28 June 2010

Surface Force Readiness


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


Anonymous said...

This is a great start in getting the Surface Ships the Maintenance, Knowledge and Improvements it deserves. However, my concern would be with the Frigate community. We are putting Frigates into a extensive and very expensive process to get ready for INSURV, when there is a possibility of getting a Hull Integrity Test failure 5 months after putting all this money into fixing them. My suggestion would be to have the Frigates go through a Hull integrity test prior to getting ready for INSURV so if it does fail we would not be spending a pointless amount of money to fix them.

Anonymous said...

ADM, BZ for a big step forward. Anon, I've worked on Frigates since they were shiny new. The number of places on an FFG that are prone to hull failure are very limited, primarily in AUX 3, the forward end of AUX 2 and the forward end of the MER. Other than some worn out places below suction lines in the tanks (which we cure by first welding up and then installing 1/2" wear plates) the basic hull is fine. And the only reason why these places waste is because no one ever looks at the hard to get to places. Common sense would tell you that if it's hard to get to, it's also hard to preserve and is probably rusting away. Over the past six months I've seen plenty of thin hull inspections done as part of work packages so NAVSEA is getting pro-active on the problem.

These are great ships, one of the best bargains the Navy has gotten in the past 30 years.


Anonymous said...

The report is basically 'De Ja Vue' all over again. We moved from a tried and true system to find once again that it is expensive to neglect our ships. Moving PE's back to CNSL is a great move. These folks can tell you directly, if asked, exactly where your problems are on the waterfront, if you sit down with them alone and ask for frank and uncensored input. Adding two new oversight groups, SLCM & AEGIS, is simply adding yet another layer of opinion that doesn't actually provide repair personnel to fix the problems. They simply prioritize what the PE's already know. The remaining talent pool for repairs has retired and moved into industry, yet we continue to add personnel to shore staffs that produce "processes and POAMs" rather than qualified techs that can hit the deckplates to work casualties. Recommend a billet/talent survey of your RMC staffs to see where your OPTAR is actually going.
Retired 0-6

Anonymous said...

"De Ja Vue" as stated by the retired 0-6 is exactly correct. The time has come to stop with all the meetings, standing up new commands to do assesements, having panel after panel to study the fleet's problem. To date this has only brought more recommendations/directions that are never carried out. Even if they were implemented, they would not change correct the problems we face today. Let's stop with all the metrics and false reports and get down on the deck plate to conduct a real examination of the problem.
The time has come for us take a look into the past to see what worked before.
1. Bring back the schools, classrooms and labs, train the Sailor to do more than push a button. Simple schools such as PMS and DCPO paid superb dividends
2. Bring back the MTT's. They were the folks on the front lines who made the assesements, provided the solutions to the maintenance issues, identified training weaknesses and taught the Engineer how to manage the engineering plants.
3. It's time for our Sailors to start preparing for the numerous tough exams of the past, especially the OPPE just to mention just one. PMS spot checks and zone inspections by the CO, XO, DH and DO's paid tremendous dividends.
4. What has happened with accountability? With rank and privilage comes more than glory -it requires being held responsible for your actions and/or lack of actions.
5. If asked today what it means to return from an operation, exam or extended departure flying a broom means, how many could tell us? How could they possibly know the preperations that went into making that event happen? Would they know the pride each Sailor on that ship felt? Would they understand that flying the broom for all to see sends a message that this Ship, this crew, this "TEAM" put forth a stalwarth effort and prevailed against all odds. The "Flying Broom" advertises a job well done to all who witness the event their persistance, determination and PRIDE in their Ship, their shipmates and their Navy.
6. Refresher training at Gitmo was hard, painful and frustrating but very successful. Our Ships and crews departed Gitmo knowing that their skills from Ship driving to gunnery to engineering had been honed and the Ship was better prepared to meet the challenges that lay ahead.
The time has come when our Navy needs to get tough, take care of our problems/issues in- house and let the desk drivers do what they do best - set up another meeting, make up some new letters, processes and metrics that prove nothing, do nothing for the fleet but cost more and more of our precious maintenance dollars. I've yet to witness even one of these programs fix what is broken on our Ships.
Let's take away all the reports, opinions, false directions and instead get back on the deck plates supporting our Sailors with the tools they need to maintain and keep our fleet battle ready.
Retired 06