. This would oblige the service to reduce readiness, shipbuilding and aircraft procurement even further, Greenert noted.
“We cannot afford the equivalent of another basically $7 billion bill,” the admiral said. “Our Navy would be less ready, less modern and less able to execute the missions outlined in our defense strategic guidance and the Quadrennial Defense Review.”
Congress has reached the time for tough decisions, Greenert said, but it also is a time for opportunity.
“Not seizing the initiative now means billions of dollars of additional costs on other programs that we can ill afford,” he said. “And given our current situation, I think it's necessary to better balance our sailors' needs to ensure our Navy remains forward and, more importantly, ready where it matters, when it matters.”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)