Sailors and Marines line up in formation before an all-hands call on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship Boxer in September. The Navy said Oct. 25 it has no intention of using involuntary separations this year. (MCSN Conor Minto/Navy)
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Navy officials are insisting that involuntary separations of sailors would be unlikely this year, despite looming budget cuts.
“Navy leadership has no intention of using involuntary separations as a way of offsetting budget cuts,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel, in a statement to Navy Times.
While cuts to the service will cause reduced Navy numbers “over time,” Servello said, “we do not intend to force sailors out as a way of dealing with budget reductions.”
Servello issued this statement Friday in light of a Military.com report that quoted Robert Hale, the Defense Department’s chief financial officer, as saying that reduction-in-force orders were likely in the Navy.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban said Hale’s comments were misrepresented. Hale said that RIFs in the Navy could be a possibility — not that they were likely, Urban said, citing the interview transcript. A message left with Military.com reporter Tom Philpott was not immediately returned.
During the interview, Urban said, Hale also acknowledged not having the specific budget plans for the Navy.
After the Hale story posted online, Navy public affairs officials worked quickly to clarify the message in hopes of avoiding undue stress on sailors.
Involuntary separation is a divisive issue between sailors and leadership, especially after two enlisted retention boards held in 2011 led to broken contracts for nearly 3,000 sailors. About 300 sailors continue to fight the Navy in civil court over their firing.
Leadership has repeatedly said it has no plans to conduct another ERB.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert has tried to instill in sailors that any manning cuts in the future will be directly tied to the amount of ships and equipment the Navy has to staff.
“The reduction of our manpower associated with such a future where we reduce forces is completely connected to our force structure,” Greenert said in September. “What I mean by that is, we man equipment. That’s the principle in the Navy with regard to manpower where some of the other services, they equip their manning. It’s all about where our people are. And we have it about right now. We’re just about where I want to be on the number of people per unit. So it’s about retiring units, if you will, if you want to get a lot of savings out there as opposed to reducing people.”
So if not involuntary separations, how will the Navy reduce numbers?
Leadership is “confident that, if needed, we can achieve any required cuts through a combination of slowing accessions and voluntary outs,” Servello said.