One message from division officers in the fleet was very clear: As we cut manpower and budgets, but keep our level of commitments largely unchanged, the squeeze is felt very painfully at the deck-plate level. Most will agree that our administrative burden has increased steadily over past decades. As a unit's manning slips lower, the remaining crew must work harder to fulfill administrative requirements, which now are scrutinized even more closely in an effort to look better to those up the chain of command.
We saw enormous frustration because of the increased workload caused by gapped or cut billets, drops in repair parts and supply support, and dishonest readiness reporting. Many JOs described increasing difficulty in getting repair parts in a timely manner; parts frequently were removed from nondeployed aircraft and ships so others could sail with all required equipment. Some didn't receive replacements until after training cycle work-ups and were unable to train with certain pieces of vital equipment prior to deployment. Yet readiness was reported as C-1.
Instead of seeing their senior leaders standing up to address these problems, they are turning on the news to hear, "Our readiness has never been higher," and "We can support 2.0 carrier presence in Central Command as long as we need to."
These junior officers acknowledge that we must answer the nation's call, but they feel we also must show what missions we can continue to perform with our shrinking resources. We need to see our senior leaders explain to Congress that the costs of "doing more with less" are being paid with checks written on the backs of our people.
Heartbreaking comments were made by JOs on board several forward-deployed ships: "You come out here and talk to us, as many other flag officers have, but we don't see any action. You may care, but nobody in D.C. does." And, "We keep saying we're going to stop doing more with less, but I haven't seen it happen yet." Or, "At home, our squadrons can hardly fly: we don't have the parts, the aircraft, or the flight hours."
RADM John T. Natter
Listening to Junior Officers