Navy wants to use training to create high-tech career path for its officers

Navy wants to use training to create high-tech career path for its officers

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

SAN DIEGO'Navy officials want to make information technology a career path toward flag officer positions, not a path that leads toward industry jobs.

Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 civilians, Marines and sailors at last month's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Connecting Technology Fall '99 conference, Navy officials delivered a mea culpa and unveiled plans to change.

The presentation was part town meeting and information session, part revival.

'Somebody like me should be shot for this kind of failure,' said Capt. James S. Newman, division director for information warfare for the Navy's Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control Directorate.

He said that the Navy's ability to induce postgraduate school service members to take on technical subspecialties was 'abysmal.'

Not my job

'Luckily, I haven't been there long enough' to take the blame, said Newman, who took the post in January. 'The Navy has screwed this up pretty badly.'

Lt. Scott Chapman, a career manager for 36,000 sailors in five ranks, including radio and IT workers, said the Navy has no structured career path from the first year to the 20th year for its IT jobs. The service is under pressure to train and retain technical personnel to meet the deployment schedule for the IT for the 21st Century initiative.

Rear Adm. Richard Mayo, director for space, information warfare and command and control, has funded a 14-month training program for groups of 20 sailors, Chapman said.

Managed by Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Collins, a self-taught systems administrator, the program could save the Navy $151,000 per group, Chapman said.

After an hour-long presentation about the program, interest was so high the four Navy officials who described it stayed another hour answering questions from the audience.

'This is the hardest time to be in the military because they're using the hell out of us and we're on the short end with money,' Newman said during the presentation. 'What we're doing is a noble thing, making a difference for our country's security.'

His comment drew a round of applause.

In addition to education, the service wants to try more aggressive recruiting to fill its systems jobs. Mayo and his staff will review job openings and draw up lists of sailors who could fill them, Newman said.

Meanwhile, the Navy's Chief Information Office is surveying the department's systems personnel to come up with a better understanding of their technical know-how.

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