Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Navy Manpower History

This is a companion piece to the previous post, “Naval Budget History”, in which we demonstrated that Navy budgets are at nearly record high levels despite the Navy’s dreaded bogeyman, sequestration.  In other words, the Navy is lying about the lack of money.

Moving on, the Navy whines incessantly about the lack of money, lack of manpower, and lack of money for manpower.  To hear the Navy tell it, we simply can’t afford large crews and that’s why the fleet is gapped to the tune of about 7000 billets.  In fact, one of the contributing causes of the recent collisions involving the Burkes was manpower shortages.  Along the same line, you’ll recall that one of the contributing factors in the Port Royal’s grounding a few years ago was manpower shortages that resulted in the lookouts working in the galley rather than standing lookout watch.

Is the Navy really that short of manpower?  Is it really impossible to pay for adequate numbers of sailors to man the ships?

As with the budget, let’s look at the Navy’s manpower history.  Below is a table of Navy personnel numbers presented by year with the fleet size also shown.  The Avg Crew column is the ratio of personnel to ships – the theoretical average crew size of the fleet.  Yes, it’s not an actual average crew size because not every person in the Navy is assigned to a ship – there are shore positions that have to be filled.  Still, it gives a consistent basis of comparison.  The last column shows some selected basic monthly pay salaries in FY18 dollars for an E-4 with 2+ years experience.  


Year   Manpower      Fleet Size   Avg Crew  Basic Pay

1960    616,987 (1)   812 ships     760
1965    669,985 (1)   880 ships     761       1621 (4)
1970    691,126 (1)   743 ships     930
1975    535,085 (1)   559 ships     957
1980    527,153 (1)   530 ships     994       2029 (4)
1985    570,705 (1)   571 ships     999
1990    579,417 (1)   570 ships    1016       1838 (4)
1995    435,617 (1)   392 ships    1111
2000    373,193 (2)   318 ships    1173       2016 (4)
2005    362,941 (2)   282 ships    1287
2010    328,303 (2)   288 ships    1140       2272 (4)
2015    323,600 (3)   271 ships    1194       2252 (4)


What jumps out is that the theoretical average crew size has actually INCREASED over the years rather than decreased as the Navy would have us believe.  In fact, theoretical average crew size is at nearly record high levels.  Compare the crew size today to the 1960’s, for example.  We have 57% more manpower per ship now than in the ‘60’s and yet we have 7000 gapped billets in the fleet.  Worse, the Navy is cutting crew size to dangerously low levels in an effort to minimally man ships and save some money.

Do I have to spell out what’s going on here?

The Navy has a larger proportion of non-ship-assigned personnel now than ever before.  That’s a manpower management issue, pure and simple, and yet the Navy wants to blame sequestration and budget limits for the lack of manpower instead of their own bloated bureaucracy.

Let’s look at affordability.  The Navy claims they can’t afford larger crews.  Of course, a quick glance at the table shows that Navy manpower levels were twice as high in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s as now.  How did we afford a Navy with twice the manpower then – and more ships?  Simple – we budgeted for it because it was a priority.  Today, the Navy is sinking more and more of the budget into ship construction because ships cost more – a $15B+ carrier????  No wonder the Navy says they can’t afford manpower – it’s all going to pay for shiny new toys that are breaking the bank!

What about pay rates?  Maybe sailors earned far less in previous decades and today's sailors cost more?  The pay rate data shows that while pay in the '60's was significantly less, pay has been pretty constant since at least the '80's when we had far larger manpower and ship numbers so that's not the reason why we have manpower funding issues today.

Relative to the fleet size, the Navy has more manpower now than they ever have in the last several decades.  There is no excuse for gapped billets in the fleet.  There is also no shortage of money for manpower.  We’ve operated far larger fleets and manpower in the past with no problem.  What’s changed is the incredibly poor manpower management of today’s Navy.  This is just one more reason CNO Richardson needs to be fired.


Note:  This post was updated on 22-Feb-2018 to add a column and paragraph for historical pay rates.

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(3)Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2015 Budget

28 comments:

  1. The number of Navy pilots has also shrunk significantly over that time period too. The only legitimate non-sailing personnel increase over this period would be SEALs but they cant number more than a few thousand at the most.

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    Replies
    1. Naval Special Warfare Command is 9000 military personnel and 1200 civilians
      https://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671462.pdf

      Delete
  2. Add a column for the quantity of admirals if you want to bite for real.

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    1. Yeah, that was my first thought, how many admirals per ship do we have.

      The tooth to tail ratio is completely off.

      Delete
    2. What is truly shocking is the number of 4 or 5 star generals in the USA/USAF (Army Air Corps) during WWII compared with today.

      George Marshall (Chief of Staff, USA - five stars)
      =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
      Douglas MacArthur (four stars)
      Dwight Eisenhower (four stars)
      Malin Craig (four stars)
      Hap Arnold (four stars)
      Joeseph Stillwell (four stars)

      These six men commanded 11.2 million men soldiers until March 1944 (the USA added 11 four star generals in 1945).

