Showing posts with label Maintenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maintenance. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Future Uncertain

NORFOLK (Nov. 7, 2013) The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) returns to Naval Station Norfolk after completing an eight-month deployment. San Antonio was part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik Released)

No ship returns from deployment looking good, but every once and awhile we get to see the 'other' side of a ship returning home from deployment - and by other side, I'm talking about the side that doesn't face the pier.

USS San Antonio (LPD 17) was designed for regular six month deployments. The ship is less than eight years old, and the ship is returning from only her second deployment. The deployment was eight months, not six. Longer deployments are becoming increasingly common for all amphibious ship deployments.

The San Antonio class amphibious transport docks are designed to be optimally manned compared to the Austin class LPDs. Basically that means USS San Antonio (LPD 17) has 60 fewer sailors than the Austin class LPDs, even though USS San Antonio (LPD 17) is over 7000 tons bigger than the Austin class LPDs.

The San Antonio class LPDs are designed for a 40 year service life. The most recent US Navy shipbuilding plan is based upon these ships serving 43 years, not 40 years.

So in summary, at less than eight years old USS San Antonio (LPD 17) is looking pretty rough after returning from only her second deployment. At 25,000 tons the ship is optimally minimally manned, is expected to last three years longer than designed, and is being deployed for longer periods than originally designed. To pay for pushing the ship harder and longer with fewer sailors, the best idea of the DoD is to cut benefits and pay for those sailors.

I lack confidence in this the plan to keep USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and her sister ships in service until 2049. It's hard to believe that any Navy and Marine Corps leaders actually believe this is a legitimate and workable plan.

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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Still Working Out the Kinks

I am not sure what I find more frustrating, that the crew is struggling with their role in the maintenance of the ship, or that the contractors are struggling with their role in the maintenance of the ship.

It's a given that by posting this, the content of what is said will get blown out of context, so for those who aren't sure what is going on here - keep in mind the TYCOM Material Inspection (TMI) is a process intended to help ships prepare for INSURV. This is by definition what you would call good work on their part, identifying problems prior to INSURV. There is both good and bad here, as there always is with any TMI.

R 071920Z MAY 12
FM COMNAVSURFPAC SAN DIEGO CA
TO USS FREEDOM
INFO COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI
COMNAVSURFPAC SAN DIEGO CA
PRESINSURV VIRGINIA BEACH VA
COMLCSRON SAN DIEGO CA
COMLCSRON ONE
BT
UNCLAS
MSGID/GENADMIN/COMNAVSURFPAC SAN DIEGO CA/0805/MAY//
SUBJ/TYCOM MATERIAL INSPECTION REPORT FOR USS FREEDOM (LCS 1)//
REF/A/MSGID:DOC/INSURV/28FEB2008/4370.1//
REF/B/MSGID:DOC/INSURV/06JUN2008/4730.3//
REF/C/MSGID:DOC/COMUSFLTFORCOM/11MAR2008/4790.3//
REF/D/MSGID:DOC/INSURV/26OCT1999/4730.11//
REF/E/MSGID:DOC/OPNAV/26DEC2007/5090.1//
REF/F/MSGID:DOC/OPNAV/30MAY2007/5100.19//
REF/G/MSGID:DOC/NAVSEA/15APR2004/9593.2//
REF/H/MSGID:DOC/CNSP/22SEP2011//

REF A IS INSURVINST 4730.1 SERIES, MATERIAL INSPECTIONS OF SURFACE SHIPS.
REF B IS INSURVINST 4730.3 SERIES, TRIALS OF SURFACE SHIPS.
REF C IS COMUSFLTFORCOMINST 4790.3 SERIES, JOINT FLEET MAINTENANCE MANUAL (VOL IV).
REF D IS INSURVINST 4730.11 SERIES, DOCUMENTATION OF DISCREPANCIES.
REF E IS OPNAVINST 5090.1 SERIES, ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES PROGRAM MANUAL.
REF F IS OPNAVINST 5100.19 SERIES, NAVY SAFETY AND OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH (SOH) INSPECTION AND CERTIFICATION PROCESS FOR OIL POLLUTION ABATEMENT (OPA) SYSTEMS IN U.S. NAVY SURFACE SHIPS AND CRAFT.
REF H IS CNSPINST 4730.2, TYCOM MATERIAL INSPECTION (TMI) PROCESS.//

GENTEXT/REMARKS/
1. A TMI WAS CONDUCTED ON USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) IN SAN DIEGO, CA FROM 3-5 MAY, 2012. THE TMI TEAM (TMIT) ASSESSES FREEDOM AS A HIGH RISK TO PASS THEIR SPECIAL TRIAL AND DOES NOT RECOMMEND THE SHIP PROCEED TO THEIR SCHEDULED SPECIAL TRIAL UNTIL THE SHIP COMPLETES A SATISFACTORY RE-DEMONSTRATION.

2. SENIOR INSPECTOR COMMENTS: USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) IS EVALUATED AS A "NO-GO" AND IS NOT RECOMMENDED TO PROCEED WITH THE SCHEDULED SPECIAL TRIAL (ST). FREEDOM'S CREW AND CONTRACTORS WERE NOT PREPARED FOR THE INSPECTION. BOTH ENTITIES WERE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE CONDUCT OF INSURV MATERIAL CHECKS. EXECUTION OF THE SOE WAS VERY POOR. THERE WAS CONFUSION BETWEEN CONTRACTOR AND CREW RESPONSIBILITIES FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF EQUIPMENT CHECKS. THE INSPECTION EXPERIENCE LEVEL FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE CREW IS LOW ALTHOUGH THEY DID DEMONSTRATE A GOOD POSITIVE ATTITUDE. THE CREW AND CONTRACTORS NEED TO CONTINUE TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE SHIP'S EQUIPMENT, OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES, IMPROVE IN PRESENTATION/DEMONSTRATIONS AND AGGRESSIVELY MANAGE/COORDINATE SOE. THE SHIP WAS CLEAN. SEVERAL AREAS REQUIRE PRESERVATION. SAFETY PROGRAMS ABOARD THE SHIP ARE NON-EXISTENT. THE SHIP DID DEMONSTRATE THE ABILITY TO SELF-ASSESS. HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT AGGRESSIVELY REPORTING AND PURSUING RESOLUTION OF THE DEFICIENCIES THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED.

