A healthy U.S. economy -- the unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in 18 years -- means the Navy is facing stiff competition from the private sector, and even the other military services, for talent. Plus, more than 70 percent of Americans of prime recruiting age are ineligible to serve, due to issues such as criminal records, obesity and lack of a high school diploma or GED, according to Pentagon data.
"As the economy improves, we compete," Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said. "The game is now in our court to do the best we can to have the tools that we need to recruit, train and retain the best that our country has to offer."
Spencer addressed military scholars Tuesday as part of the Naval War College's annual, two-day Current Strategy Forum in Newport, R.I. The heads of the Navy and Marine Corps spoke earlier in the day.
Congress has given the Navy flexibility to test new ways to retain personnel. Earlier in the year, the Navy announced a new program to allow sailors who leave the service to rapidly re-enlist within a few years, if they chose to do so. The service is also entertaining the idea of hiring mid-career professionals from the private sector for various job areas such as cyber warfare.
"We have to start thinking like this because we are competing in a very competitive pond when it comes to these resources," Spencer said.
Currently, the Navy is about 11,000 sailors short of what it needs, and will need about 50,000 more sailors to support its goal of a 355-ship fleet. It has 283 ships today.
In southeastern Connecticut, officials are estimating an additional 500 families will move to the area due to an uptick in submarine construction.
President Donald Trump requested $686.1 billion for the military in his budget proposal for next year. Adm. John Richardson, head of the Navy, noted in his remarks earlier in the day that he is revising, and will soon release, a strategic memo from January 2016 given the Navy is receiving more funding that it anticipated. Meanwhile, Spencer is in the midst of an audit examining how the Navy spends its money. National defense strategy focuses heavily on maritime assets.
This article is written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.