25 May 2011

Keeping the Fleet in the Fight – Then and Now

On 8 May 1942, USS YORKTOWN (CV-5) was severely damaged by the Imperial Japanese Navy during an air attack at the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Japanese left her crippled in the Pacific and reported her off as sunk.
It was during this time that our Navy code breakers intercepted and deciphered Japanese plans to attack at Midway in just a few short weeks. The Japanese anticipated a major Fleet engagement would ensue and they could finish the job they started with the attack on Pearl Harbor – the complete destruction of our Fleet. 
Having a good idea of Japanese intentions, Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA) drew up plans to engage the Japanese in a surprise ambush at Midway. It was clear that Nimitz would need all three of his remaining carriers – ENTERPRISE, HORNET, and YORKTOWN – at Midway to have a chance at winning this fight.
Meanwhile, YORKTOWN arrived back at Pearl Harbor badly damaged on 27 May; she would undergo emergency repairs in Dry Dock #1. The initial estimate by our Naval Engineers was that it would take at least three months to get YORKTOWN back in the fight, but Nimitz had other plans. "We must have this ship back in three days," he told the yard manager and workers. The reply was a simple “Yes, Sir” and sure enough, she got underway three days later on 30 May 1942. She joined up with Task Force 17 and then rendezvoused with Task Force 16 northeast of Midway on 2 June where she participated in one of the most decisive naval battles in history. Although YORKTOWN was lost in the fight, she exacted a high price for her sacrifice: the U.S. Navy Carrier Force sank the Japanese Carriers SORYU, AKAGI, KAGA, and HIRYU, and effectively ended the Imperial Japanese Navy’s advance in the Pacific.
The fact that YORKTOWN did not sink at the Battle of the Coral Sea was a testament to those who designed, built, maintained, and operated her. That she was able to fight again four weeks later at Midway was a testament to the Navy engineers, planners, estimators, and shipyard workers who understood that their job was to take broken and damaged ships, repair them, and return them to service ready for combat as quickly as possible. YORKTOWN’s departure from Pearl Harbor on 30 May 1942 remains one of the greatest single industrial achievements of the Second World War, a real tribute to our Naval shipyards and their ability to get it done.
As I reflect on the past and present states of ship repair, I am concerned that some of the organizations in the business of fixing our ships may have lost their sense of urgency and commitment to our required and time-tested standards of technical performance, that they have lost the ability to “get it done,” on time, on budget, and with high quality work. As a result, the Fleets devote a disproportionate amount of repair money to a handful of units and maintenance re-work; we risk our ability to meet near-term operational commitments; we jeopardize the expected service life of ships that should last for 30-35 years; and most importantly, we put an increasing and absolutely unnecessary burden on the backs of our Sailors.
As Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, I’ve talked a great deal on this blog and in other forums about the importance of maintaining our standards in everything we do. You can find a few of those posts here, here, here, and here. The fact that today’s conflicts lack the immediacy and intensity of Fleet operations like those during the Second World War should not, and must not, diminish the importance of completing quality repair work on time and on budget. We are operating at a very high tempo; routinely, over half of our Battle Fleet is underway, making way with about 40% of the Fleet forward deployed. Our ship maintenance effort must keep pace.
Even after making allowances for the major differences separating today’s repair industry from the one that existed in 1942 – factors such as the significantly increased complexity of today’s ships, enhanced worker safety provisions, stringent environmental protection and pollution abatement regulations, and all the complexities associated with current government contracting practices – I still strongly believe that today’s waterfront repair efforts can be significantly improved. We must recover the capacity and capabilities that we demonstrated on YORKTOWN in 1942. We must do better…we will do better.
Our Navy and the shipyards have been in this business together for a very long time. I have great confidence in our ability to demonstrate the commitment to technical excellence and superior quality in our shipyards that we have had for so many years. VADM Kevin McCoy and I are in alignment on what we need to do and we’ve set in motion a number of initiatives to improve our maintenance performance. What we need now is the commitment of our waterfront repair professionals – Navy, government civilians and contractors – to do better and return us to the YORKTOWN standard of performance. We did it in May 1942; I know we can do it today.
All the best, JCHjr

20 May 2011

USFF / SECOND Fleet Merger Update

Merger planning continues to move forward and we are on track to meet our objective of a fully consolidated staff by 1 October 2011. There have been several significant changes since I last posted about the merger, so I want to provide you an update here and make sure you’re aware of the latest decisions I’ve made and the actions we’re taking.