3. DEMONSTRATION RESULTS:
A. FULL POWER-RED
B. QUICK REVERSAL ASTERN-RED
C. QUICK REVERSAL AHEAD-RED
D. STEERING-GREEN
E. ANCHOR DROP-YELLOW
F. AFFF TEST-RED
G. SD DTE-YELLOW
H. LONG RANGE AIR SEARCH- GREEN
I. 57MM LIVE FIRE-GREEN
4. FUNCTIONAL AREA RESULTS:
A. AVIATION-RED
B. COMMUNICATIONS-RED
C. INFO SYSTEMS-GREEN
D. NAVIGATION-YELLOW
E. OPERATIONS-RED
F. WEAPONS-YELLOW
G. AUXILIARIES-RED
H. ELECTRICAL-RED
I. MAIN PROPULSION-RED
J. DAMAGE CONTROL-RED
K. DECK-RED
L. ENVIR PROTECTION-YELLOW
M. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH-RED
N. MEDICAL-YELLOW
O. VENTILATION-YELLOW
P. HABITABILITY-GREEN
Q. SUPPLY-YELLOW
R. ABILITY TO SELF-ASSESS-GREEN
S. 3M SPOTCHECKS-RED
T. ATIS DATABASE-NOT DEMONSTRATED//

Monday, October 17, 2011

ALT POM Early Decommission Plans

Here come the cuts. Details from AOL Defense reporter Carlo Munoz.

Washington: Just as the Navy is planning to take on a larger strategic role in regional hot spots around the world, the service is considering massive fleet reductions -- including a two-year delay on its new aircraft carrier -- as part of its upcoming budget plan.

The Navy may cut nine cruisers and three amphibious ships as part of its soon-to-be released budget blueprint covering the next five fiscal years, sources say.

The Navy plans to deactivate four cruisers from the fleet in fiscal year 2013, with another five cruisers coming out of the fleet the next year, according to a preliminary version of the spending plan. The three amphibious landing ships will be deactivated along with the five cruisers.
He goes on to note the potential early retirement of USS George Washington (CVN 73) and shifting of aircraft construction to 7 years instead of 5 years. Very smart folks I have spoken to have noted that a shift to 7 year construction cycles for big deck aircraft carriers will result in either paying up to 25% more for aircraft carriers than we would under 5 year cycles, or loss of that capacity in industry. When you extend the time out on any construction project, you raise costs. Clearly this an accountants idea spawned from an accountant, not one from an engineer.

Getting back to the cruisers and amphibious ships, I thought I'd offer some additional details.
The FY13 ships are:

USS Normandy (CG-60)
USS Anzio (CG-68)
USS Vicksburg (CG-69)
USS Cape St. George (CG-71)

The FY14 ships are:

USS Princeton (CG-59)
USS Cowpens (CG-63)
USS Gettysburg (CG-64)
USS Chosin (CG-65)
USS Hué City (CG-66)

USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41)
USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43)
USS Tortuga (LSD-46)
You might look at this news and think - well, these are just plans, so it's nothing to concern us right now. Wrong. These are part of alternative plans now, and that has maintenance ramifications.
Title 10: 2244a. Equipment scheduled for retirement or disposal: limitation on expenditures for modifications

(a) Prohibition.— Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Secretary of a military department may not carry out a modification of an aircraft, weapon, vessel, or other item of equipment that the Secretary plans to retire or otherwise dispose of within five years after the date on which the modification, if carried out, would be completed.

(b) Exceptions.—

(1) Exception for below-threshold modifications.— The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a modification for which the cost is less than $100,000.

(2) Exception for transfer of reusable items of value.— The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a modification in a case in which—

(A) the reusable items of value, as determined by the Secretary, installed on the item of equipment as part of such modification will, upon the retirement or disposal of the item to be modified, be removed from such item of equipment, refurbished, and installed on another item of equipment; and

(B) the cost of such modification (including the cost of the removal and refurbishment of reusable items of value under subparagraph (A)) is less than $1,000,000.

(3) Exception for safety modifications.— The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a safety modification.

(c) Waiver Authority.— The Secretary concerned may waive the prohibition in subsection (a) in the case of any modification otherwise subject to that subsection if the Secretary determines that carrying out the modification is in the national security interest of the United States. Whenever the Secretary issues such a waiver, the Secretary shall notify the congressional defense committees in writing.
USS George Washington (CVN 73) will likely get a waiver. Somehow I doubt these other ships will, which means several COs will not be getting that maintenance for a few months, or may be retiring their ships early. The Navy will retire oldest first to keep new construction, which is how the US Navy has handled every force reduction in their history.

One more thought. I look at this list and notice a few things. First, BMD capable and ships capable of BMD upgrades are on this cruiser list. The list basically cuts the one non-BMD cruiser at Pearl; cuts half the number of cruisers everywhere but San Diego; and only cuts two at San Diego. Randomly. The first cruisers to get modernization are not on the list, but they are also not BMD capable (the Block 2 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, CG-52 through CG-58).

Just think it is interesting that of the 22 Cruisers, the Navy will keep the eight that cannot get BMD upgrades and only 5 Cruisers that can or already are BMD compatible. I don't see how this approach squares with the BMD requirement that is currently driving surface vessel construction plans.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Signs of Decline

This is what stretched thin looks like in practice.

When the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group headed to sea in August for the first of three planned exercises with Marines, it got underway with only two of its three ships.

The dock landing ship Pearl Harbor remained in San Diego while the amphibious transport dock New Orleans and amphibious assault ship Makin Island conducted “blue-green” training ahead of their deployment later this year.

Pearl Harbor is completing a scheduled-but-extended maintenance period at a San Diego shipyard, so its crew sat out the first set of training. When the ARG gets underway again later this month for its composite training unit exercise, Pearl Harbor won’t be joining them for that one, either, officials say.

That will be one fewer ship Marines and Navy commanders have for training to handle helicopters and vehicles, launch landing craft and support operations ashore.

