Petition of White House to reverse Navy ratings change tops threshold

October 31, 2016 12:06 PM EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama is saluted by sailors as he completes a tour of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross at Naval Station Rota in Rota, Spain, July 10, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


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(Reuters) - A petition to the White House to halt the U.S. Navy's abolition of sailors' traditional ratings that are more than two centuries old has topped 100,000 signatures, above the number needed for an official response, according to the online petition site.

The petition was launched within hours after Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Sept. 29 that the Navy would do away with such ratings as gunner's mate and boatswain's mate.

The plan to abolish the 241-year-old job titles system and replace it with one similar to other armed services' occupational specialty codes has sparked outrage among some current and former Navy personnel.

"One by one current leadership continues to erode the very things that set the Navy apart from the other services. Mr. President, I and the others signing this petition request you use your authority to restore to our Sailors what they have earned," the petition said.

The request topped 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the requirement needed for official action by President Barack Obama's administration. The online site showed a total of 102,597 signatures on Monday.

Officials say the switching of titles would allow the Navy to identify sailors' skills more accurately and give them better job opportunities when they leave the Navy.

The changes followed a review this year. The modernization plan will be implemented in multi-year phases, the Navy has said.

Opponents have voiced their anger on Richardson's Facebook page. Carrie Herr wrote on Saturday, "Help our Navy enlisted (personnel) restore the honor and tradition that was taken away from them. Save Navy ratings!"

Richardson's office and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the petition.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)



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