Organizational Leads (DCOMs and ED)
At the Fleet Forces town halls I conducted in March, I talked about the need to reorient the merged staff to be more operationally focused and downward-looking - an absolute necessity as we assume the missions, functions and tasks (MFTs) of SECOND Fleet. Achieving this transformation will be a challenge as we have historically centered on our man, train and equip responsibilities with a decidedly upward look towards OPNAV. Moreover, I am also concerned about effectively managing the bandwidth of my executive leadership team, given the expanded responsibilities of the merged staff.
It was for these reasons that I approved the establishment of two DCOM billets, the 3-Star DCOM for Fleet and Joint Operations (DCOM-FJO) and the 2-Star DCOM for Fleet Management/Chief of Staff (DCOM-FM/COS). These two individuals will report directly to me for their respective portfolios. Recognizing the significant increase in direct report subordinate commands, I will also dual-hat the DCOM-FJO as Commander, Task Force 20 (CTF 20), with delegated command responsibilities for SECOND Fleet's subordinate commands (CSFTL, 4 x CSG, ESG-2) and SECOND Fleet’s existing Task Forces and Task Groups. With this new construct and the expanded responsibilities, I expect the 3-Star Deputy will not have the bandwidth to represent me at 3 and 4 Star OPNAV forums.
To address this issue, I have broadened the Executive Director's portfolio, making him my primary interface for 3 Star USFF-OPNAV resources and readiness communications, a function currently performed by VADM Daly. Mr. Honecker will be my primary voice up-echelon, and will direct a Fleet Resources and Readiness Integration team comprised of experienced personnel from across the staff. Mr. Honecker will be responsible for resource and readiness integration, with a primary focus on execution year and execution year plus 1 budget planning. Mr. Honecker will also continue to lead the FIEP decision-making forum, and will remain responsible for the CNO Monthly Readiness Report, the annual BSO-60 Readiness Plan and the annual Integrated Fleet Readiness Plan. Mr. Honecker's new Fleet Resources and Readiness team will become operational on 6 June with the transfer of personnel and billets identified from N1, N40 and N7. This step will enable us to start the implementation of the new Fleet Management structure by establishing the N41, N43, N46, N7, and Fleet Safety and Command Services Special Assistants as direct reports to the DCOM at the same time. The DCOM for Fleet Management/Chief of Staff title will become official on or about 10 Jun.

Early Staff Realignments
As I mentioned above, we have already started moving out on the execution phase of the staff consolidation by initiating several early merger tasks. In addition to Mr. Honecker’s new Fleet Resources and Readiness team and the initial changes to the Fleet Management reorg, earlier this month we assumed responsibility for SECOND Fleet's AT/FP mission, and transferred all seven SECOND Fleet personnel to USFF N3AT as part of that process. I've also authorized the early transfer of SECOND Fleet’s Special Access Program (SAP) and Special Technical Operations (STO) responsibilities, equipment and personnel in early June. STO responsibilities transfer must be worked through JFCOM and the Joint Staff, and it clearly makes sense to do this now as JFCOM becomes more focused on disestablishment.
Additionally, I've approved the early transfer of SECOND Fleet’s N8/N9 functions and personnel by 15 July 2011. VADM Holloway and I remain aligned in accelerating more functions and personnel shifts prior to the Aug-Sep timeframe to better position our staffs for the 1 October merger.

