Algogille: Recently published figures make grim reading for the Federation Navy. Once a source of pride for their citizens, it is slowly becoming an embarrassment as it struggles to meet recruiting quotas.
According to an annual report read out in the Senate, the Navy is currently undermanned by seven percent across the board, and this can only get worse. Recruiting targets have only been met once in the last four years, despite a number of initiatives to halt the slide. Retention is particularly poor, with many trained personnel opting to leave early and rejoin the civilian sector; hardly surprising with the Federations current financial stability offering good pay and better fringe benefits than the military. The situation is more extreme in a number of key roles and trades, with some specialists such as Electronic Warfare Technicians being undermanned by almost forty percent.
Having always been a symbol of the Federations diversity, the Navy targeted the huge numbers of young Matari immigrants by offering a free education scholarship on return of five years service. The initial uptake was good, but as many approach the end of their service, the reenlistment figures have disappointed many within the Navy. "I moved to the Federation for the opportunities we never had as children in the Republic," remarked Jehrun Budhannel, a good looking Brutor originally from Hulm "and I'm going to take my scholarship at the Center for Advanced Studies, and move into trading; something I always wanted to do. The Navy has been great, I have enjoyed my time here and met some good friends, but I never wanted to make a full career out of the Navy."
Changes in the way the Navy is perceived by the public haven't helped. Thirty years ago, almost every member of Gallente society had a relative who had served. As the number of veterans from the Caldari war dwindles with the passing of time, so does the public's overall interest. The Navy is seen in some quarters as something from another age; an age of death, destruction, hate and fear. Set this against the vibrant and upbeat feel in a society enjoying a period of enviable vitality, and the recruiters have an uphill battle to fight. There have even been reports of off-duty personnel being mocked and derided by their civilian counterparts. It simply isn't cool to be in the Navy these days it seems.
Pay and conditions have not fundamentally altered since the post-war shake up of the Federation's defences. The Navy has always tried to make its salaries competitive, to take into account the hardship of working long hours, away from home, and often in extreme danger. While civilian life becomes easier due to advances in technology, better pay and working conditions, and a significant increase in leisure time available to the average worker; changes are positively glacial in the Navy. It is the only employer in the Federation where it is actually illegal to be a member of a union, and the right for workers to withhold labour is outlawed.
The High Command of the Navy is increasingly unwilling to spend money on recruiting, training and retaining manpower; only to lose that manpower without a respectable return of service. Their current recruiting adverts, broadcasted ad nauseum during the recent Alliance Tournament, seem to be causing an embarrassment. Doubtless dreamed up by some faceless advertising executive, the advert involves a man dressed as a Fedo. Once again, the Navy display poor understanding of the society it is supposed to represent. Significantly, although the recruitment budget and the salary budget have remained in line with inflation; the money being spent on research, development and procurement of new technology has increased out of proportion.
Just as before, in a time of manpower issues, the Navy has looked to ways to keep its overall effectiveness. Echoing history, the Navy has turned to using increasing volumes of Drone technology and automated processes in an attempt to supplement their conventional fleets. Many of the larger ships have been mothballed in the so-called ‘Ship Graveyards’ and their crews have been spread amongst the smaller ships with an increased drone capability.
Sensing this, the private sector in the Federation has ploughed huge amounts of investment into Drone technology, with some of the biggest names in Gallente industry tripping over each other in a bid to secure the latest advancements. Ironically, many of the scientists and technicians working on the projects are ex-Navy personnel, bringing in their own unique skill-set and insider knowledge of what the military want. Rumours abound of deals taking place behind closed doors, as these former Navy personnel exert pressure on their still serving friends to ensure that their new employers get the most lucrative contracts. CreoDron and Duvolle Laboratories have been working together, sharing resources in what is the largest ever Drone tech project ever embarked upon.
The Navy not only wants to use current Drone technology, but it is naturally interested in procuring the next generation of Drones before its rivals do. The research has yielded no significant advances yet, or if it has, the Navy is keeping the results very closely guarded.