But Navy officials are “cautiously optimistic” that Pearl Harbor will be ready to join the final training that ultimately deems the ARG and Marine expeditionary unit “ready” to deploy.

“We are not going to relax a single certification standard for the Pearl Harbor as they integrate into this ARG/MEU,” said Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3.
I am curious if the continuing resolution process for FY11 earlier this year contributed to this delay. The fleet does not appear to have any margin for errors or delays anymore - whether from political process or an accident. When something happens that delays any single ship, due to the smaller fleet the cascading impacts always seem to always have broader impacts to schedules and training of other ships and crews.

The rest of the article does a good job discussing options and alternatives. It's worth reading to understand the depth of the issue.

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Clarity, or Added Confusion?

Am I missing something? Check out the second half of this Navy Times story and tell me what you think.

Aviation readiness isn’t tied exclusively to the budget, Navy officials said.

“A combination of factors, not just funding, impact readiness and capability, which we closely monitor. Gaps in maintenance funding have the potential to place more workload on the fleet to move equipment in order to manage readiness and cannibalization rates,” said Lt. Paul Macapagal, a Navy spokesman.

The capability rates the subcommittee evaluated are below goals, due in part to operations in several theaters at high op tempo, a changing emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan that lengthened supply lines, as well as other factors, said Capt. Mike Kelly, the force materiel officer at Naval Air Forces.

Additionally, the data the subcommittee is using isn’t the best tool to assess full mission capability, Kelly said. For example, an electronic attack aircraft might be in a carrier hangar, in great shape, but isn’t equipped with a jamming pod. For every half-hour it sits without that pod it technically doesn’t count as “fully mission-capable,” he said.

It’s better to consider whether the aircraft is ready for a certain task, Kelly said.

“Do I have the aircraft? Do I have the mission sets? Do I have the required equipment? Do I have the required crew?” he asked. “We send each and every strike group with a complete set of assets. We’ve been solid doing that, and I can’t think of any shortages when we’re sending them to sea.”
Where did Rep Forbes get his information? From the Navy. That means the Navy is who says that an electronic attack aircraft in a carrier hangar without a jamming pod for over a half-hour doesn’t count as “fully mission-capable" even if the aircraft is otherwise just fine?

But if the jam pod is broken and that is why the electronic attack aircraft doesn't have a jammer, doesn't that mean the aircraft isn't fully mission capable, and suggests the aircraft would have to cannibalize a jammer off another aircraft in order to perform a mission?

Seems to me that if the Navy is measuring by that criteria, the Navy is measuring correctly. That would then beg the question why the data the subcommittee is using isn’t the best tool to assess full mission capability if indeed the data used by the subcommittee (and even in the example provided by Lt. Paul Macapagal) effectively assesses full mission capability?

The Navy is saying "but the aircraft isn't broken" while Forbes is saying "fix the jammer" before you pat yourself on the back. I get it things won't always work right, but when the target is 60% full mission capability and the Navy is only able to get 45% from the entire fleet, I'm thinking Forbes is making the right point.

I'm not sure if the new information adds more clarity or more confusion. Am I missing something?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Congressman Kissell Throws Three Strikes

The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness hearing that focused on Navy Readiness on Tuesday is a gold mine of good information. Unfortunately, most of the real eyeopening information to those outside the bubble (like me) came from the Committee members, not the Navy. My impression was VADM Burke and VADM McCoy walked into a lions den of tough questions and came off looking unprepared, for example, the uncomfortable long pauses followed by very short answers to tough questions didn't project much confidence in the answers being given by the Navy. That is a body language analysis, but a fair one - I think. With that said, both Vice Admirals did remarkably well considering there is no question the questions being asked by Congress were really tough questions almost throughout.

What made this hearing better than most Congressional hearings is that Steve Palazzo of Mississippi was the only subcommittee member to ask parochial questions that really seemed out of place in the context of the hearing. Did you get your Northrop Grumman check for that series of questions Steve? If you didn't get paid, then keep in mind you sounded unprepared and out of place for free. Sorry dude... you have a long way to go if you want to fill Gene Taylor's shoes. Every one else in the hearing asked tough, probing questions to the topic on hand. People familiar with Congressional hearings will recognize just how rare it is for any House subcommittee hearing to be absent the parochial non-sense one usually finds in a Navy budget hearing.

The Navy is in a maintenance mess and everyone knows it. This was a tough hearing for the Navy, because nobody wants to go testify under oath about public, obvious problems that have difficult, long term solutions. For me, what is great about this hearing is that it provides plenty to write about - indeed I hope this will be the first of several posts because my time is limited and this hearing produced a cart load of low hanging fruit.

Lets kick it off with three important issues raised by Larry Kissell from North Carolina, who in my opinion really did some top quality work probing the Navy with these questions and getting the responding, revealing answers.

FORBES: Chair recognizes the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Kissell.

KISSELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, gentlemen, for being with us today. Admiral Burke, you said a couple times, "a limited supply of forces." What were you referring and -- in the big picture there and what does that affect?

BURKE: What I'm referring to when I say we have a limited supply is we only have 285 ships. And I'm - as a submariner, I'm most familiar with the submarine model, where COCOM demand is for about 16 or 18 sub SSNs at any one time. We deliver about 10 SSNs at any one time. So why do we only deliver 10? Because that's all we can afford to deliver. So...

KISSELL: When you were talking about limited supply of forces, you were talking about specifically ships, not personnel, not aircraft, not missiles or equipment for the ships? You were talking specifically for ships?

BURKE: I'm talking about ships as a representative of the entire Navy. So the same sort of thing happens with aircraft. But the aircraft in the Navy are typically on ships. So they're part of that process. So, in other words, we frequently get asked to deliver more carrier presence with the carrier and the aircraft than we can deliver.

KISSELL: So for every ship that we're short, then you're saying there's just a multiplied shortness there of everything that you could want or imagine or need with that ship, and that's what kind of - I was just curious more about, when you say, limited supply of forces, just, you know - so that's kind of a - for every ship, then, what comes with that ship, we're missing?

