Navy to put some urgency into fixing growing problems with sailor pay

The four-star commanders of Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet issued a joint directive on July 14 laying out steps al...

The Department of the Navy launched its new Navy Pay and Personnel System (NP2) in 2019, hoping to consolidate more than 55 disparate systems and modernize some applications that were more than three decades old.

For hundreds of sailors, seamen and civilians, NP2 has been an ongoing problem.

A review of complaints on the social media site Reddit demonstrates the depth of this failures of NP2.

“Joined active duty Navy a few months ago after transferring from another branch and I haven’t received my moving entitlements or basic allowance for housing (BAH) w/ dependents. At the moment the Navy owes me around 8k. Mix this with inflation, a newborn, a wife no longer working…it is seriously affecting my quality of life. My financials are good but I never planned on the Navy jacking up my pay for 4 months straight. I’ve worked for at least two companies that employ more people than the Navy does, NOT ONCE did they jack up my pay,” wrote one person on Reddit in May.

The problem of pay has gotten so bad that the four-star commanders of Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet issued a joint directive on July 14 laying out steps all commanders should take to improve the timeliness and accuracy of sailors’ pay.

Adm. Daryl Caudle is the commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

“Input from our fleet Sailors made it very clear that our pay system is not running smoothly, which is impacting sailor and family readiness. Timely and accurate pay for our sailors is a no-fail mission and the task order is our initial plan to get after it,” said Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in a press release.

The Navy says sailors have reported various issues receiving their basic allowance for housing, special pay entitlements, permanent change of station travel entitlements, separation pay and retirement pay.

The issues with pay stem from a lack of process standardization, insufficient training for pay administrators and immature information technology that never materialized with the centralization of Navy pay transactions at transaction service centers (TSC) and regional support centers (RSC), said Rear Adm. Stu Satterwhite, commander, MyNavy Career Center in the release.

Satterwhite said in an email to Federal News Network that the service is tracking nearly 3,500 PCS transactions that are greater than 30 days, and nearly 6,000 cases that are greater than 14 days. The DoD standard is to resolve these claims within 30 days, and our goal in the Navy is to do that in 14 days.

He added the backlog of separation and retirement transactions is more than 4,200 packages, meaning that sailors are approaching their departure day without the appropriate paperwork complete. He said the open cases include a variety of required transactions to close out their personnel record, such as completing the final evaluation, finalized DD-214, complete medical screening, and others.

“This is also unacceptable. While these pay transactions have been improving in the last few months, we are behind and we are working hard to fix it. Sailors cannot be asked to serve with focus on the mission if they are worried about getting paid,” Satterwhite said.

The four-start commanders released the task order as part of Adm. Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations, “Get Real, Get Better” (GRGB) campaign. He launched that strategy that prioritizes self-awareness and self-correction as a means to better the service.

“This message focuses on the most urgent Fleet GRGB Line of Effort (LOE) – Sailor Pay. Our sailors and their families must be paid accurately, consistently, reliably, and most importantly, on time. This is both a quality of life and a readiness issue, and it is certainly commanders’ business,” the task order stated.

Tiger teams, additional training

Under the task order, commanders have 11 tasks to address these problems.

Among those are “waterfront tiger teams” at TSCs and regional support centers to reduce the transaction backlog by the end of July. “This process will include specialized training to gain additional release authorizations that these individuals will retain when they return to their parent commands,” the order stated.

The Navy says it is adding personnel to the centers where pay issues are processed. After their training is complete, these sailors will take the skills they learned back to their command as a way of expanding the pool of qualified personnel who can submit personnel and pay transactions and possess the authority to process those transactions.

The Navy expects these initial teams will be in place by the end of July.

By Aug. 1, commanders must submit weekly pay transaction reports detailing the number of transactions in the queue, the oldest pay transaction, the number of transactions returned that week and the average days to process entitlements from initiation to payment.

Fleet Force Manpower and Personnel directorates (N1) for each command will establish personnel/pay senior liaisons for continuous oversight of these operations. The liaisons will track command timeliness, accuracy and monitor trends or training needs.

The MyNavy Career Center (MNCC) will support commanders by tracking all transactions exceeding 30 days from initial receipt in addition to tracking average transaction timelines. MNCC will provide a summary report to Fleet N1s weekly starting July 31.

Then by Sept. 30, the MNCC will develop an enhanced unified command financial report and pay dashboard to give each command more transparency and timely feedback about sailor pay issues.

Reducing waiting time to 14 days

In the task order, the Navy set the priority to eliminate permanent change of station (PCS) travel costs and separation/retirement backlog of overdue claims by Dec. 15. The goal is make sure there is no claim over 30 days in the queue. Then by Dec. 31, the Navy said it expects to reduce the backlog and ensure sailors received pay and other benefits within 14 days of becoming eligible.

“This task order is a strong step in the right direction to correct pay challenges with efficient and long-lasting process improvements. Through ‘Get Real, Get Better,’ we’re asking Navy leaders to think, act and operate differently by being more self-assessing and self-correcting,” said Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and “Get Real, Get Better” advisory group chairman, in a release. “Sailor pay is just step one in a long-list of topics we are tackling with a ‘Get Real, Get Better’ mentality.”

The Navy said it expects to issue other task orders to address sailors’ quality of life during maintenance availabilities and the quality of unaccompanied housing.

The Navy said part of the reason for the problems is a surge of high-priority transactions supporting families in the wake of the Red Hill fuel spill in Hawaii.

“Bottom line, the amount of work in waiting is completely unacceptable, and we are working toward quickly drawing it down and getting our Sailor Pay program back on track,” Satterwhite said. “We are in the process of transitioning to a more modern program that manages timely and accurate pay for our Sailors.”

Ongoing frustrations

Meanwhile on Reddit, some commenters offered a little advice for those sailors in the worst shape while waiting for payments.

“File a military congressional complaint. You’re not the only one on this situation and quite honestly it’s [B.S.]. Big Navy can fix this but they won’t unless someone lights a fire under their ass. A congressmen can do that real…quick, but they can only do it if the service members make enough noise to get their attention. I know you said you’re personally caught up on bills and all of that but you should still do it. Do it for the E-3 somewhere paying rent out of pocket and going into debt trying to stay afloat.”

Another wrote, “[C]ontinue to bring up your pay issues to your pay personnel and your chain of command. Don’t allow yourself to fail paying your bills or putting food on your table… let your chain of command know before that happens. You could reach out to My Navy Career Center as well, they helped with my PCS pay a couple years ago, however I think I read something recently that MNCC doesn’t want personnel to call them about pay issues anymore. Worth a shot to call and ask, though.”



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