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Frequently Asked Questions

Navy Personnel Command > Organization > BUPERS > Survey Policy > Frequently Asked Questions

Survey Respondents

Special Cases

Web Surveys

Purpose of Approvals

Submission Process/Materials






Survey Respondents

Whom am I allowed to survey?

Current regulations allow active duty members, reservists (both SELRES and members of the IRR), and civilian employees to be surveyed. Also, retirees, spouses, and family members may be surveyed if the survey pertains to Navy/military issues. Under current regulations, government contractors who do not fall into one of these categories may not be surveyed unless additional approval is obtained through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and through their contracting organization.

Can I survey Navy spouses?

If the survey pertains to Navy/military issues, you may be able to survey Navy spouses. Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager with details of your planned survey for a final determination.

Can I survey Navy civilians?

If the survey pertains to Navy/military issues, you may be able to survey Navy civilians. Surveys of Navy civilians often also require review by relevant unions.  Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager with details of your planned survey for a final determination.

Can I survey Navy contractors?

Navy contractors are NOT covered by this instruction, unless they are spouses or retirees and the survey is about Navy/military issues. Any survey conducted by a federal employee/entity of Navy contractors must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Approval would also be required from the Contractor’s organization.  Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager for assistance.

Can I survey Navy retirees?

If the survey pertains to Navy/military issues or issues specific to Navy retirees (availability of services, etc.), you may be able to survey Navy retirees. Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager with details for a final determination.

Can I survey other services?

Surveys that involve personnel from the Marine Corps alone need permission from the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer.  Contact the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer at 703-784-9367.  Surveys that involve personnel from both the Navy and the Marine Corps need approval from both the Navy Survey Approval Manager and the Marine Corps Survey Control Officer. If you intend to survey members of other services in addition to Navy and Marine Corps (Army, Air Force), you may require Department of Defense survey review and approval. You should contact Head, Personnel Surveys and Program Evaluation Division, Defense Manpower Data Center, at (571) 372-0987.


Special Cases

I am only surveying 100 people; do I need approval?

Generally, yes, approval is required but there are exceptions (e.g., if the survey is restricted to a single command). You should submit a short description of your project (purpose, target population, number to be sampled, intended use of data) so that a determination can be made of whether this effort requires Navy-wide survey review and approval.

Do I need approval for a survey that is restricted to a single command?

Generally speaking, no survey approval is needed, however you should contact us at (901) 874-2256 of (901) 874-4633 (DSN 882) to discuss before assuming that approval is unnecessary.  Even if a survey does not need formal Navy approval, participation still needs to be voluntary and the individual responses need to be confidential.

Do I need approval for customer satisfaction surveys?

On-site or other customer satisfaction surveys may be eligible for a waiver from formal Navy survey approval.  Contact us with a short description and we will decide if approval is required.

Do I need approval to do interviews?

If interviews are being conducted of 10 or more people or of multiple commands, approval is generally required.

Do I need approval to do focus groups?

If focus groups are being conducted with a total of 10 or more people or of multiple commands, approval is generally required.  If the focus groups are part of developing items for a subsequent survey, they may be allowed as long as the final survey is submitted for approval.

Do I need approval to do a survey of the course I am teaching?

Course evaluation surveys are exempt as long as the survey deals with the course content or course presentation. Course impact evaluations may also be exempt. Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager/Deputy with specifics for a final determination.


Web Surveys

Do I need review and approval for a web survey?

From an approval standpoint, the same rules that apply for paper surveys also apply for web surveys.  The submission package for a web survey should include details about how access to the survey will be limited to Navy personnel (e.g., use of a password).

Is a password required on a web-enabled survey?

Navy regulations requires that web surveys only be conducted on private sites, unless you obtain OMB approval. A way to accomplish this might be to put the survey on a site that requires the common access card (CAC) to access. Another option would be to use usernames/passwords. Passwords also prevent the same person from completing the survey multiple times and can be used to allow respondents to finish the survey in multiple sessions. The same passwords may be used for all participants while having unique usernames.

Can command or Department of Navy websites collect personal information such as name, address, and phone number as part of a survey?

If you are collecting information on a page or a site behind some kind of filtering (i.e., CAC), you may be able to collect this information. However, you will need to check with your Privacy Officer to determine if there are issues related to the Privacy Act or collection of PII.

Can I use SurveyMonkey (or similar hosted site) to administer my survey?

SurveyMonkey is a popular commercial website that allows for hosting of web surveys at low cost.  While there are no specific regulations prohibiting use of SurveyMonkey for Navy surveys, it is strongly recommended that surveys containing sensitive or potentially identifying information NOT be administered on SurveyMonkey or other commercial survey sites that do not conform to Navy IA and IT security regulations.  Since the data will be stored on commercial servers there is increased risk of harm or embarrassment if the data are somehow compromised.  Additional disclaimers are required for surveys on commercially-hosted websites.



