Washington, DC - Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(AW/NAC) Michael Stevens testified before Congress February 26.
MCPON appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.
MCPON, along with the enlisted leaders from the Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force, discussed the current status of their respective military branches, focusing specifically on quality-of-life programs and initiatives.
Stevens discussed the Navy's current operational tempo and told the subcommittee that approximately 50 percent of the Navy's ships are underway or deployed globally on any given day.
"The caliber of Sailors that join the fleet today are educated, perceptive, and eager to embrace the challenges that lie ahead, said Stevens." Today's Sailor, overall, has a high quality of life; however, our Sailors also carry a burden of uncertainty when it comes to potential pay and compensation changes, family program services, and predictability with respect to deployment lengths."
Stevens acknowledged that Sailors are working to prepare for future economic and fiscal challenges. He assured that they will rise to meet the challenges and noted that their mental and physical welfare should not become a casualty of budgetary uncertainty.
"It is critical in today's fiscal environment, that we protect programs and services which promote a thriving and healthy family unit."
Representatives asked about programs and initiatives which promote family unity and strong bonds.
"Family readiness is an extremely important part of mission readiness," said Stevens. He explained the resources available from Fleet and Family Support programs and also talked about the Ombudsman program. "We have extended resources to our Navy families, providing Sailors with the reassurance that their families are being supported."
Recruiting, retention, commissaries, family and single Sailor housing, and programs related to family unity were among the topics addressed at the hearing. Stevens responded to several questions from representatives about budget cuts.
"Sailors understand that a budgetary reformation is fast-approaching, and we are working hard to implement policies that will meet end strength controls and planned budget execution," said Stevens. "I believe it's vital that the Navy is provided with adequate force capacity to support mission demands and ensure reasonable deployment lengths are sustainable."
Other topics of discussion included initiatives and programs for spouse employment, transition programs, and mental or physical identifiers regarding suicides.
Stevens highlighted the importance of predictability with regard to deployments.
"Our Sailors and their families understand that deployments are a part of Navy life; however, it is imperative that we never underestimate their sacrifices."
Stevens noted some of the main factors in determining how long many Sailors will serve.
"Our Sailors and families stay in the Navy because they believe and trust that you and I have their best interest at heart." said Stevens. "This trust is fundamentally parallel with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment. This trust is priceless. This trust puts in place the greatest weapon's system we can provide our Sailors and that weapon's system is called "unit morale."
MCPON reaffirmed the Navy's commitment to family and mission readiness.
"Both CNO and I understand that nothing comes second to combat readiness and we are committed to preserving our people and our fleet programs to the fullest extent possible," said Stevens.
"In over 30 years of service, I have watched these amazing men and women serve and ensure the freedom and security of our nation," said Stevens. "As I navigate through the various commands and units of our force, I am always inspired by their overwhelming work ethic and dedication and I am honored to serve with an represent these amazing men and women - your Sailors."
The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy periodically testifies before Congress along with the senior enlisted leaders of the other services. This was his first appearance before the congressional committee.