12/21/2016
Surface Warfare: A Year in Review

SURFOR
As we welcome 2017 and open a new chapter in our Surface Warfare story, we look back at the banner year that was 2016. Many longtime efforts came to fruition and started paying dividends to the Surface community. From midshipmen to division officers, department heads and beyond, new policies and new initiatives improved our opportunities, our flexibility and our community overall.

The Midshipman Early Ship Selection Initiative was piloted over the summer and fleet response was outstanding. A total of 18 midshipmen, 10 from the Naval Academy and 8 from NROTC performed so well on their first class cruises that commanding officers offered them the chance to return as ensigns. The midshipmen still have time to decide whether or not to take the offer or select a different ship with the rest of their peers, but at the time of this writing six had accepted their ship’s invitation. This initiative places emphasis on “Superior Performance at Sea” even at the midshipman level – elevating the first class cruise to a potential job interview.

The NROTC ship selection process continued its evolution last fall as we incorporated a video chat option between the midshipman and detailers. Tested with only the first five midshipmen in spring 2016, this option was open to every one of the 62 midshipmen who selected their ship in November. A step forward from our traditional “phone in” option, this takes ship selection another step into the 21st century, putting a “face to the name” between midshipman and detailer. The day following ship selection, commands were also provided contact information to reach out to their new shipmates and welcome them to the fleet; many even received calls directly from their future commanding officers.

 

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Surface Warfare is also proud to lead the way in promoting new and exciting opportunities for our junior officers. These new opportunities are seen as force multipliers when leading Sailors and operating ships at sea. Opportunities such as the Fleet Scholar Education Program (FSEP) and SECNAV Tours with Industry (TWI) have officers studying at prestigious institutions like Harvard and working at corporations like Apple and LinkedIn. Every one of these officers is gaining valuable experiences that will enable our fleet to fight and operate at the next level. The opportunities for junior officers have never been more wide spread in quality and quantity, and the fleet is responding. The level of talent among the officers who applied for these coveted spots during the most recent Talent Management Board was truly incredible. Those selected for these programs are among the best of the best of what Surface Warfare has to offer. Participation in these programs is truly an investment in the community’s future.

The Department Head Retention Bonus (DHRB) came online in September and is a new way to think about attracting and retaining our Navy’s top talent. DHRB is the first pay for performance bonus in the DoD and it rewards junior officers for their superior performance at sea. This tiered incentive program ensures those who screen for department head at the earliest career opportunity – their first look, which usually occurs after reaching three years of commissioned service – are eligible to receive three extra payments of $10,000 a year for an ultimate total bonus of $105,000. Officers screening on their second look will receive two incentive payments of $10,000 each in addition to the standard bonus of $75,000 for a bonus totaling $95,000. Those screening a year later on their third look will receive a standard base bonus of $75,000. To date, our community’s top talent is already making the commitment – 171 contracts have been signed from year group 2012 and 70 contracts submitted from year group 2013.

This year we introduced the first plans and tactics officers (PTO) into select ships across the fleet. This additional first-tour department head was a shakeup to traditional ship department head manning, but fleet response has been overwhelmingly positive regarding the impact PTO has on the wardroom and the ship. PTOs are not just another department head, but another department head who is trained in the Navy Planning Process at the Maritime Staff Operators Course at the Naval War College, who is trained at the Undersea Warfare (USW) Command Course at Fleet Anti-Submarine (ASW) Center and finally, who is trained at a course specifically designed for PTOs taught by Naval Surface Warfare Development Command (NSWDC), the same organization that trains the fleet’s warfare tactics instructors (WTIs). These department heads possess an operational planning expertise and skillset that commanders worldwide demand and will prove vital in the years to come. PTOs have been assigned to 25 ships with an expected increase to 46 ships by the end of 2017, with the intent to have them on all ships in the fleet by 2019.

Last year also saw significant changes to overall department head distribution across the fleet through a series of manning initiatives designed to optimize our department head experience in key billets at sea. We’ve revitalized efforts to maintain department head tour lengths to 18 months each and all Afloat Training Group (ATG) engineering assessor billets and Network-centric Warfare (NCW)/Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) billets have been changed from second tour department heads to post department heads. Addressing fleet concerns about older engineering plants in Flight I DDGs, the chief engineer tour is now a single, longer, 36-month tour and has been coupled with a spot promote to lieutenant commander. Additionally, we’ve piloted ending the weapons-combat systems officer (WEPS-CSO) fleet up in Aegis ships in favor of allowing the commanding officer to decide which department head they “fleet-up” to CSO. These targeted changes didn’t only come to our cruiser/destroyer (CRUDES) ships, we’ve also retooled our department head sequencing on our amphibious ships. Making the amphibious squadron (PHIBRON) N3 billet a post department head tour and landing helicopter dock (LHD) navigators second tour department heads keeps our critical amphibious experience in ship’s company leading Sailors and operating ships at sea. The good news isn’t just for surface warfare officers (1110s) – we’ve also made mine countermeasures ships (MCM) and dock landing ships (LSD) chief engineers limited duty officers, keeping our vital engineering experience where it belongs – at sea.

It has never been a better time to be a SWO – our community has established itself as the Department of Defense’s premier organization for career flexibility, immediate leadership, graduate education, and adventure. We value each and every one of our officers and continue to strive to foster an environment where they can grow personally and professionally and where everyone feels their contribution is valued. I look forward to expanding on the already wide range of opportunities available to our officers and to what 2017 has in store!

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