Now the White House has to respond to a petition calling for Navy ratings reversal

A petition lobbying the White House to reinstate the official Navy rating titles removed in late September gained more than 100,000 signatures on We the People, a website created by the Obama administration to allow large groups of Americans to directly request changes to public policy.

Petitions that cross the threshold are guaranteed an official response from the administration, but activists are not guaranteed that it will be a “yes” response.

Under the Navy's new ratings system, explosive ordnance disposal experts like this one would be identified by their rank. Before Sep. 19, these sailors would have been address as "EOD" and then a number or title which identified their rank. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin V. Cunningham)

Under the Navy’s new title and rating system, explosive ordnance disposal experts like this one would be identified by their rank. Before Sep. 19, these sailors would have been addressed as “EOD” and then a number or title which identified their rank. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin V. Cunningham)

Ratings were essentially job titles in the Navy and they were incorporated into the method of address for most enlisted leaders. Some of the ratings, like those for gunner’s or boatswain’s mates, have remained the same since the Continental Navy instituted them over 240 years ago. Other rates, such as special warfare boat operator, are newer.

Navy officials say that they removed the rating structure to allow sailors to more easily cross-train between jobs or switch career tracks entirely. This increased flexibility in job choices would also, according to comments given to the Navy Times, make it easier for sailors to get specific duty stations.

But the move was deeply unpopular with sailors. The petition to bring that dissatisfaction to the attention of the White House gained 102,614 signatures. The petition description highlights the tradition and history of the rating system.

For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a “Rating.” The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition.

While the White House promises an official response to successful petitions, it does so by putting the petition in front of the proper policy makers. According to the program’s “about” section:

With We the People, you can easily create a petition online, share it, and collect signatures. If you gather 100,000 signature in 30 days, we’ll review your petition, make sure it gets in front of the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.

In this case, that could mean that the petition would land on the desk of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus or someone on his staff. But Mabus and his staff were the ones who made the decision to get rid of Navy ratings in the first place.

The petition could encourage senior Navy leadership to take sailor feedback more seriously moving forward and possibly even find a plan that accomplishes the leadership’s goals while preserving Navy tradition.