BURKE: Yes.
VADM Burke is hitting home the impact of a small fleet in high demand, the impacts at both the operational end and how that cascades in the cycles towards training and maintenance. The Navy struggles with these challenges, and Navy leaders do a good job juggling priorities in meeting COCOM demands while also meeting engineering and training requirements. It's a tough situation that leaves only tough decisions where something gets missed due to circumstances.

Fewer ships under higher demands equals higher tempo, and the administration appears to be ignoring the impacts of that equation to the Navy while Congress is struggling to deal with those impacts.

The key detail provided by VADM Burke is, I think, an important topic, and I'll likely repeat this revealing detail in future posts - "COCOM demand is for about 16 or 18 sub SSNs at any one time. We deliver about 10 SSNs at any one time."

WOW! Will the Navy please communicate challenges like this more often! Unfortunately, that probably won't happen. When this tidbit was discussed among folks in social media yesterday after the hearing, several very bright military savvy folks started asking the questions the Navy doesn't have a public answer for, like:
  • "Why do COCOMs have such a high demand for submarines?"
  • "What do submarines actually do that makes them this important?"
  • "Could this be true? What do submarines do?"
As much as folks email me to answer these questions publicly, I won't - it's not my job to answer these questions; it is the Navy's job. All I will say is this... and encourage folks to think about it.

What would you do in the modern technological age with an invisible nuclear power source off a country where bad things are taking place? Here is another question... if you don't have a submarine to conduct operations, does that mean you have to fill that requirement gap with secret bases filled with spooks? Give it some thought.

The American people don't seem to understand that a smaller Navy offshore means more US presence on land inside other countries will be a required result to compensate for the lack of ships. The American people aren't alone in failing to see how this cause and effect activity takes place, because even think tank policy shops like the Center for American Progress are apparently unsophisticated enough in national security affairs analysis to figure out how lack of ships translates into other activities. Policy will be executed... one way or the other. That will never change without a massive overhaul of US foreign policy, and President Obama rejected the option to overhaul US foreign policy when his turn to make the choice came. It is a safe bet that future Presidents will maintain current policy as well. Frustrating..., but true.
KISSELL: OK. And Admiral McCoy, you mentioned a percentage of ships being deployed. And I know we had some charts here, and I probably - it's on there somewhere and I just missed it. But is there an optimum level that we operate against in saying this is the percentage that we would like to have deployed at any one time, in order to have the rest and retrofitting and everything else that we need going on at one time? Is there a percentage that we shoot for, or does it just kind of vary to tempo levels, or...

BURKE: Let me take that one.

KISSELL: OK.

BURKE: There are - first of all, there are about 12 percent of our forces forward deployed. In other words, it is home ported in Sasebo, Yokosuka, Japan or in Bahrain. So those forces are always forward, if you will. That number has essentially doubled over the last 10 years, effectively doubled, given the increase in forces forward and the decrease in overall forces. But 40 percent - so the 40 percent includes that. What we've done over the last several years is, by increasing those that are forward deployed, we have taken those that are rotationally deployed - those that deploy from Norfolk and Groton and San Diego and Hawaii go other places. We've taken that number and kept it the same, even though the force size is dropping. So where we are today is we're not at a sustainable level. Forty percent is not sustainable in the long term.

KISSELL: Is there a percentage that would be, you know, all things being equal, more sustainable?

BURKE: Well, in the submarine force, that number is about 22 percent.

KISSELL: OK.

BURKE: So 22 percent are forward at any one time.
This is a very interesting answer, and represents the kind of 'process model' answer the Navy isn't very accustomed to giving as an answer under oath. I'm curious if VADM Burke knowingly let slip this answer, because he may regret being bluntly honest (the Navy doesn't reward revealing their thought processes to Congress). Basically VADM Burke is admitting that as the Navy shrinks, more ships will have to be forward based in order to meet the deployment requirements. This is an even more curious issue because the Navy has already announced they intend to forward base several Littoral Combat Ships. The answer by VADM Burke raises a serious question just how far away the 284 ship Navy of today actually is from being able to meet the COCOM demand for naval forces?

The LCS program with it's dual crew model, modular engineering, and massive offshore maintenance infrastructure requirement is supposed to offer the Navy more deployment time than the ships the LCS replaces. So more deployment time + more forward based Littoral Combat Ships means the Navy is hoping to leverage the LCS as a way of meeting the COCOM demand that is currently being unmet with a 284 ship fleet. The real problem here though is that the argument VADM Burke is making makes it sound like even 313 or 324 ships wouldn't come close to being enough to meet the COCOM demands either, and that demand is being driven by US foreign policy.

I honestly don't know how Congress can read VADM Burke's answer and come to the conclusion that 313 or 324 ships is a legitimate number of ships to meet COCOM requirements when so many of the ships in that plan yet to be built (LCS) don't exist yet and are attempting to meet forward deployment requirements well above existing capacity for forward presence. From my perspective, COCOM demand seems to be suggesting the Navy has a quantity problem, while the Navy is busy focusing force structure on developing quality solutions which ultimately reduces the quantity of available ships to the COCOMs.

The way I read this answer, the Navy has a square peg (COCOM requirement), round hole (Navy Force Structure plans) problem that VADM Burke's comments contribute more skepticism towards.
KISSELL: And one other question, Admiral Burke, you talked about that, with aircraft, that there's a certain number of hours you get to fly them. And with the delayed delivering of the F-35 and the more hours that we're flying on the wings we have now, where are we heading to? Are we heading towards to the point we don't have the aircraft that we need? And how soon might we be there or the consequences - what do you foresee there?

BURKE: The delay and the arrival of the F-35 is a challenge for us. It will add hours on those other aircraft that we call legacy aircraft. It will add hours to them. And those hours are costly, particularly at the end of the aircraft's life.

KISSELL: And how many more hours do you think we have there? When are we going to reach the point where those lines start coming too close to each other?

BURKE: Well, we're addressing that now. We have a surface life assessment program and a service life extension program for our F-18s. And we're in the middle of actually assessing and extending some of those aircraft. So they're built as a 6,000-hour aircraft. And we're doing the engineering analysis. And we think we can get them to 8,000. And then there's additional analysis that's going on, to try to get longer life out of them. But there's only so far you can go.

The other thing we're trying to do in that regard is to add simulation time. So if we can simulate our hour as one cheap - if we can make if effective, we can reduce the hours on the actual airplane.

