When I learned last year that I was coming to Fleet Forces, I asked for your views (JOs to COs) on what was working well for the Surface Force, and where we needed to improve. Your feedback was comprehensive and predominately in the “where we needed to improve” column. It was clear that some trends were in the wrong direction, but recoverable as long as we did a reality check at every level in the chain-of-command and were ready for the hard work targeted in specific areas.
After arriving at Fleet Forces, Admiral Willard (COMPACFLT at the time) and I commissioned the Fleet Review Panel (FRP). The panel was led by VADM (ret) Phillip Balisle (former NAVSEA) and chartered in August 2009 to get at the root causes of the negative trends we were observing in the Surface Force. We hypothesized that smaller crews, training cuts, and reductions in ship maintenance capability and capacity – the cumulative impacts of cost-cutting decisions made over a span of two decades – had begun to degrade Surface Force readiness and would shorten ship service life. The FRP Report, which was released earlier this year, confirmed our hypothesis.
It is important to note that we (Fleet Commanders, TYCOMs and NAVSEA) did not wait for the completion of the FRP assessment to take action:
Material Health. Fully resourced $150M growth in Surface Ship maintenance this year and provided over $18M to reduce ship’s force maintenance backlogs (TA-4 work). Moved Port Engineers to the TYCOMs to serve as ship advocates with repair organizations. Established NAVSEA waterfront Corrosion Control Assistance Teams to assist ship’s force attack corrosion problems.
Level of Knowledge. Reestablished SOSMRC in Newport (first class in January this year) that includes 4 weeks of instruction and a week on the waterfront. Established a four week waterfront SWO Indoc Course to deliver basic level SWO knowledge to our Ensigns. Revised SWOS DH Operations, Readiness, Training and Engineering module to include in-depth exposure to 3M/Material Assessment
Culture of Continuous Improvement. Reestablished self assessments (culture of continuous self improvement) and third party assessment (ensure we are all assessing to the same standards). We will not ramp up inspections (like OPPE) until we are ready (ships set up for success and inspection teams ready to do a comprehensive inspection).
We still have much more work to do, but we now have a very clear path ahead. Your continuing feedback will be critical to ensuring we hit our targets. All the best, JCHjr