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Wittman, Gallagher Introduce the Surface Warfare Officer Leadership Enhancement Act

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08) introduced the Surface Warfare Officer Leadership Enhancement (SWOLE) Act. The SWOLE Act would: 

  • Establish specialized career paths for Surface Warfare Officers (SWO’s), as preferred by 65% of SWO’s. In turn, this would eliminate the learning curves associated with billet rotations, as well as improve morale and retention. 
  • Conduct federal-funded research into SWO retention, with a particular emphasis on the factors causing retention shortfalls amongst female SWO’s.  
  • Create a pathway for SWO’s to obtain Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) endorsements, allowing them to serve as Merchant Mariners should they decide to leave the Navy. 

Announcing their bill, Congressmen Wittman and Gallagher stated: 

“The Surface Warfare Community is the backbone of America’s fleet,” said Rep. Wittman. “But recent events and a Government Accountability Office report highlight the growing need to better develop talented Surface Warfare Officers through modernized career management practices, as well as to retain that talent through improved retention efforts. The SWOLE Act enacts both bold reforms and common-sense practices to solve key issues affecting the Surface Warfare Community and keep America’s Navy the strongest in the world.”  

“Navy readiness starts with our ability to recruit and retain our country’s best and brightest to serve as Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs). But the Navy’s struggle to retain female SWOs and lack of opportunities for career specialization have hurt our ability to achieve this goal,” said Rep. Gallagher. “This bill takes important steps to reverse these trends to ensure the Navy has the officers it needs to fight and win in the 21st century.”

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report expressed the need for specialized career paths for Surface Warfare Officers. This report was the result of the Navy’s examination of two deadly collisions in 2017 and looked closely at the Surface Warfare Officers who command and operate the Navy’s ships. Upon examination, the Navy and GAO found that 65% of SWO’s believe specialized career paths would better prepare them for their duties. The report further found significant retention issues for SWO’s, especially amongst female SWO’s. The Navy had already made minor changes to the SWO career path, but had not regularly evaluated or changed this career path in over a century.