KISSELL: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask the admiral to give some more information on that and to kind of project where these lines may be going, because if we don't get the F-35 in and we can't get there, you know, how soon is that crisis point coming?

BURKE: I'd be happy to do that.

KISSELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

FORBES: Thank you, Larry.
Everything about the Joint Strike Fighter stinks. Everything. It is time for Congress to start asking if a larger quantity of enhanced F-18E/Fs is a better value than the cost nightmare quality of the F-35C. I still support the F-35B - it is past time to replace the AV-8s, but someone explain to me how an aircraft carrier with 2 squadrons of F-35Cs and 2 squadrons of F-18E/Fs is better than an aircraft carrier with five 12-plane squadrons of F-18E/Fs supported by 2 squadrons of EA-18Gs. With 70 F-18 E/F/Gs, would the Navy save more money in procurement, maintenance, training, support, etc (every category) than they will by adding the F-35C into the mix? I think the numbers would be very close.

When quantity is less expensive than quality, something doesn't add up. If the X-47 can support the carrier based refueling role, then I no longer see the value of the F-35C on an aircraft carrier. JSF is the modern A-12, only no one will admit it. I still say the Navy would be better off modifying a version of the F-22 for naval operations to fill the intercept role than chasing the F-35C any longer - and even that radical idea could potentially be less expensive if the Navy is willing to accept 10-15% less capability in the navalized version of the F-22.

Regardless, the F-35C is a serious challenge and I just don't know how the platform fits the Navy anymore, particularly if it continues to get more and more expensive making the actual aircraft carrier expected to carry the JSF no longer affordable for the Navy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Austal's LCS Corrosion Problem

It started when Bloomberg reported the Navy had discovered “aggressive” corrosion on the USS Independence (LCS 2). There weren't many details in the original report, so I initially chalked this up to part of the learning curve both the Navy and Austal will suffer through with a new ship type built completely of aluminum. The story became more interesting to me as an observer when I saw the way Austal Chief executive Andrew Bellamy responded to the news.

Chief executive Andrew Bellamy said any corrosion on the vessel, known as a ''littoral combat ship'' for its ability to hug the shore, would be the fault of the operator or maintainer.

''We have built 230 vessels of this type that have not suffered from this type of problem … where the operator and the maintainer of the ship have followed the procedures in a thorough way,'' Mr Bellamy said. ''I suspect there is a problem in the area of operational maintenance if there is a galvanic corrosion issue.''

The rust claim comes weeks after the Perth-based Austal said it would sharpen its focus on the defence sector amid weakening demand for commercial boats.
Blame the Navy for poor maintenance because Austals first big warship runs into a problem none of their simple commercial ferry designs ever had? That seems like a really poor way to respond to problems encountered. My impression at the time this article was released is that the Navy was dealing with a rust problem, so to me this article was nothing more than a good laugh at the hubris of Austal.

But it turns out this isn't a simple rust problem, which was my mistake in following this story. Check out this remarkable press statement sales pitch by Austal.
Galvanic corrosion is an issue that has challenged U.S. warships since 1844, when the USS Michigan, the first iron-hulled Navy ship, entered service. Today, two common and robust solutions, impressed current cathodic protection systems and the use of strategically-placed sacrificial anodes, are in wide use throughout the world, particularly in ships where two different metals such as steel and aluminum are utilised in the one vessel.

As a specialist in aluminum shipbuilding, having built over 220 aluminum vessels for defence forces and commercial clients around the world since its formation in 1988, Austal is intimately familiar with the management of galvanic corrosion. An electrochemical process, galvanic corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals, after being in electrical contact with one another, corrode at different rates.

According to company records, galvanic corrosion has not been a factor on any Austal built and fully maintained vessel, and our technical experts are eager to support any request to identify root causes of any corrosion issue in any aluminum naval vessel in service today. The Westpac Express, an Austal-built and fully maintained high-speed catamaran, has shuttled U.S. Marines throughout the Pacific Basin continuously for ten years, with a 99.7% availability over that period.

As Prime Contractor for Jackson, the third Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-6), Austal has a well-developed methodology for the management of galvanic corrosion, which it has deployed globally on behalf of its defense and commercial clients. If selected to provide post-delivery support for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Class Services program, it is a straight forward process for Austal engineers to regularly conduct systematic reviews of the electrical grounding throughout each Austal-built vessel to detect and eliminate stray currents that might cause electrolysis between the stainless steel impeller housing and of the adjacent aluminum structure.

An integral part of any post-delivery support program for a high-performance, high-speed vessel such as the Independence-variant LCS is to provide a cadre of qualified maintainers who can help our Navy partners to deploy temporary sacrificial anodes every time the vessel is moored, and ensure that high-voltage maintenance equipment is properly grounded before use aboard ship. These are services that Austal’s skilled aluminum specialists, operating from six maintenance hubs in the Asia-Pacific, North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East, offer Austal customers every day.

With almost 2,200 current employees at Austal’s USA shipyard, with a future workforce planned of over 4,000, each and every Austal employee is committed to making the Littoral Combat Ship a success. Awarded a ten-ship contract in December 2010, Austal has eagerly assumed the role of Prime Contractor for the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships awarded under the 10 ship block buy contract, and, as a Prime Contractor for those 10 ships, Austal will always stand by its products and our Navy partners.
It turns out this is not rust, rather an electrolysis issue between the stainless steel waterjet parts and the aluminum hulls, and when the Navy calls an electrolysis problem “aggressive corrosion" that suggests to me the metal is completely gone - not rusted. In the case of LCS-2, the problem was apparently accelerated by stray currents in the hull from the electrical distribution system problems the ship has been having since it was turned over to the Navy. Normally an electrolysis problem would be prevented by the use of a Cathodic Protection System (CPS), but wouldn't you know it - USS Independence (LCS 2) doesn't have a CPS.

LCS-4 doesn't have one either, but apparently CPS is part of the lessons learned process and was included in the fixed-price contracts for Austal versions of the LCS beginning with LCS-6. LCS-2 will have the CPS installed at the next drydock period, while Austal has said a CPS will be added to LCS-4 before the ship is turned over to the Navy.

