Here’s a quick check on deployment lengths over the last few years. Shown below is the percentage of deployments that exceeded 6 months and, in parentheses, the longest deployment for that year.
2008 12% (7 months)
2010 35% (8 months)
2012 56% (10.5 months)
The data is taken from the annual USNI Proceedings Naval Review issue for the corresponding year. There is a bit of ambiguity in some of the reported deployments and the data isn’t complete but it shouldn’t change the percentages more than a few points one way or the other.
The data clearly shows that deployments are still trending sharply upward despite the attention that CNO says is being paid to the issue. While the Navy claims that re-enlistments have not been markedly affected it is reasonable to assume that there is an upper limit beyond which it will have an effect.
Further, the rate of cross-decking of personnel which effectively doubles deployment lengths is also increasing significantly. CNO and MCPON have stated that they are watching this trend closely. I would offer CNO this free bit of advice: stop watching and start doing something about it!
CNO has stated that average deployments will increase to around 8 months with some scheduled for 8-10 months. The impact on family life and subsequent re-enlistment rates seems obvious.
Deployment lengths are increasing because the fleet is shrinking while demand from the Combatant Commanders is increasing. Despite this obvious mismatch between demand and resources, the Navy remains firmly on a construction/retirement path leading to a continually shrinking fleet. Does this make sense to anyone?