Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Defenestration of the Ratings



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The Defenestration of the Ratings
// USNI Blog

14523006_612870865559081_753367960923572387_nNow that everyone has absorbed the impact of the announcement last week ditching the Navy ratings system, let's talk about the what and why.

Let us talk as adults. It is the mutually respectful thing to do.

Brush aside the spin, the squid ink, the general excuse making and post-decision 2nd and 3rd order effect justification on why this change was made, for what purpose, and what manner. Things such as giving a job description that will help a Sailor or Marine have a better civilian resume. Really, just stop. No one is buying it, and trust me, as someone who made the transition a bit more than half a decade ago, it won't make a difference in that area.

With some time behind us post-announcement, there is more to discuss. We are lucky in that Mark D. Faram of Navy Times has a thorough, balanced and much needed expose from "behind the scenes of the Navy's most unpopular policy."

The simple answer is this; fed by some of the less intellectual threads from the 3rd Wave Feminist theory that seems to inform much of his ideas on "gender," the SECNAV wanted to grind in his stamp on a pet agenda item before he leaves office.

How it was to be done? That was the question. There was no question of "if."

This action began and ended with the SECNAV and full credit positive or negative belongs firmly there.

Now, let's get in to some of Faram's details.

Good ideas are usually given a nice warm up. This, however, was known from the start that it would be toxic upon delivery. As a result, the delivery was for most as a bolt out of the blue;

Beyond a small working group, convened this past summer and led by then-Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens, next-to no one in the Navy saw this change coming, sources with knowledge of the decision-making process say. And it's been received with near universal contempt by sailors past and present.

In the course of military service, we have all done things we did not agree with, but duty is what duty is. If it is a lawful order, you do it. If it is a nasty bit of work, you try to come up with the least horrible way of doing it while still getting the OK from the boss. This is why I believe that those who oppose the new policy should hold no ill feeling towards those in uniform who were in the group that produced this for approval by the SECNAV. Likewise, those supporting it should not give them credit either. We've all been there, they did the best they could – but the initiating directive came from SECNAV, and if it weren't for him, it would not have happened.

"I felt it was not optional," Stevens said, "but my duty to lead this effort, knowing all along that there would be controversy attached to it." The former MCPON, as the position is known throughout the service, says he believes the move is necessary and that now Navy leaders "must follow through."

The post announcement spin has been a solid effort to define some positive 2nd and 3rd order effects, which there may be, but that is all they are – 2nd and 3rd order effects. Not designed, just byproducts.

Mabus declined to speak with Navy Times. He and other top Navy officials, including Richardson and Burke, have said that the change, while a nod to gender neutrality, will facilitate sailors' professional development and career advancement by freeing them to cross train and attain broader skills spanning multiple specialties. That should make them more marketable when they leave the military, too, they've noted.

Mabus did speak today, and we'll end the post with that, but let's stick to this part of the story for now.

It would be hard to find a more divisive way of making such an announcement that impacts every Sailor.

Much of the frustration tied to Mabus' decision stems from its timing. Most average sailors and deckplate leaders alike don't understand why the announcement was made while so much of the plan remains undeveloped.

Well, many did. There were hints and background warnings over the summer.

Mabus, sources said, was determined to put ratings reform in motion — and on the record — before he leaves office.

The power of the office. Once you have been in a while, you begin to enjoy it and find ways to use it. When you see that power soon leaving with much work left undone, well, time to get moving.

Let's go back to the sausage factory. Direction and guidance was both clear and vague. Interesting how MCPON tried to hobble something workable together.

…while Mabus was focused on removing the word "man" from the Navy's job titles, he never specifically asked for a plan to eliminate rating titles entirely.

The MCPON assembled a working group composed of "about 12" individuals,…

"Course of action number one was simple: Remove man from titles," Stevens said. "What we found was that you could in most cases, remove the word 'man' and replace it with the word specialist or technician…

The second proposal built upon the first and sought to determine whether the job titles in fact aligned with the work being done. An example here is yeoman; it's a historic title, but it was decided that "administrative specialist" was a better fit for the work being performed, …

But none of the changes seemed right, he added. Taken in total, they did not amount to the profound change he felt the Navy needs. That's when Stevens suggested something groundbreaking.

"What if we just eliminated rating titles altogether and simply referred to ourselves by our rate? That's the traditional Navy word for rank. You could feel the air leave the room," he said.

There you go.

In case you are wondering, the article didn't outline well what COA-3 was, but it does not really matter.

"If you want to do just what you asked us to do, here are the rating title changes that need to happen to remove 'man' from those titles. He said 'it's done and it's easy and we can do it tomorrow,'" Stevens said, recalling the conversation with Mabus.

Stevens then outlined the idea of removing all rating titles, telling the secretary that he felt this was the the best proposal for the service. But he followed up with a warning.

"Make no mistake about it," Stevens recalled telling Mabus, "this course of action will be the most labor-intensive, probably the most expensive, certainly the most controversial as well as difficult to accept socially throughout the Navy. But it certainly advances us the furthest."

Mabus "sat there a little bit, pondered it, asked a few questions and then decided, in the best interest of the Navy's future, this was the path he wanted to take," Stevens said.

And that is how a very personal part of our Navy for over two centuries ended.

The pushback was as expected, I assume.

There was "absolutely no signal, no hint that a move of that magnitude was being planned, discussed or soon-to-be forthcoming," said the command master chief, who also spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity. "Our sailors don't understand it. They don't understand why the ratings that they chose to enter have been selected for elimination, and they don't see the need for it."

Actually, there was, but few wanted to believe it. No question now.

"We don't understand why this could not have been a two-to-three year, very gradual process that examined all of the effects from advancement to recruiting, and how it will affect the administration of our Navy on many different levels. It doesn't appear," the CMC said, "that any thought was given to that."

Come on Master Chief, you have to understand why. The focus is all on the calendar, a calendar getting short for the SECNAV.

I know there are many who refuse to accept that this all comes from the SECNAV's desire. Thanks to Hope Hodge Seck's article today on his speech at the National Press Club, SECNAV Mabus underlined his priority and should remove all doubt,

"Ratings names change all the time," Mabus said. "Corpsmen, our medics, that rating came in after World War II. Corpsmen were first called Loblolly Boys, which, I'm not sure where that came from. I thought it was important to be gender-neutral."

In case you aren't fully up to speed, looks like we are losing Corpsman for Medic.

I know. I know.


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