Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
Retaining Our Most Talented
To Fight & Win

More than a year ago, surface force leadership published a collective vision for the future. In their Proceedings article “‘Distributed Lethality,’” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Rear Adm. Pete Gumataotao and Rear Adm. Pete Fanta showed the surface force the way forward into a more offensive-minded, three-point stance, and outlined an operating concept and organizing principle for the future.

Retaining Talent

In the ensuing months, the Chief of Navy Personnel highlighted the necessity to retain our Navy’s top talent and the Secretary of the Navy announced a series of talent-management initiatives under “Sailor 2025,” designed to provide new tools to the retention tool kit.

The confluence of these ideas offers extraordinary opportunity for the future surface force. Our community is translating that opportunity into meaningful action right now. Here is how we are doing it.

A Sea Change

In July 2015, surface warfare leadership made a strong commitment to embrace a new career-management model.

There is no issue with quantity. Surface warfare junior officer ranks are healthy. But are we doing everything possible to retain our most talented officers? We’ve done well in the past, but can we do better?

Option-Based, Agile, Flexible Careers

We are thinking differently and more creatively about our people and how to retain our top talent. Last summer, surface warfare leadership approved a new career structure. Called the “Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) Career Chart,” the structure moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach and toward an option-based strategy. This new approach affords junior officers the opportunity to chart their own course and determine how to best sequence sea and shore duty in a way that meets both their needs and those of their families.

New Tools for Talent Retention

“Sailor 2025” initiatives provide our community with new, powerful tools to enhance and incentivize retention in a competitive market, helping us to retain top talent. These new programs:


 Personnel Readiness


 Combat Readiness


 Material Readiness


 Heritage & Recognition




Develop warriors with advanced graduate education. Through the new Fleet Scholar Education Program, talented junior officers will attend fully funded graduate education at America’s most prestigious civilian institutions.

Broaden opportunity through exposure to America’s top companies. The new SECNAV Tours with Industry Program provides officers with a chance to spend a year in America’s private sector.

Expand opportunities for career intermission. Officers of all backgrounds may apply for career intermission and leave the Navy for a period of up to three years at multiple junctures in the career chart, then return and favorably compete for command and other key milestones.

Reinforce our commitment to dual-military couples. Along the same “family-oriented” line, we are reinforcing and expanding our commitment to military spouse colocation as the standard, rather than the exception.

Investing in Warfighting Expertise

We are investing in junior officers and developing warfighting expertise like never before. Over the past two years, more than 150 SWOs have completed the current Antisubmarine (ASW) and the Integrated Air/Missile Defense (IAMD) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) course. These officers now serve the fleet, where their expertise is increasing the tactical proficiency and warfighting effectiveness of our surface ships and staffs.

Recruiting the Next Generation

In frank terms, we have not historically “recruited SWOs.” But in a war for talent, we must pursue every avenue to maintain a competitive edge, so we are changing the recruiting paradigm for our community. We have to “go active,” identify, reach out, and recruit talent into surface warfare through every accession source.

‘Extraordinary Men and Women’

We have amazing junior officers in our ranks. As a group, they are creative. They lead well. They have vision. They are energized and oriented toward a lifetime of service. The key to maintaining our dominance into the future is retaining these young officers-and hundreds like them-for the longer term.

The rationale for pursuing such an approach is compelling. Our operating environment is growing increasingly complex; the at-sea fight of tomorrow will be challenging and violent. In order to fight and win against a future adversary at sea, we will need the top young talent in America leading that fight as the department heads, commanding officers, and warfare commanders of tomorrow’s fleet. Surface Warfare Magazine

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