      Today the USA has eleven (11!) active duty four star generals for an active force of ~0.411 million soldiers.

      There was some rumbling in Congress and the senate about lopping off 25% of the U.S. flag officers.

      https://taskandpurpose.com/us-military-many-generals/

      GAB

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    3. Active personnel of U.S.armed forces is almost 1.3 million. This includes the USCG, but still shows that your "~0.411 million" is way off.

      Delete
    4. SO, I believe GAB is referring to US Army (USArmy) when he cites active duty manpower which is, indeed, 400,000+. I'll let GAB explain further if I've misunderstood this.

      The Navy's runaway Admiral explosion mirrors the Army. Current Admiral numbers are around 270 which is actually down from around 320 a few years ago. Still, that's just about an Admiral for every ship in the Navy!

      Delete
    5. "Malin Craig (four stars)"

      Interestingly, of that short list, Gen. Craig wasn't really a combat General. He served in a personnel function after being recalled to active duty. So, as far as conducting combat, there were only four four-star Generals which makes GAB's point all the more noteworthy.

      Delete
    6. @SO

      For clarity, I am referring to the current active U.S. Army component - the FY2018 number is increased and is now 476,000.

      Note: the WWII date includes the Army Air Corps so we should actually deduct one WWII general (Arnold) or add in the current USAF four stars as well as the active USAF force, but that would make things much worse.

      The inflation at the command level is equally spectacular and is quoted at 1 general officer per 400 troops deployed!

      The real problem is not flag officers, but the staffs that come with them. The U.S. should focus dismantling staffs, particularly the "supporting" service component command staffs under the COCOMs (e.g. NAVEUR). These are a huge bastion of inter-service parochialism, Besides, where do you think the Combatant Commander turns to vet weapon system requirements - the service components commands! Literally Military Department "X" (Army, Navy, Air Force) drafts a mission needs statement for a weapon, which flows through the Joint Staff and is sent to the Unified Combatant Commander for comment, who turns to the service component staff for technical advice, and then responds back to the Joint Staff, who then comment to the Military Departments - rarely with substantive comment.

      GAB

      Delete
    7. General Craig, essentially served a role that we would now consider as an assistant or under secretary serving on Stimson's Personnel Board.

      https://armyhistory.org/general-malin-craig/

      GAB

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  3. What is the average wage bill per person now as compared to then?

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    1. A very good question. I'll see if I can find any information.

      Delete
    2. I've updated the post with a bit of pay information. Check it out.

      Delete
    3. I looked up the historical military wages and compared them to average incomes in the country as whole not too long ago. They have fluctuated a bit over time, but if anything, they are a little lower comparatively than they have been.

      Delete
    4. " a little lower comparatively than they have been"

      What conclusion do you draw from that?

      Delete
  4. Reading below it would appear that approx. two thirds of SWO's land based and only one third on ships if interpreting correctly, would this ratio be similar to 1960.

    "The Navy is looking to slash the time surface warfare officers spend on shore in a bid to boost seamanship skills and prevent them from atrophying during rear echelon assignments.
    Vice Adm. Rich Brown aims to address concerns // following last summer’s fatal collisions in Asia, which concluded that SWOs were getting insufficient ship-handling experience and that their skills degrade during long shore assignments.
    Today the average officer spends about 5.3 years between his or her department head tour and fleet-up tour, Brown said, but the aim is to cut that time to 4.5 years."

    From

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  5. Not that I like to suggest more work for you, but it would also be interesting to look at the tonnage of the ships and putting together some sort of ratio to get a better apples to apples check. The 1980 fleet included a significant number of frigates. Pound to pound, I would expect that today's have less manpower than a 1980 ship, but that I might help make the point that the allocation of billets is off.

    I would also echo the suggestion to look at manpower cost. Without looking at benefit costs, the pay of an E-4 with four years of service is 1980 was $727/mo; in 2018 its $2382/mo. According to one source, the average inflation between 1980 and 2018 was just under 3%, meaning that the $727/mo in 1980 would be about $2186/mo in 2018. So there is about a 10% there between inflation and real wages in the Navy, but you would have to consider other benefits to see what the real manpower cost would be. It wouldn't surprise me if the average sailor in 2018 costs nearly twice as much as the average sailor in 1980, considering inflation.

    -interestedparty

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    1. I've added some basic pay info to the post. An in-depth study of pay is a quagmire of benefits, definitions, allowances, etc. that I don't care to get into.

      Based on what I've seen of pay rates, I don't think benefits and whatnot are going to be much different over time when adjusted for inflation but without a detailed analysis that's just a 'feeling'.

      The main takeaway I get from this is that there is not overwhelming difference between today's cost of a sailor and yesterday's. The difference is, as I stated in the post, manpower management. Today, we have far more manpower dedicated to non-sailing jobs like staff positions, gender issues, green energy, sensitivity, legal requirements, etc. That's why we have a manpower shortage - not because of cost, just poor management.

