Navy leaders are starting to put greater emphasis on the need to improve the lives and working conditions of the service's most junior sailors as they wrestle with regular news headlines about suicide clusters, problems at shipyards and barracks, and anemic recruiting figures.
The push to emphasize “quality of service” — the Navy's catchall term for a host of issues that deals with everything from barracks living conditions to access to mental health care — is now a top talking point. At a major Navy conference this month in Virginia, it was front and center as admirals and top enlisted leaders all stressed the need to make gains and improvements in the lives of the rank and file.
But relief is not likely to be immediate or sweeping. Many of the ideas or programs that Navy officials are talking about are either broad and lacking specifics or are just getting off the ground. Plus, the sea service has so far not provided many metrics or specific goals to measure its success or failure.
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“There's a lot of things that we need to do,” Adm. Lisa Franchetti, the chief of naval operations, said during the Navy Surface Association's annual symposium earlier this month. “People have different expectations now about what their life and what their career is going to be like.”
Franchetti said sailors now expect a higher standard of…