The question everyone seems to be asking is whether the JHSV could suffer the same issue. With all due respect to the Austal press statement, vessels built for Navy purposes have a great deal more technology potentially running electrical currents through the ships than commercial ferry's do, and Austal isn't exactly a world wide expert on building frigate sized navy ships. The stray currents in USS Independence (LCS 2) could easily reoccur in the JHSV creating similar problems if prevention isn't built into the design. The Westpac Express is a commercial design and the charter did not significantly add technology nor were changes made to Westpac Express that runs electrical power throughout the ferry, so Austal is making an apples to oranges comparison suggesting their immune from criticism because their simple commercial vessels don't have this problem.

I've heard from a few unofficial but relatively informed folks the JHSV does not have a cathodic protection system, and if that turns out to be true we could see the Navy move to address that issue before JHSV-1 conducts sea trials later this year. I'd be curious to know if Westpac Express has a CPS installed, or some other form of prevention is used at all.

I tend to think of this problem as the first public problem that is part of a steep learning curve process both the Navy and Austal were bound to run into with the Austal version of the Littoral Combat Ships, indeed I suspect there will be other public problems revealed over time that will require relatively simple, albeit costly, solutions. Is this a big deal? Hard to tell, but given both the problem and solution is well understood, in the context of unknowns yet to be discovered with LCS - to me this isn't really that big of a deal as long as the long term solutions effectively work as intended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Something Clearly Went Wrong With USS Philippine Sea

U.S Code Title X, 7304 requires a Board of Naval Officers to conduct a Material Inspection of all naval ships at least once every three years, if practicable.

SECNAVINST 5040.3, Department of The Navy Inspection Program (DONIP) and OPNAVINST 4730.5(series) Trials and Material Inspections of Ships provides additional directions and responsibilities to the President, Board of Inspection and Survey (PRESINSURV).

Instructions and procedures established by PRESINSURV for conducting inspections, surveys and trials are found in the following instructions; a)INSURVINST 4730.1, Material Inspections of Surface Ships, b) INSURVINST 4730.2, Material Inspections of Submarines, c) INSURVINST 4730.3, Trials of Surface Ships.
Lets talk about this news report.
Two East Coast-based ships — a cruiser and a frigate — registered unsatisfactory grades following early-December material readiness assessments by the Navy Board of Inspection and Survey, Fleet Forces Command has confirmed.

The grades were the worst of 41 ships assessed by the INSURV so far in 2010.

The Mayport, Fla.-based cruiser Philippine Sea “demonstrated challenges” in the areas of main propulsion, environmental protection, electrical, weapons, ventilation and aviation, according to Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a Fleet Forces Command spokesman. The Norfolk-based frigate Nicholas, he said, was similarly “challenged” in the areas of main propulsion, environmental protection, combat systems and aviation.
The first instinct lately with INSURVs has been to focus in on the ships leadership and crew, but I'll let the Navy handle that aspect. What I want to look at is some history.

USS Nicholas (FFG 47)

I do not know when the last INSURV was for USS Nicholas (FFG 47), but I am going to assume that it was sometime between August 18th, 2008 when the ship returned from a six month patrol in the 6th Fleet and December 2009 when the ship deployed to participate in Africa Partnership Station (APS) in support of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM). The ship was commissioned on March 10, 1984 and is now 26.8 years old. The public record suggests the ship hasn't been doing much since returning from that deployment on June 3, 2010.

I see a very old ship that never underwent modernization among a class of ships that was stripped of weapons long ago that has undergone a lifetime of command and crew changes that just spent 6 months in one of the few places on the planet parts are virtually impossible to come by and the result doesn't surprise me any. In all likelihood the CO saw this coming months ago, alerted the Navy, and the crew has done what it could with what little it had - while probably also being looted for IA and any number of other training or assignment tasks - and ultimately the ship didn't pass INSURV. Even without knowing the details, there is very little about this case that I find out of the ordinary or unexpected - indeed it would have been heroic had the ship passed INSURV based on what public information is available.

USS Philippine Sea (CG 58)

The USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) has a much different history than USS Nicholas (FFG 47), and if we examine the results of a bad INSURV in the context of public information - someone needs to be asking questions. On September 29, 2007 USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) participated in an Expeditionary Strike Group Integration exercise (ESGINT), with the USS Nassau (LHA 4) ESG, in preparation for a deployment in 2008. On December 15, 2007 USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) successfully completed a 17-day Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX).

USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) returned from a five month deployment on July 10, 2008, and wasn't heard from in the news again until USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) became the school ship for Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) in January 31, 2009.

On March 10, 2009 USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), along with USS Anzio (CG 68) and USS Porter (DDG 78), was conducting Fleet Irregular Warfare Training in the vicinity of the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) and in the Jacksonville Operating Areas according to news reports. On April 23, 2009 the Philippine Sea performed an airborne medical evacuation of a 70-year old passenger aboard the cruise ship Motor Vessel Braemar, while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The guided-missile cruiser was en route to Plymouth, United Kingdom, to participate in a multinational NATO exercise Joint Warrior at the time. USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) spent all of May at sea in Europe returning to Virginia by June 1. Then this happened.
PSE arrived at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, VA on June 1st and commenced a weapons offload. On the 2nd, ATG inspectors arrived, inbriefed the 3M Certification, and began the inspection the very next day. After completing the certification with Mayport Basin record-breaking scores, Phil Sea returned to homeport and entered her 10-month availability on the 8th. This availability encompassed what is known as Cruiser Modernization fleet-wide. USS Philippine Sea would soon become the 2nd cruiser in the fleet to complete Cruiser Modernization, the 1st on the east coast. The month was filled with crew move ashore, defueling, planning and coordination meetings, and finally entering Atlantic Marine Drydock on the 24th.
Captain Herbert M. Hadley took over command of the ship on November 19, 2009 according to the ships own history. Cruiser Modernization completed in February 17, 2010 when the ship returned to sea. In May 2010 the ship participated in New York City Fleet Week and as recently as October 22, 2010 the ship was reportedly conducting training operations with the George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Carrier Strike Group in preparation of a deployment next year.

