Navy considers accelerating promotion timeline for junior officers

by Tommy Grant

The Navy is considering a policy change that would speed up the timeline for junior officer promotions as the service contemplates new ways to improve retention.

Whereas promotion to lieutenant j.g. previously occurred after 24 months of service, the Navy is now considering advancing officers to O-2 18 months after commissioning, according to Rear Adm. James Waters III, director of the Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division.

The ultimate goal is to usher in more officers to the ranks of lieutenant commander and above more quickly, Waters told reporters last month.

“We’re doing that in recognition of the fact that we can impact officer pay, we can impact the time to those more senior ranks,” Waters said. “It’s part of our campaign to help officers see themselves as having the potential for a career earlier, and really try to impact officer retention. It’s a way to do it without creating any new bonuses.”

Navy Personnel Command stressed that the idea is only under consideration at the moment, and no policies have been formalized yet.

While an ensign with less than two years of experience typically earns just under $94,000 each year with benefits, a lieutenant j.g. with less than two years of experience rakes in just under $103,000 each year with benefits.

By the time an officer reaches promotion for lieutenant commander — usually as early as after six years of service — he or she would be eligible to earn over $147,000 annually with benefits.

The effort is under consideration as the service contemplates different avenues to retain more officers. Altogether, the Navy ended Fiscal Year 2023 with a shortage of 2,366 officers across the active component force, according to the Navy’s Health of the Force report published in February.

“To fully meet requirements, improvements to retention are needed,” the Navy said in the document.

Still, numbers indicate roughly 40 percent of junior officers plan to remain in the service until retirement, according to the report. That’s up from 35 percent in 2022, the report says.

Meanwhile, the Navy surpassed its retention goals for enlisted sailors in FY23, keeping more than 110% of sailors with up to 14 years of service.

Altogether, 35,175 active-duty enlisted sailors decided to stay in uniform — up from the Navy’s 31,823 projected target, Navy Personnel Command said in October.

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