NORFOLK, VA – In a move which the Navy claims will save valuable taxpayer dollars while helping to reallocate more than $7 billion in funding, ships underway will soon have the discretion to 'abandon', so to speak, man overboard rescues.
The decision, which will officially start next month, was approved this morning by Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations. It follows the discovery of Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims hiding in the engine room of the USS Shiloh, a week after the sailor was reported overboard. Eight U.S. and Japanese warships spent four days searching for him.
According to Adm. Richardson, the idea originally came up during budget planning for Fiscal Year 18.
"Adm. Moran had just finished one possible force reshaping plan to contract troops-in-contact reports to the NMCI Help Desk, when he also mentioned that last year we spent $25 million on man overboard rescues," Adm. Richardson told reporters.
"I think it was [Vice Admiral] Shelanski who asked, 'Well, do we have to take them out of the water?' We all laughed, but then a few minutes later he asked again: 'Seriously, do we have to?' So we pulled our old Admiralty law off the shelf, along with our Navy Regulations, and discovered that we're actually not obligated to. It's just one of those 240-year traditions where no one can remember why we do it."
Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley said he concurred with the Navy's decision.
"Last year alone we had 17 sailors fall overboard," Stackley said at a press conference. "It costs an average of $50,000 to divert a single ship off course for an hour. Given the average three to four hour rescue time, plus diverting accompanying vessels, we're easily wasting millions of dollars a year on sailors who apparently can't master such elementary tasks as not falling off a ship."
"You also have to ask yourself: 'What sort of sailor falls off a ship these days?'" Stackley asked. "It's not like you're on the yardarm of the [USS] Constitution in a force nine gale. Staying on the ship is kind of 'Navy 101'. If you can't even do a simple task like that, what does that say about your long-term career prospects?"
Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. John Yates said that while the exact details would be released in a future Navy administrative message, the current planned procedure is, following the announcement of 'man overboard,' all departments will be required to stop routine activities immediately and retrieve the missing sailor's training jacket and promotion photo.
Should the officer of the deck not be able to make a snap decision, the ship will slowly steam around the sailor in the water while an improvised board of inquiry reviews the sailor's previous performance and intent to reenlist before making a final decision.
Yates said that should the board return with a negative verdict, the ship would be authorized to leave the sailor there and see if the situation resolves itself naturally. Commanders will be authorized to drop survival gear at their own discretion, consisting of an inflatable dinghy and a laminated map of the earth.
Navy officials hope the new policy may address other complaints over the lack of diversity of sailors recovered during man overboard incidents. Statistics released every fiscal year show the overwhelming majority of sailors in the water identified themselves racially and sexually as 'get me the fuck out of here!'
Some officials privately hoped the decision would also resolve an impasse over how to rename 'man overboard' drills to comply with last year's directive by former Secretary Ray Mabus, still in force, to make all Navy terms gender-neutral.
"Look," Yates said, "if you have loved ones in the Navy, know that if they go overboard they'll probably be rescued."
He then added, "But you might want to encourage them to look a little more competitive, be current on GMT, and take some current promotion photos, just in case."