Keeping Our Best

160629-n-cl027-052-660x330SUEZ CANAL (June 29, 2016) Ensign Susan Funk, assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), verifies a ship’s bearing while transiting the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Janweb B. Lagazo/Released)

Guest Blog By: By Vice Adm. Tom Rowden Commander, Naval Surface Forces

It takes top performing division officers to build top performing mid-grade and senior officers – especially those who will command at sea. But in today’s extremely competitive, globally connected world, organizations from all industries are fighting a “war for talent” as they strive to attract – and keep – the best. I am proud to say the same is true in the Surface Warfare community. We need high performing division officers who are committed to becoming top performing department heads and commanding officers, and that improves not only the surface community, but also the Navy as a whole. To that end, I have challenged our community to think differently about how we can attract and retain our very best, and I am extremely pleased with the innovative ways we are retaining and rewarding our top performers.

160926-n-uq938-152-1024x682PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 26, 2016) – Lt. Serg Samndzic and Lt. Aaron Jochimsen, Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) coordinate missile exercise rehearsals on the USS Princeton during an anti-submarine exercise in the Southern California operating area. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Trevor Andersen/Released)

But in some ways, this effort isn’t new. In fact, the Departartment Head Retention Bonus (DHRB) marks the latest chapter in a nearly 20-year process of striving to develop a system that rewards the right people at the right time. This process first began with the Surface Warfare Officer Continuation Pay (SWOCP) bonus, which had the simple objective of retaining division officers through the completion of two department head tours. The next evolution was the Revised Junior Critical Skills Retention Bonus (RJCSRB) – a major bonus overhaul that added more money and was designed to retain the critical skills of our junior officers.  As a result, we’ve been able to consistently meet our department head requirements, enabling screening boards to be more selective.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 23, 2015) Lt. j.g. Hasenbank, center, mentors new ensigns as he stands his last officer of the deck watch aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a Singapore Strait transit. (U.S. Navy photo by LT. James Arterberry/Released)

We have found a way to not only measure superior performance at sea, but also a method to reward that performance and retain top performers. Bottom line, the bonus is bigger than just getting division officers to stick around as department heads. It’s about retaining our best so that they can one day help us lead the Navy!

To do this, we have created a program similar to the performance bonuses used by many civilian corporations to reward and retain top talent. This performance-based bonus is a first of its kind for the Department of Defense and not only pays for a skillset, but also rewards officers with extra incentive payments – up to $30,000 – based on fleet performance that results in first or second look selection at the department head screening board.

This tiered incentive program ensures those who screen for advancement to department head at the earliest career opportunity (their first look usually occurs after reaching three years of commissioned service) are eligible to receive three extra payments of $10,000 a year for an ultimate total bonus of $105,000. Officers screening on their second look will receive two incentive payments of $10,000 each in addition to the standard bonus of $75,000 for a bonus totaling $95,000. Those screening a year later on their third look will receive a standard base bonus of $75,000.

150924-n-ox430-106-1024x683ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 24, 2015) Cmdr. Gilbert Clark, executive officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), directs Ensign Christian Diaz as he monitors the course indicator during a replenishment-at-sea training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Daniel Gaither/Released)

We’re investing in the junior officers who spend months deployed across the globe and those who are permanently forward deployed. We’re investing in those officers who excel at leading Sailors, tirelessly stand the watch, and spend countless hours preparing their ships for deployment. These bonuses allow us to signal the value of superior performance from our junior officers as they move into the role of department head, and continue on to billets as commanding officers, major commanders, and flag officers.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 27, 2013) Ensign Stephanie Gies looks for contacts as the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) transits the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Billy Ho/Released)

DHRB is transformational in a way that benefits our 21st century Navy . But make no mistake, this bonus is bigger than just the division officers and our department heads who receive it. This bonus is about creating an environment where our top talent remains in the Surface Navy. Because when our top officers continue to serve, these high performers make every ship in our force better .

There has never been a better time to stay SWO!

This blog first appeared at Navy Live, the official blog of the U.S. Navy.


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