Third and Fourth Order effects.
Fancy military jargon for “unintended consequences”
Of course, being the military, we try to imagine the consequences of our actions so we can plan for them. But if you could imagine the consequences, they wouldn’t be “unintended” would they?
So there’s this interesting article in Navy Times.
Some shore commands in the Norfolk, Va., area report that up to 34 percent of their billets are filled by pregnant sailors, and commanders are complaining about a “lack of proper manning to conduct their mission,” according to a Naval Inspector General report.
The IG has asked Navy personnel officials to review the new rules for Navy mothers-to-be and consider the work conducted by each rating and how pregnancy affects a sailor’s ability to do that work.
I’m not going to throw stones at the underlying reason that “the number of women leaving deploying units to have children rose from 1,770 in June 2006 to 3,125 as of Aug. 1.” Lord knows that there will always be sailors who look for reasons to get out of going on deployment.
However, there appears to be an institutional “Get out of Jail Free” card that is going to have troubling after effects.
When sailors on sea duty become pregnant, they are transferred to shore-based commands that fit certain criteria, such as being close to a Navy medical center. The length of that assignment changed in June 2007, when the Navy extended the postpartum tour from four months after a child’s birth to 12 months. Combined with a nine-month pregnancy, that puts expectant mothers on limited duty for up to 21 months.
21 months. Think about that.
Now, consider normal submarine manning.
Underway, most watches are 3 section (almost all in fact). In port it doesn’t get much better.
Now, add into that mix a crew member who is sent LIMDU for 21 months. No fault of her own, work/life balance and all that.
What happens to the other guys who are in her watch rotation? Port and Stbd for 21 months (or until someone else qualifies the watch)?
What happens to the crew overall? Every body is important on a submarine. Everyone has a role when casualties or battlestations come around.
Are we going to plus up crew size to account for loss of personnel? My guess is “No” because it sends the wrong message. To do so would say, “We know you’re going to get pregnant, so we’re planning ahead.” Not quite good PR, not even a good policy IMHO.
So those left to work while others have a life are forced to shoulder the load. Get yer backs into it, lads, and keep a stiff upper lip. What happens to *their* quality of life? It goes to hell.
What happens when sailors have poor quality of life? They vote.
With their feet.
So what is probably being envisioned as a cure-all for manning deficiencies in the first place, actually exacerbates the problem by creating hate and discontent throughout the force.
I’m not saying we’re going to end up Australian (with more submarines than crews to man them), but I think you might see a decline in the number of people willing to sign up for follow-on tours; and the subsequent decline in resident knowledge that will accompany such a thing is no laughing matter.
But then again, there may be no issues at all. The fact that this article exists demonstrates, to me, that perhaps the Surface and Aviation folks (and the Navy at large) really haven’t gotten as good a handle on the “women on combatant ships” thing as they’d like you to believe. There appear to be some underlying issues that must be resolved before we attempt to experiment with the harshest of shipboard environments.
*** UPDATE: CRAP!! Totally forgot to tip the hat to the Phibian for the base article on Pregnancy (The CDR)