      Delete
  6. We are talking averages? So all the small combatants, patrol craft, yard craft, which by and large are gone from the USN are no longer there to lower the overall average.

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    1. You can see the source data and breakdown of the included types of vessels, here

      Delete
  7. What fascinates me about this, and I haven't completely wrapped my mind around it, is that if you look at some of the ships themselves the older ships required more manpower period. A Gearing at full load was 3400 tons and had a complement of 350.

    A 'Burke is 8-9K tons and is about 300 men.

    A Perry at full load was 4000 tons and had ~250...

    Where I'm going with this is in an era when the Navy had more ships that required more men just to sail the things the average crew size was smaller.

    I know there are other things that go into this, but with less ships, requiring less crew, when they have more average people/ship, there shouldn't be any manpower issue at all. The fact that there is is damning in the extreme. This is a great post.

    Maybe a Navy with less administrators and admirals could be a bit more realistic.

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    Replies
    1. The fact that older ships were more manpower-intensive is a key observation. Good comment!

      Delete
  8. I think we've identified a lot of manpower misapplications. The navy has lots of people, in raw numbers, but they aren't manning ships. Too many admirals and their staffs. Joint intel-this group and joint cyber-that group; what are they really doing? I remember reading CB (combat construction)active duty units have grown in recent years. CB's provide useful service during wartime, should mostly be reserve units, maybe? There is a manning issue that I recall from my time at sea. Before leaving on our 2001 deployment, over half of the female sailors on the ship got pregnant and did not deploy. It was considered a temporary medical leave so they were not replaced, we deployed short handed. Now we're told the armed forces should accept people who will be non-deployable due to undergoing treatment for their biological confusion.

    The admirals complain that the problems come from lack of funding. NO, you have the money, learn to spend it on what the Navy really needs, not pet projects.

    MM-13B

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  9. ComNavOps: off topic.

    In a previous post, you mentioned the recent destroyer collisions would have been a good opportunity to test Aegis and other systems in damaged condition. A good simulation of combat damage survivability. This week I was at a dinner meeting where the speaker was the Navy's supervisor of diving and salvage. He spoke in detail about the recovery efforts. After the meeting, I asked about testing Aegis and other system as a test of surviving combat damage. I was told "no" and besides, on the USS McCain it would have been a waste of time because the auxiliary machinery room that provides cooling water to Aegis was damaged in the collision. What about redundant or back up cooling systems, I asked. Nope. Does anyone see a problem here? What if it had been an attack rather than a peacetime collision?

    MM-13B

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    1. Great comment. This illustrates one of my overarching themes and that is that we've forgotten how to design ships for combat. Critical systems, and Aegis certainly qualifies as critical, need to have redundant components with wide physical separation between the redundant components. If a single "hit" can take out the cooling water than the design is flawed for combat.

      It must have been a fascinating talk. Did the speaker offer any other observations of interest, good or bad?

      Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
    2. Thanks MM-13B for the comment and asking questions!!!

      My observation is sometimes, military personnel don't want to talk to civilians, not blaming them, they don't know you so they are obviously cagey or wonder why a civilian is asking questions...

      Those are incredible admissions that for the McCain, for all intents and purpose, that ship was a mission kill because the cooling system was gone...so AEGIS can't work even in a degraded, none cooling state and/or with no back up? WOW! also, the fact he responded they way he did almost makes me wonder if somewhere USN didn't look at this as combat damage or a report was written about the capabilities after the damage, seems like USN did work a little the problem but to me, they probably buried it deep.

      Delete
    3. The majority of the people present were civilian, mostly engineers with a connection to the Navy. There was also some retired navy and a group of us who are in the marine engineering program at the local university. One of my classmates and I, nuclear machinist mates: myself formerly on the Enterprise some years ago and he currently just finishing a tour on the Ford. We were up front about our navy status. One of the civilian engineers was quick to say the damage to the McCain made the Aegis inoperable. If there was a security issue, they would have said "everything's fine".

      Modern Navy operates like a business, not a war-fighting service other than using "war" and "combat" as buzz words.

      I also make people in the business defensive when I question current shipbuilding schedules and costs compared to historical examples. A good example is comparing CVN-65 to CVN-78. USS Enterprise CVN-65 was the first ever nuke powered carrier: construction started in 1957, completed in 1960, commissioned in 1961, and participated in the Cuban missile crisis blockade in 1962. Compare that timeline to the USS Ford.

      MM-13B

      Delete
  10. Current leadership is following the business model of modern manufacturing: automation is more efficient. That's fine for manufacturing when you're repeating the same process over and over, and....no one is slinging high explosives at you. When I get in discussions about this, people seem think combat is a clean event: just launch some missiles and go home. When a hole just got blown in the side of your ship; you have to deal with fire and flooding, making emergency repairs, taking care dead or injured crew, and the whole time...keep fighting the enemy (there are no time outs). But they tell us we can't afford proper manning. Or maybe there's just more profit in automation than manning.

    MM-13B

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