Does the current 20th century Navy personnel management system meet 21st century sailors' needs?

William Daniel Ferree, Salve Regina University


In the 1970's, the U.S. Navy's leadership realized it was facing impending personnel shortages. These shortages would result from the end of conscription and a nation-wide shortfall of available males ages 18–23 in the U.S. To lessen the effects of these changes several management initiatives were introduced including competitive wage increases and introducing ship designs requiring fewer people by using more technology targeted to lessen repetitive labor intensive work. In the 1980's, the military build-up began to accentuate personnel problems of recruiting and retention in an All-Volunteer Force. However, severe personnel shortages were avoided, because the Soviet Union dissolved, greatly reducing the threat of war, the consequent need for ships, and the personnel to operate them. Technology changes in the Navy have continued to evolve at an unforeseen pace producing an unintended consequence of dramatically reducing total personnel while sharply increasing the need for high-tech personnel. Unfortunately, Navy personnel planners are still using 20th century tools to manage this 21st century challenge. A statistical examination was conducted on data gathered by the Department of Defense's 1999 Survey of Active Duty Personnel. The focus of this examination was to compare high-tech personnel with those who do more labor intense work. Results showed that high-tech personnel do not make their retention decisions based simply on monetary factors, though no doubt overall compensation is important to these specialized sailors. Current models are dominantly based on 20th century economic assumptions designed to recruit and retain sailors for labor intensive occupations. The current management system must move away from a primarily econometric based system to one that views personnel management issues in a more holistic manner. Recommendations are made in three areas: Education, Quality of Life, and Career Management. In sum, if the nation does not desire to return to conscription or to solve Navy personnel issues through excessive compensation, personnel management changes must be made to make high-tech sailors easier to recruit, happier while serving, and more likely to make the Navy part of their career plans.

Subject Area

Management|Public administration|Statistics|Labor relations

Recommended Citation

Ferree, William Daniel, "Does the current 20th century Navy personnel management system meet 21st century sailors' needs?" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3114589.