Frequently Asked Questions
If you are interested in becoming an Office of Naval Research (ONR) science advisor, the following questions and answers may assist you.
Q: What is a science advisor?
A: Science advisors are civilian scientists, engineers, and technologists selected through a nationwide competition from the naval technical community to participate in a career development tour. Following an orientation and training period, these dedicated men and women report to Joint, Navy, and Marine Corps commands worldwide. They serve as the senior representative of the commander on interactions with science and technology (S&T) organizations in government, academia, and industry. They communicate needs and requirements back to ONR and the Naval Research Enterprise in order to shape S&T investments. They leverage the Department of Navy's S&T community to provide rapid technology insertions, long term investment leverage and surge capability in support of high-priority fleet/force issues. The science advisors are concerned with programs relating to all aspects of naval warfare.
Q: Who is eligible?
A: Current federal employees with status at all naval research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) activities who meet the qualification requirements and all regulatory requirements listed in the vacancy announcement are eligible. Science advisors remain employed by their home activity during their assignment. As such, the home activity is required to show their support for each candidate applying for this career development tour through the submission of a nomination letter.
Q: How do I apply?
A: Vacancies are listed on a rotational basis, or as needed. The application process calls for resumes to be completed (Inchart Resumix). In addition, an endorsement letter from the applicant's commanding officer or technical/executive director is required for selection consideration.
Q: How long are the assignments?
A: The duration of assignment is one to three years. The fleet/force command has expressed a preference for two- or three-year assignments, so between equally qualified applicants, ONR Global will give preference to applicants that request a two-year initial assignment.
Q: Who pays for this assignment?
A: Science advisor positions are paid for by ONR and, in many cases, the fleet/force command provides a cost share. Since science advisors remain employed by their home commands, costs are reimbursed to the home activity by ONR and the fleet/force.
Q: Where can I get more information about becoming a science advisor?
A: Applicants can obtain additional information by contacting:
Q: Will I have training?
A: Yes. Training is an integral part of a science advisor's career development. In addition to the training program designed for all new science advisors, cross-cultural training is provided for those going on foreign assignments, and on-the-job training is available as needed.
Q: What are the career advantages to becoming a Science Advisor?
A: Science advisors develop a new professional currency based on their firsthand knowledge of current warfighting, readiness and tactical priorities. Upon completion of their tour, they have acquired a technical advantage and a sharper focus on technology needs and capabilities in a military operational and strategic environment. Science advisors use their leadership skills in decision making, communications, and fleet/force problem solving. They are involved in senior flag/general officer/senior executive service (SES) level decision making. These assignments are intended to be a stepping stone toward an SES position and allow you the potential to become a defense research leader.
Q: Will I be accepted by the military as a member of their working group?
A: Most advisors have previous experience working in a military environment. As civilian professionals, they have a desire to assist and support the Navy and Marine Corps. Three characteristics that build credibility in a military environment are professionalism, respect for military rules and regulations, and dependability. You, as a civilian, will not be a member of the military, but your conduct and cooperation will go far in making you accepted and an important member of the staff.
Q: Do I need to know military protocol?
A: Yes. You will find that military protocol does apply. Two examples are (1) knowing the proper way to address officers and (2) recognizing rank and cross ranking of services. You can take your cues from the staff and find a mentor on staff that can give you advice and answer your questions.
Q: Do I go Permanent Change of Station (PCS), Temporary Change of Station (TCS) or Temporary Duty (TDY)?
A: You will be going on a temporary assignment requiring temporary change of station (TCS), permanent change of station (PCS), or long term TDY. As such, it is very important that you have a clear understanding up front of the entitlements and discretionary allowances associated with each type of travel duty. In addition to your program manager's expertise, your home activity should have a designated travel advisor in the personnel or comptroller department. They should be your point of contact, advising you on the type of LTTD the home activity will allow for your particular assignment and the specifics of your move.
Q: Will I travel and be away from home?
A: It depends on your assignment. It also can depend on world situations and how they affect your command. Some assignments will have very little travel; others can demand lengthy travel. The percentage of travel required is listed in the position description located in the vacancy announcement.
Q: I have never been outside of the United States. How do I adjust to a foreign country?
A: Adjustment is different for every individual. Some people adjust faster than others to a foreign culture. Prior to relocation, training and efforts to learn about a foreign country will help. Once you have moved, getting involved in the community is a major step to adjustment.
Q: Will I experience cultural shock?
A: Almost everyone experiences some degree of cultural shock. It may last a few days or several weeks. Usually it is triggered by an incident that reminds you of home. Also, since many things are different in a foreign country, cultural shock can be caused by the necessity of accommodating many new cultural manners. Usually, cultural shock goes away as you become more actively involved in your new environment.
Q: Will I live on base or off base?
A: For most Science advisor assignments, you will not be living on a base. A foreign assignment, such as Japan, may involve on or off base housing. In these instances, there are time periods when base housing may not be available. Availability rules of base housing change often depending upon the demand for housing.
Q: I am concerned about my family adjusting. Will they get support?
A: Successful adjustment involves support from many people. Moving involves teamwork. Relocation involves leaving jobs, children changing schools and many other personal issues. Support begins by all accompanying persons talking together about the new environment and supporting one another in order to eliminate as many surprises as possible. If you are going to a foreign country, get books and videos about the country. Watch and read together. Remember to include family members you will be leaving behind. They also need to be involved in your move.
Next, support comes from the Science Advisor Program, your program manager and the incumbent science advisor. They will be a valuable resource of experience and information. Finally, you will be involved with the most supportive groups possible – the Navy and Marine Corps.
Q: Will the military families accept my spouse and children?
A: Military spouses and children are usually very cooperative and supportive. In many ways, they take care of one another much more than neighbors in a suburban neighborhood. Getting involved in activities goes a long way in becoming acquainted and being accepted.
Q: Can we take a pet?
A: This depends upon your location. Assignments outside the continental United States may require quarantine periods. You need to check on the regulations.
Q: Will I be able to travel and see the world?
A: One big advantage of a science advisor assignment is having the opportunity to live temporarily in a new location. It can be of great educational value to all members of a family. Trips, new cultures, language opportunities and other invaluable experiences can make the assignments enjoyable and remembered for a lifetime. Career advantages are the major rewards, but personal and family experiences are one of the greatest benefits of an assignment.
Q: Will there be sources of recreation on base?
A: The military is usually an outstanding resource of activities and recreation for personnel and families. Child care centers, youth programs, health facilities, spouse's clubs, tours and other recreational resources are usually available.