Something Clearly Went Wrong

Someone explain to me what just happened. USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) is 21.9 years old and just underwent cruiser modernization, which includes "smartship" and all electric modifications to the ship. The ship was in the yard from June 1st, 2009 until getting back to sea on February 17, 2010 and by December - 10 months after cruiser modernization - the ship fails INSURV? How can a ship be 10 months out of cruiser modernization and INSURV reports the ship “demonstrated challenges” in the areas of main propulsion, environmental protection, electrical, weapons, ventilation and aviation? Doesn't "smartship" reduce the crew size, extra hands that would have been nice during maintenance prior to INSURV?

From 1868-2009 INSURV reports were unclassified information. It is unclear why INSURV reports are classified, because the only thing one can learn from an INSURV report is that a ship isn't in good condition at some point in time. Clearly the enemy is unaware that ships can potentially wear down.

Because INSURVs are classified, we have no idea what went wrong with USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), but something clearly did. When a ship is only 10 months out of the yard following the ships single most important, and expensive modernization availability period and fails an INSURV, something is clearly not right. Inspections of Navy ships are required by law, and here is a great example where an INSURV report being classified conceals the material condition of USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), among the three CGs to be modernized, from Congress.

Did the Navy just flush millions in taxpayer money down the toilet with the modernization of USS Philippine Sea (CG 58)? How can we spend multiple millions on upgrades but fail to spend the multiple thousands necessary for upkeep? Sorry Congressman, unless you ask the question yourself while the Navy is under oath, you may never get the answer.

Here is another question the new Congress should think about - did the delay in the FY2011 defense budget impact maintenance funding for these ships? As a taxpayer and a voter, I think Americans should know that answer because warships are incredibly expensive, and shouldn't be allowed to fall into poor condition because money isn't available (when it could be made available in a CR) during a maintenance period due to political obstacles in passing a budget on time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The July 28 House Hearing

The House Armed Services Committee hearing back on July 28th was quite interesting - at least to nerds like me. If you haven't seen it, the webcast is available on the HASC website. The hearing on surface fleet readiness was prompted by the Balisle Report.

I've had about 5 weeks to think about the Balisle Report, and the only thing I know for sure 5 weeks later is that I have more questions now than I did after I read the report. I find it interesting that ADM Harvey was who pushed for the independent review with ADM Willard, and then had retired VADM Balisle lead the Fleet Review Panel.

What is interesting to me is that the report is ultimately critical regarding many failures of leadership over a span of nearly 2 decades until today - which if you think about it, means that ADM Harvey had VADM Balisle (ret) lead a team to issue a report that was critical of the job performance of VADM Balisle (ret) and ADM Harvey - because among many others, those two are among the leaders responsible during the period where problems occurred.

Was the ultimate purpose of the report to clarify and justify changes to fleet readiness that ADM Harvey knew needed to be made? Was the intended function of the report to ultimately help produce the evidence necessary to make those changes? The answer is probably - YES, which is noteworthy because it highlights the level of effort necessary (efforts which includes producing a report that intentionally casts doubt on ones own ability to properly do a job) just to properly fund an obviously broken maintenance system in the Navy today.

When was the last time a 4 star in our military pushed for an independent report that was directly critical of the job performance of the 4 star who pushed for the report? Just a small detail, but since the report basically calls into question the job performance of those who have served as head of Fleet Forces Command - what was the CNOs last job before he became CNO? I understand he wasn't there but for a few months, but at what point do the excuses end and does taking ownership of problems begin? The Balisle Report doesn't really build confidence in the Navy when you think about who those leaders were who dropping the ball. Just saying...

Ownership though is what distinguished ADM Harvey in the hearing - because he took ownership of the problem. When you account for the style of ADM Harvey - which I have noted over the last few years is one of a leader who leads from the front - the final result of the hearing is that ADM Harvey spent July 28th throwing his name in the hat for the next CNO. It is never too early - because the big change is only 13 months away. ADM Harvey made a really good impression with the HASC - something I think is clearly obvious in the webcast.

Something else I found really interesting about the hearing is how no actual specific information was revealed in discussion regarding what the Navy is specifically doing to solve the fleet readiness problems. Don't get me wrong - there is clearly work being done - but no details of that work was mentioned. Part of me sees this as a problem - because whatever the Navy is going to do about the conclusions of the Balisle Report, they certainly didn't tell anyone what that would be. However, another part of me noted a sharp change in the way VADM Burke, VADM McCoy, and ADM Harvey talked about the manpower, training, and maintenance topics surrounding surface fleet readiness...

They spoke with an authority of being results oriented. It is the distinguishing difference between the usual generic speak of Navy leaders giving Congressional testimony and the tone established during this hearing. The blunt speak - despite being absent detailed substance - was different and exceeded my own expectations of the hearing. I'm used to Navy leadership saying nothing in long hearings, but I'm not used to hearing Navy leaders talk about accomplishing goals (at least in a believable way). Seriously - go watch more hearings if you dispute that very fair and accurate characterization of Navy leaders testifying in front of Congress.

In all - including about an hour and a half of testimony - we only learn one specific change taking place regarding the fleet readiness issue. Buried, and I mean six feet deep within the submitted written statement (PDF) and never once mentioned during the hearing itself is this not so trivial organizational change:

Clear lines of authority and accountability for ship man, train, equip and maintain issues. Specific corrective actions include establishing clear and unambiguous Type Commander accountability for ship man, train, equip and maintain issues and standing down CLASSRONs and transfering manpower/functions to a "Readiness ISIC", Afloat Training Group and Type Commander as appropriate.
Wait... what!?! So let me get this straight... For no obvious or stated reason, the Navy is going to stand down CLASSRONS - even though we have spent over half the 21st century to date standing them up? Yep... and that was basically the only specific detail of change learned from the entire hearing.

I guess I'm the only person who read this fairly major organizational change in the report and thought to myself such a change certainly deserves a bit of explanation, but it would appear nobody in the House Armed Services Committee caught this rather enormous rearrangement of the deck chairs. The hearing spends a great deal of time discussing the Littoral Combat Ship - but in paragraph 1 on page 4/4 of the written statement - LCSRON just got tossed overboard with the trash.

