Friday, April 22, 2011

No Room For Mistakes

This story is still unfolding, so lets deal with what is reported so far.

The Navy has suspended the oversight authority of the local command responsible for supervising ship repairs done by private contractors.

The command, called Norfolk Ship Support Activity, has headquarters at Norfolk Naval Station. Staffed by both sailors and civilians, it oversees all maintenance work done by private companies on Navy surface ships in the mid-Atlantic region.

By suspending the command's oversight authority - formally known as its "technical warrant" - the Navy essentially is saying it no longer trusts Norfolk Ship Support Activity to make sure work by contractors is being done properly.

The decision follows the discovery of what the Navy has described as serious problems with reports submitted by the contractor who repaired the engines on the Norfolk-based ship San Antonio, which has suffered a string of major defects. The San Antonio was commissioned less than six years ago and already its engines have been overhauled.

The Virginian-Pilot reported last week that the Navy had launched a new investigation into the San Antonio's repairs after recent audits uncovered the problems with documents related to the overhaul.
How do we rate the way the Navy, specifically NAVSEA, has jumped into this issue? The investigation was first reported in the news on April 15, and already we are seeing some fairly strong steps towards self-correction. Noteworthy, we are talking about strict enforcement of procedures and documentation in this case, and not the quality of work.

Surface ship maintenance is a hot topic with the CNO adding about $600 million into the budget over the FYDP. Even with a $600 million increase, the Navy still has a funding shortfall in surface maintenance though, which means the burden shifts towards perfect execution.

That requirement for execution excellence for all surface maintenance suggests this swift and harsh reaction towards Norfolk Ship Support Activity is a way for leadership to set an example for everyone else. When budgets are tight, perfect execution is a requirement.

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