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Naval Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) spend long periods at sea, where they cannot attend to their families or to personal business. This can reduce morale and negatively affect retention. The Navy has been exploring programs that would better accommodate the needs of SWOs through increased use of sabbatical leaves. These programs include allowing former SWOs to return to service, offering leaves of absence, or allowing extended leave between duty stations. This briefing assess the problem, examines the proposed solutions, and offers concluding observations. This research focused on the potential return on investment (ROI) for each program, rather than whether it would directly improve retention. Although all three programs can provide quantifiable benefits and improve morale, both returns to service and leaves of absence offer positive ROIs, although the latter would cost more. The benefits of the personal leave option, on the other hand, do not outweigh its costs. Note that, to capture the full benefits of these programs, retaining more SWOs longer requires a corresponding decrease in SWO accessions.

The research described in this briefing was sponsored by the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

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