Purpose of approvals

Why is approval needed to conduct surveys?

OPNAV Instruction 5300.8C mandates the review and approval of Navy surveys.  Approval is needed for several reasons, among which are the need to ensure that surveys do not interfere with operations, that a Sailor's time is spent on surveys that are beneficial to the Navy, that surveys do not duplicate previous efforts, and that surveys are technically and scientifically sound.

What is an RCS number?

RCS stands for Report Control Symbol and indicates that you have Navy approval and license to administer the survey. The RCS number needs to be included in the Privacy Act statement of all versions of the survey along with the expiration date.

Why do you need to do a technical review of my survey?

We evaluate the scientific and technical merit of surveys. Typically, we do the technical review but if needed will enlist the assistance of outside reviewers. The technical review is a required part of the survey review and approval process.


Submission Process/Materials

Whom should I contact to begin the application process?

Contact the the Deputy Navy Survey Approval Manager at (901) 874-2256 (DSN 882) or the Navy Survey Approval Manager at (901) 874-4633 (DSN 882).

Does the endorsement letter need to be signed by an Admiral/SES?

That is the preferable way to proceed - if that is not possible, then the next highest person in the chain of command may sign.

Do I need approval from a Protection of Human Subjects board or an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

Many Navy-wide surveys also require Protection of Human Subjects review in addition to Navy survey approval.  According to SECNAVINST 3900.39D (Human Research Protection Program), "The Navy Survey Approval Manager may require IRB review of the survey instrument prior to gaining approval."  Submit your application and we will determine if IRB review is warranted.

How do I determine (for the required cost estimates) how much Sailors of a given paygrade make per hour?

That information is provided automatically as you complete that section of the form.

To whom should I send my application materials?

Email your complete submission package to BOTH the Navy Survey Approval Manager and the Deputy Navy Survey Approval Manager.

How long does it take to obtain approval once the application materials are submitted?

Once all materials are complete and have been submitted, we should review them within two weeks. However, additional time may be required if the survey/materials need to be reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (which is tasked to protect the rights of human subjects) or if the survey is an N1 survey (which may need to be reviewed by CNP and could take an additional month).




What software can I use to do a survey?

No software package is required to conduct a Navy survey. However, software to be used on Navy machines is governed by IA and IT regulations. Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager for the latest list. You may use commercially available services (e.g., SurveyMonkey), however additional disclaimers are required for these and they may not be used for operationally sensitive surveys.  For more details on software for doing surveys, please contact your IT shop or contact the Survey Approval Manager/Deputy at (901) 874-2256 or (901) 874-4633 (DSN 882).

Can I offer incentives for completing my survey?

Incentives are NOT allowed. They violate the "dual compensation" rule since approved Navy surveys are allowed to be completed during work hours. Also, since not everyone in a command is selected for a survey, it would be unfair to offer an incentive just to those who are selected. Contact the Navy Survey Office or your legal office for advice.

May I administer a survey to Navy personnel for my thesis/dissertation?

Such requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A primary criterion is the relevance of the survey to a Navy-related issue or problem. It is important to have a Navy sponsor for any thesis/dissertation involving Navy personnel.

Do you have a pool of items that have been used in the past that we can use?

We have electronic copies of recent Navy and DoD personnel surveys that we would be happy to share. Please contact us with question topics of interest.

If the Navy Survey Approval Manager determines that our survey does not need approval, are there still standards that have to be met?

If demographic information is being collected (e.g., name, paygrade, gender, race), then a Privacy Act statement is required. If individuals are identified or the project is part of a research effort, then review by an Institutional Review Board may also be required. If the survey will be administered through the web, additional web policies apply.  These standards will be covered by the Navy Survey Approval Manager when notifying you that approval is not needed.  In all cases, participation in Navy surveys must be voluntary and the individual responses kept confidential.  In virtually all cases, the results of Navy surveys should be aggregated and NOT reported in groups of less than 5.

My survey uses non-traditional means to collect the data (cell phone, iPod Touch, etc.). Do I still need approval?

Surveys require review and approval, regardless of the method being used to gather the data.

Are there additional reviews that I need to obtain?

In addition to Navy Survey Approval, you may need to obtain Protection of Human Subjects Approval as discussed above.  Also, in January 2010, the Chief of Naval Personnel required that all surveys being sponsored or conducted within N1 receive additional approval from N1B. Contact the Navy Survey Approval Manager for how this part of the approval process works. For surveys outside of N1, the additional requirement is to have your PAO and JAG review the survey and indicate that the survey is not objectionable from their perspective.  This can be done in an email that is sent to the Navy Survey Approval Manager and the Deputy Navy Survey Approval Manager.


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