Merged Staff Functional Test (MSFT)
The MSFT is a significant event in the USFF/SECOND Fleet merger and will provide an opportunity to exercise some of the major functions of the merged staff and gather lessons learned that we will use to refine our organizational construct and staff processes.
The MSFT will be executed in two parts, using the merged staff's draft MFTs, SORM, OPORD revisions, battle rhythm and briefing templates.
MSFT Part I (13-17 June) will focus on normal day-to-day operations. On Monday of that week, personnel from both USFF and SECOND Fleet will come together at USFF HQ to commence battle rhythm preps. Execution of the merged staff battle rhythm will commence with the Commander’s Update Brief (CUB) at 0730 on Tuesday, 18 June, and continue for the remainder of the week. VADM Holloway will act as the Deputy Commander for Fleet and Joint Operations (DCOM-FJO) and Commander, Task Force 20 (a responsibility he currently holds) so that we can benefit from his perspective as a standing Numbered Fleet Commander.
MSFT Part II (27 June-1 July) will focus on merged staff operations in a crisis situation. The merged staff will form up again on Monday of that week and quickly transition to crisis ops in response to a simulated hurricane scenario. This scenario will be internal to the staff and drive us to execute a Continuity of Operations exercise (COOP-EX). The COOP-EX builds on our previous Richmond event last fall and will be executed as part of the MSFT to ensure we are developing a COOP capability commensurate with the merged staff's broader set of responsibilities.
To prepare the staff for the MSFT and beyond, RDML Craig will hold town hall training sessions the week prior to MSFT Part I in order to discuss expectations and synchronizing events that align the three elements of the staff (Fleet & Joint Operations, Fleet Management, and Fleet Resources and Readiness Integration). A second series of town hall training sessions will take place the week prior to MSFT Part II, to shift focus on COOP-EX execution and logistics.

With your focus and commitment to this very significant effort I remain confident we will carry out the merger with zero risk to operations. Your thoughts and perspectives are important to me so I encourage each of you to stay engaged and provide feedback through your chain of command, here on the blog, or directly to RDML Craig.
All the best, JCHjr

13 May 2011

Fleet Readiness Review Panel – One Year Later

In February 2010, a senior panel of subject matter experts led by Vice Admiral Phillip M. Balisle, USN (Ret) completed a comprehensive assessment of Surface Force readiness. This assessment very candidly identified the root causes of the negative trends we were experiencing in the Surface Force and recommended steps to arrest and reverse these trends.
In July of last year, I testified before the Readiness Subcommittee and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on Fleet Readiness. My written statement to the Committee can be found here, and a complete webcast of the hearing can be found on the HASC website here.
I also previously posted here about some of the actions we were taking to improve Surface Force readiness even before the panel released its findings.
In order to build upon this work and sustain the Fleet Readiness Review’s momentum, Admiral Walsh (COMPACFLT) and I established a senior executive body, the Fleet Review Panel Senior Leadership Oversight Council (FRP SLOC), to guide and oversee our efforts to improve Surface Force readiness and unit wholeness.
This week I released a memo to provide an update on the significant progress the FRP SLOC has made fixing many of the readiness shortfalls cited by the panel as well as identifying areas that still require additional attention.
You can find a copy of the memo here. I encourage you to read through it and provide your comments. While I believe we’ve certainly made good progress, there is still much work to be done.
All the best, JCHjr

05 May 2011

VAW-120 “Greyhawks”

