Fitness, maternity leave all part of U.S. Navy personnel changes

Wed May 13, 2015 6:54pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal

ANNAPOLIS (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Wednesday announced a doubling of paid maternity leave and other sweeping changes aimed at creating a more flexible and healthy work environment, and convincing more women to stay in the Navy longer.

"The goal is to have a far more flexible career path (and) to be more family-friendly," Mabus told reporters after a speech outlining the initiative at the U.S. Naval Academy.

"We must evolve to meet the needs of the future battle space and the needs of our people, or we can - and we will - lose," Mabus told over 4,000 midshipman, or students at the university. "We're operating under a personnel system that was designed 30 or 40 years ago that just doesn't meet the needs of today."

The changes, some of which require approval by Congress, include scrapping some hated online training, adopting gender-neutral job standards, new unisex uniforms, expanded hours for daycare centers and fitness centers on bases, and more opportunities for sailors and marines to take time off for school or other reasons without ruining their careers.

Mabus said he also planned to revamp the Navy's system of twice-a-year "pass-fail" fitness tests and adopt more spot checks and measures aimed at evaluating "health, not shape."

To help bridge what he called a "civil-military divide," Mabus said would add 30 slots for sailors to participate in graduate programs at Harvard and other civilian institutions.

The Navy would also partner with Fortune 500 companies to host naval officers and broaden their professional experience.

And it would change its career advancement system to reward leaders and emphasize achievement over pre-set "wickets."   Continued...

File photo of graduates celebrate graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy during commencement in Annapolis May 24, 2013.  REUTERS/Larry Downing