White House Says Navy Can Make Job Titles Gender-Neutral, But Petitioner Isn’t Giving Up

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Although the White House backed the Navy’s decision to upend the entire job title system to render positions gender-neutral Tuesday, the veteran who started the petition to get the decision reversed is hoping to try again.

Robert D. Weeks, a Navy veteran and originator of the petition to bring back the Navy’s old system of job titles, told Military.com Wednesday that despite the White House’s statement, he’ll restart the petition after GOP President-elect Donald Trump is officially in office.

“It was the response I expected,” Weeks said. “The consensus in my Operations Specialist Facebook group is to wait until a new president and [Secretary of the Navy] are in office and bring it up again.”

“Organizational changes that require a cultural shift can cause friction during transition periods, but the President has confidence in the decisions made by U.S. Navy leaders and agrees that the benefits in future years will outweigh growing pains in the next several months,” the White House responded Tuesday in an unsigned statement. “Whether one’s Navy career occurred under the former rating structure or today’s modernized system, the President maintains his steadfast pride in Sailors who have sacrificed and worked hard to serve with distinction.”

The petition was looking short of the required number of signatures to provoke a White House response, but Oct. 28, the appeal managed to hit 100,000 signatures, after only being created Sept. 29.

The job title change, which circuitously removes the word “man” from job titles, with the exception of seaman, is near universally reviled by sailors who have taken pride in the fact that their ratings system is distinct from the other services.

Explosive petition notwithstanding, Navy leadership seems unconcerned. The White House would not diverge from the Navy’s decision, Navy Vice Adm. Robert Burke told Military.com Oct. 31.

“The White House, I’m confident they’ll consult Navy leadership, including the secretary of the Navy, on how to respond to that petition, just like they do to the multiple petitions they get all the time,” Burke said. “So I’m continuing down the path that was set out.”

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