The crew of Greyhawk 05 - a damn fine group of aviators!
This past week I spent a day with the “Greyhawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron ONE TWO ZERO (VAW-120) – the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for Hawkeye and Greyhound aircraft. As an FRP squadron, VAW-120 is tasked with training pilots, naval flight officers (NFOs), and aircrew and maintenance personnel for the Fleet.   
Receiving a briefing on the E-2D
training facility
Last year I had the great pleasure of attending the official roll-out of our Navy’s first E-2D.  The focus of my visit this year was to learn more about the E-2D’s operational capabilities and how we intend to employ this very capable and sophisticated aircraft in the Fleet. I also had the opportunity to fly in the aircraft and see its capabilities demonstrated first hand.
We kicked off the day with an E-2D capabilities brief followed by a thorough review of emergency and safety of flight procedures. We then changed into our flight gear and my all-junior officer crew and I briefed the details of the flight. I want to tell you right up front that I was very impressed and could not be more pleased with these talented aviators; they are professional, mature and clearly know what they are doing. They did not let the fact that they had a four-star admiral along for the ride distract them from their jobs.
PRs fitting my flight gear
My flight began in the Combat Information Center of the Advanced Hawkeye, where the NFOs demonstrated the technological improvements made to the sensors, communications suite, and software. These advancements enhance the aircraft’s ability to scan a larger area, detect smaller targets, process data about those targets faster, and transform all of that information into improved situational awareness across the multiple missions the Advanced Hawkeye can support. While the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye performs many of the same types of missions as its predecessor, the improved capabilities of the E-2D are a clear game changer for the Fleet. The quintessential mission of the Hawkeye, to be the eyes and ears of the Fleet, will not change; however, the Advanced Hawkeye’s long range sensors are network enabled, and serve a critical role in future air and missile defense networks.
Strapping in for my ditch and bailout drill
The E-2D also has improved detection and tracking of all maritime contacts which promotes seamless information flow among aircraft, ships, soldiers, civilians and command authorities who get that information to the assets that need it faster than ever before. With radar and identification systems that can detect targets in excess of 300 miles, operational warfare commanders are able to maintain an accurate picture of what is happening across a large area. Additionally, upgraded radios provide the clear and reliable communications necessary to keep commanders integrated with the battle space.
Living the life of a student naval aviator
The cockpit of the E-2D is truly impressive. When I moved to the copilot’s seat, I was able to interface with the weapons system via the new glass displays of the tactical operator station. These displays provide digital instrumentation for navigation and monitoring aircraft systems and enable the copilot to become fully integrated into the mission, expanding the mission capacity of the aircraft and crew. I remained in the cockpit for the return flight to Norfolk, where following an uneventful landing (a good thing!) we finished the flight with a thorough crew debrief and review of the day’s events.  
I was very impressed with the E-2D and all the Sailors at VAW-120. I watch Hawkeyes in the pattern at Chambers field every day and sometimes take for granted what is involved in getting them in the air. So it was very good for me to be part of a mission from start to finish and get a powerful reminder of what it takes to prepare these aircraft for flights, get them into the air, carry out the mission and get them back on deck to get ready to do it all again the next day. The VAW-120 team is made up of superb professionals and I was privileged to be able to fly with them.
All the best, JCHjr 

03 May 2011

Osama bin Laden Is Dead, But It’s Not Over

Team, as satisfying as it was to see our forces successfully carry out the raid ordered by our Commander-in-Chief and bring final justice to the mass-murderer Osama bin Laden, we are still in the midst of a brutal global campaign against the Al Qaida terrorist organization and its many branches around the world.

I personally could not be more proud of the intelligence and special operations professionals who worked very hard for so long to carry out this raid. Our forces trained hard, prepared exhaustively, stayed focused and, when the call came in, they executed superbly (as they always do). These quiet professionals have proven time and again they are absolutely the best at what they do. We are truly honored to serve alongside them.

While Osama Bin Laden’s death is a very significant milestone in our fight against Al Qaida, it does not end it. Make no mistake about it, we are still at war, and our men and women are still in Afghanistan, and on many other battlefields, taking the fight to the enemy. And while the enemy may be weakened, they are not defeated. Al Qaida is still active and pursuing every opportunity to harm our nation and we must not let them succeed. Now is not the time to become complacent and relax our defenses. We must all remain vigilant.