WTF?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Balisle Report

The Balisle report is starting to gain traction with the latest reporting in the press. What has been reported in the press already is only a sample of the blunt nature of the report regarding all the issues surrounding Surface Force Readiness. This report is serious and all business, and I mean it when I say the language is blunt and direct. I also find the quality of the report to be very high - rich in detail, and with a quality of depth to many issues.

I currently have no intention to release my copy of this report to the public, although I have to admit that the casual dismissal as a response to the report as reported in Phil Ewing's first news article about the report has me thinking I should just print the whole thing in small pieces on the blog (or the USNI blog actually). The impression that the contents of this report can be casually or flippantly addressed by the Navy kind of ticked me off as a taxpayer. The contents are entirely too serious for such a response.

I'll add to the discussion of the Balisle Report started by Phil Ewing in his press reports to date by quoting from the Financials section which, in theory, should hold some value for our Congressional readers.

Observations/Findings. Surface ship maintenance has been significantly underfunded for over ten years. This is manifesting itself in the degraded material condition of the ships as reflected in recent INSURV reports, corrosion audits, and CASREP data. The decision to transition to condition based maintenance from an engineered operating cycle maintenance resulted in the reduction of over 500 man days per month of depot level maintenance from DDG 51 class ships alone and a corresponding reduction in programmed operations and maintenance dollars for ship depot level maintenance.

While the difference was intended to be compensated by an increase in funding and opportunities for continuous maintenance availabilities throughout the year, that never translated into reality. A clear indicator of the fallout of the lack of funding is the steady increase in TA-4 (ship force capable) level work.

It may legitimately be said that insufficient funding applied over recent years has not been the result of an unwillingness to fund to the requirement as much as the result of not having a properly identified requirement.

For example, as programmed, it may appear that overall ship maintenance is funded at 95-99%. In reality, since we don't know the true maintenance requirement for conventional surface ships (the "denominator"), it is reasonable to assume that our surface ships receive a lower percentage for maintenance funding when compared to a true requirement. Currently as maintenance dollars are allocated by the Fleets, public shipyards (where the majority of CVN and submarine work is performed) are funded at levels between 97-100%. That leaves the balance of the maintenance funding left to be allocated to conventional surface ship maintenance. Currently one of only two items in the CNO's Unfunded Requirement list to Congress is $200M for ship maintenance.

The end result is the surface navy is funded below their identified requirement at the start of the year with the goal of making up the balance as money becomes available during the execution year. This unstable funding environment almost exclusively impacts the private shipyards, where most of the non-nuclear ship maintenance is performed, and results in higher work rates aas jobs get screened into the availability package laer due to uncertainty of funding commitments. The end result is an understanding requirement that has been underfunded in the budgeting process that is frequently going to cost more in actual execution because of an unpredictable funding stream, in other words, a low return for maintenance dollar invested. To further impact material readiness, the surface Type Commander frequently has to make irrevocable mitigation decisions earlier in the fiscal year due to projected uncertain (or unfavorable) levels of funding. If a CNO availability is subsequently canceled, or de-scoped prior to a midyear money bring available, that maintenance most likely will not be made up later in the year. Alternatively, cash flowing throughout the year on the hope that more money will be available later is a tenuous business plan that can leave availabilities scheduled for the end of the fiscal year exposed and unfunded.
I was very tempted not to post or quote any part of the Balisle Report until I read the response given by the Navy to Phil Ewing in his first article. Now that I have read the report in full, this kind of answer doesn't satisfy me, as a taxpayer, none.
Capt. Cate Mueller, a spokeswoman for Fleet Forces Command, said Balisle's report didn't tell the Navy anything it didn't already know.

"Fleet leaders, based upon their own prior analysis, believed that many of the problems that the panel subsequently identified - including manning shortfalls, inadequate shipboard and shore maintenance, and insufficient training - were taking a toll on surface force readiness," she said. "In that regard, the fleet review panel confirmed, in context and in detail, what fleet leaders had suspected."

She also reaffirmed what senior Navy leaders have hinted for the past few months: They're swinging the pendulum in the other direction by looking to increase crew sizes, improve training and re-teach the fleet to maintain its ships and equipment.
If any leader wants to strut around with a position that the findings "didn't tell the Navy anything it didn't already know" then I see serious problems. I understand that some of the issues raised in the report are well known and had previously been identified - ADM Harvey himself has discussed the manpower shortfalls and insufficient training issues on several occasions, and has been direct when discussing solutions. The report is so much more than that though, and if Navy leaders already knew what the report would find - you've been intentionally covering your ass by not disclosing this information to Congress or the taxpayer. The American public deserves a better answer than a 'nothing new here to see' type of response.

The part of the Balisle Report I quoted identifies the absence of a "properly identified requirement" for maintenance funding going back over a decade - meaning that every single Admiral who is also a surface warfare officer has only known the broken system of maintenance that has existed for over the same period of time every single Flag SWO was in major Command.

This report is seriously troubling, and raises legitimate questions regarding the quality of the fleet in reality vs paper, and an even more serious question whether the US Navy is a good steward of taxpayer investment. There are so many areas to discuss that I understand why Phil Ewing is putting out a new article that only covers part of the Balisle Report every week.

If you didn't read Phil Ewing's contribution this week, take a look. That is such an enormous issue it deserves its own blog post, and absolutely should have every Congressman on the HASC demanding to get an informed and impartial brief on the Balisle Report.

I don't see how Gene Taylor avoids a hearing on the findings of this report - because it raises serious questions regarding the quality of testimony the US Navy has been giving the HASC Seapower Subcommittee over the past few years on questions related to maintenance and the quality condition of the surface fleet. The Navy has stated in testimony they are going to extend the surface fleet out to 40 years life, and yet the report makes clear that under the current maintenance condition of the past decade, ships would be lucky to make it past an average of 28 years - below the prior expected life of the ship. WTF? The report also raises serious questions regarding new maintenance concepts in development - LCS comes to mind.

The Balisle Report is too blunt, too detailed, and too revealing of serious problems to go ignored or be casually dismissed as 'something the Navy already knows.' That is an unacceptable dismissal of a rather lengthy and damning report on the status of the surface fleet with detailed analysis of numerous problems.

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