Monday, January 7, 2013

One Thing I'll Be Watching in 2013

TOKYO BAY (August 6, 2012) Senior Chief Damage Controlman Gary Wise, from Clearwater, Fla., speaks with inspectors from the board of inspection and survey (INSURV) during a test of the hangar bay aqueous film forming foam counter measure wash down system aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). INSURV conducts inspections every five years of a ship's life to ensure mission readiness and material conditions are up to standards. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Pittman/Released)
Both CDR Salamander and Bryan McGrath appear pleased with these changes. I don't think there is any reason for optimism until we see reason for optimism, and a policy change this big by itself is no reason to be optimistic.
The president of the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) rolled out major changes to the frequency and grading method of the INSURV program effective Jan. 1.

Rear Adm. Robert Wray, INSURV president, said changes to the frequency of the inspections and the grading system were implemented to improve the readiness of Navy ships and crews and to provide Navy and congressional leaders with an accurate reflection of that readiness.

Under the old program, INSURV teams conducted exhaustive inspections and surveys of ships every five years and reported their material readiness to Congress. Now ships will be inspected about every 30 months.
INSURV has become a huge shell game within the surface force, so we must start with the fact that change is necessary, because what exists is not working and it was well documented by the Fleet Review Panel of Surface Force Readiness (also known as the Balisle Report) to be a shell game. The report went into some detail to note the shell game by how people and resources were being shuffled solely for the purpose of passing the INSURV. It is noteworthy the new changes are not part of the recommendations in the Balisle Report:
Under the new inspection timeline, INSURV inspectors will conduct a traditional "Material Inspection" during a unit's Fleet Response Plan (FRP) cycle. In the alternating cycle, a similar inspection will be conducted by the unit's type commander with INSURV support.

The Balisle Report has an entire section (section 5.2) on INSURV Material Inspections, and while it is possible to argue that the changes being implemented by Rear Adm. Robert Wray are in the spirit of the Balisle Report, what must be stated loud and clear is that the most important recommendations of the Balisle Report still have not been implemented, and it is absolutely fair to say that the most critical issue with both INSURVs and surface maintenance has not been addressed at all.

For example, Section 5.2.2 states "The panel believes that the long term solution for reversing the downward trend in INSURV performance is to implement the balanced set of material readiness initiatives addressed in Section 3.3 of this report. Full implementation of these initiatives may well take 12-18 months longer, and a near term plan of action is needed to ensure acceptable readiness levels are achieved for pending INSURV inspections."

Even if we suggest the changes to the INSURV policy are only one part of the short term or long term action plans, despite them coming 35 months after the Balisle Report was published, these changes do not address the very serious issues outlined in the Balisle Report as the fundamental problems that have led to poor management of surface force readiness nor WHY the fleet is experiencing an increased frequency of failing INSURV grades.

I am trying hard not to call bullshit here, but it is very hard for me to understand why this is anything other than typical Navy bullshit. How exactly does increasing the frequency of INSURVs help solve the problems of an increased number of failed INSURVs, or somehow address surface readiness? Instead of No Child Left Behind, we get the Navy's version of No Ship Left Behind...

Whether you are reading Section 5.2 or Section 3.3 of the Balisle Report, there is only one topic that is consistently being emphasized as the solution to the failing material readiness in the Navy, and that is the significant shortfall of manpower in support of maintaining surface ships.

And lets be very clear... the manpower shortages today are throughout the fleet, indeed they are everywhere.

Ships are undermanned. Any aircraft squadron not specifically assigned to an aircraft carrier today is undermanned. Submarines that are not on deployment today are undermanned. Everyone in the Navy outside of Washington DC knows this, but no one except those directly involved is willing to admit it's a problem. I don't want to suggest that hollowing the Navy hasn't been the right choice, because it has probably been the correct, hard choice. But what we have to also admit is that those choices have consequences, and the Balisle Report already told us that you can't ignore those consequences or you simply compound the problems.

I am not outside the lines to note the seriousness of the problem, nor am I saying anything that is new to anyone. ADM Harvey was perfectly willing to tell the Emperor loud and proud and that he was wearing no clothes... except he waited until the day he retired to say it. But at least he said it...

So going forward in 2013 I am very curious to see how Rear Adm. Robert Wray handles this issue. For example:
The other notable change comes to the overall grading system. Previously, the program utilized a grading status of Satisfactory, Degraded or Unsatisfactory, which oversimplified inspection results with a coarse one-word descriptor attempting to describe a ship with nearly 200 sub-systems. The new system will use a more quantifiable INSURV "Figure of Merit," which is a weighted average of 30 scores used to provide a final grade and report on the overall readiness of a ship.
It is very easy to call a simple system that grades Satisfactory, Degraded or Unsatisfactory as oversimplification but it is just as easy to take a 30 pointed weighted average and skew statistics to meet a stated requirement. This sounds great... or does it?
"The major change for the average Sailor will be two-fold," Wray said. "First, each ship, prior to each deployment, will have a full-blown material inspection in which the ship will be expected to get underway, do full power, anchor, shoot guns, operate combat systems, etc., for a team of external inspectors. Second, ships will be expected to do this on their own, without months of external preparation and assistance."

While twice as many inspections may sound like a bad thing, Wray stressed that the new process will benefit the Sailors who have to prepare the ship for INSURV.

"We want the pre-deployment material inspection to be a normal part of doing business, like the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), something ships know how to do on their own," he said. "In a larger sense, we want to create a 'culture of material readiness' in which ships and their crews are always thinking about being ready for INSURV. The concept is to create a culture for material readiness, in which any ship, at any time in the appropriate part of the FRP, could successfully shoot their guns, do full-power runs, anchor, and demonstrate her combat systems."

Wray said the goal of these changes is very simple.

"In a perfect world, every ship will complete a rigorous material inspection prior to every deployment, conducted either by INSURV or by their TYCOM, using INSURV methods. Ship's crews will be able to prepare for, and successfully complete, the inspection on their own. Navy leadership will also get true, accurate, unvarnished readiness information upon which to make resourcing decisions."

Dear CO, "Come as you are" right before deployment and we shall have an INSURV, because we really want an "honest" assessment of the material readiness of your ship. If the ship fails the INSURV and has to skip deployment because of it, your honesty will be rewarded...

I simply don't see how this new policy is performing a service or function related to the intent of the change, because the Navy still hasn't addressed the most significant factor that led to failures of INSURVs according to the Balisle Report - manpower shortages.

Rear Adm. Robert Wray has a book described as a Primer on Leadership for the Young Sea-Service Officer coming out in March of this year. I look forward to reading the book, because under this system of INSURVs where people are no longer going to play the old shell game, every Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy will know with certainty whether Rear Adm. Robert Wray practices what he preaches regarding leadership, or if he is full of shit.

Or put another way, either Rear Adm. Robert Wray is about to get several opportunities to offer significant input into the problems towards the real solution of surface readiness, putting him in a position towards fixing the shell games caused primarily due to serious manpower shortages at all levels of the water front - or he is going to be one of the quiet majority that isn't willing to use their position of leadership to speak honestly to the problem, and we will simply see a new shell game emerge to replace the old one that currently thrives under the old system.

blog comments powered by Disqus

site stats