Know your job in our current Force Protection Condition and be sure your shipmates know theirs. Our goal is to present hard targets to our enemies and make them realize they cannot attack our ships, bases and air stations with impunity. Our task to secure the homeland goes 24/7/365, just as our Navy is forward deployed around the clock, around the globe. We are ALWAYS on the job.
All the best, JCHjr

01 May 2011

USS PONCE (LPD 15) CO / XO Relief Follow-On Comments

Team, thanks for the many thoughtful posts you have submitted. As always, I gained a great deal from reading through them and would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the points made and questions asked.

To stand-up, speak out and take action in support of the best interests of the Navy and in support of our core values - honor, courage and commitment - whenever we see those core values threatened or those interests undermined by an individual's behavior, whoever that individual may be and wherever in the chain-of-command that individual resides, is our duty. Doing your duty to the best of your ability, and knowing in your heart you have taken the right actions despite the possible repercussions on your career or your physical well-being, is its own reward.
For those of us who have raised our right hands and sworn an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies ...," doing one's duty without regard to possible consequences, good or bad, is the essence of our profession.

It is always to be hoped that properly performing one's higher duty for the good of the Navy will be appropriately recognized, be the matter large or small, by the chain-of-command as the particular issue is resolved. But as hard as so many good people in our Navy work to do the right thing under sometimes very difficult or challenging situations, there can be no guarantees your actions, however righteous, will be truly recognized for what they are and not leave you open to negative repercussions.

Our Navy, an institution that has done so much for our nation over the past 235 years and in which so many have been, and remain, so proud to serve, is made up of people. And any organization composed of people, however well-ordered and well-intentioned that organization may be, is ultimately an imperfect one. I do not say that to justify improper actions that have happened to individuals doing their duty to the best of their ability, but simply to explain what I expect you already know.
Do your duty to the best of your ability and "to thine ownself be true" - to know you have stood tall when the Navy most needed you to stand tall may be your only reward; that must be enough.


Over the years since I first commanded a destroyer - USS DAVID R RAY (DD 971) in 91-92 - I've been intensely interested and deeply involved in how we screen officers for command in all our professional communities.
As a Captain and a Rear Admiral I served on a wide variety of selection and screening boards and when I served as the Navy's Chief of Naval Personnel I routinely reviewed and approved their results.
So whenever we have a failure in command, for whatever reason, I take it very seriously and try to find out as much as I can about the process by which the particular officer was selected and what that process may have missed and why.

Some background - Navy's selection board process, for both the administrative screening boards in which we select COs, XOs, etc and the statutory (governed by federal law) promotion boards for selection to higher rank, has evolved over the years to its current unique balance between ensuring equity (fairness for the officer whose record is being reviewed) and achieving effectiveness (selecting only the officers who are both best and fully qualified). As a matter of policy, we run our administrative boards in a manner very similar to our statutory boards to ensure the overall fairness and integrity of the process.

In 2010 and thus far in 2011, we have had a definite spike in the number of officers who have been relieved of their commands for a variety of personal conduct (ex, fraternization) and professional performance (ex, collision at sea) failures. This spike has involved officers in each of our warfare communities and other professional communities in the Navy as well.
A marked increase in the number of COs relieved for cause similar to what we are seeing last occurred in 2002; the Navy's IG conducted a detailed investigation into each of the 2002 reliefs looking for possible common threads or shared root causes. Nothing definitive was found.

As we dig deeper in the 2010-2011 CO failures (as well as those of the XOs or CMCs who have been removed from their positions), I'll be focusing on the screening process. Over the years, I've become a strong believer that we need to find a way to bring a 360 degree type of review into our administrative screening boards. A 360 review process would incorporate the comments of those junior or equal in rank to the officer in question as well as the traditional evaluation made in the officer's fitness report by the reporting senior. Based on what I've learned of the technology and methodology in conducting 360s, I think it very possible we can bring these comprehensive reviews into our administrative screen board process in a way that maintains equity for the individual while improving the effectiveness of results for the Navy, a deeper and more comprehensive evaluation of an officer's performance over the years.

Much more to follow on this issue so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I continue to look forward to receiving your comments and questions. All the best, JCHjr