Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You just indicted yourself, Navy

OK, call me a simple man - but - if you feel that the selection process you presently use had issues, then you should correct those things feeding in to the system before you get the finished product, right?

Let's look at a manufacturing process. If you are examining the things coming out of the production line - a line you completely own and control - and that you designed; and you find an inferior product coming out the other end, what do you do.

1. Stop the production line, find out where the errors are taking place, correct or replace those things causing the errors; or ..

2. Keep the same process in place, hire a bunch of guys with hammers and files, and toss the finished product to them to correct and smooth the product before delivering it to the customer.

Guess which choice our Navy has chosen? Via our friend Sam Feldman;
Many of the Navy’s communities have upped their command screening rules after the Navy’s top officer ordered an overhaul last year that requires boards and leadership school for every future commanding officer.

These steps are all part of the latest effort to pick better skippers.

Some of the new hurdles come after the officers already have been selected for command.
Stop. Rewind that and read again.

Note to Sam and the Navy; you have not adjusted your Command Screen Board process if nothing changes until after the results come out. That is second guessing, CYA'n, and just adding layers of bureaucracy to spackle over something that is not working.

I used to give the benefit of the doubt - imperfect as all human institutions are - to the Command screen process; if the Navy is doing this post-Board, then no more.

I always thought the problem was more one of perverse incentives pre-Board that did not direct our officers towards things that best prepared them for Operational Command - and I think that is still the case. After the below, one or two things is going on;

1. I'm wrong. The career path is fine the Board is broken.
2. I'm right. The Board is fine, the Navy just is too in love with its "select in our own image" non-operational focus, ticket punching, Millington Diktat process that it is inventing new ways to correct the symptoms, as opposed to fixing the illness.

... all officers training to be COs must attend the Command Leadership School in Newport, R.I., where they now take a case study-based exam that tests their knowledge and judgment in essay-style answers.

There is no failing the exam, but those whose responses are found lacking get more help. It’s an extra step that’s rarely required: Fewer than 10 of the 450 officers who’ve taken the test have needed extra help,
OK. I want to see the details on the 10 folks in the Dream Team. Designator, career paths, questions missed, full demographic outline, regression analysis on personal and professional characteristics, and FITREP review.
Surface COs also have a test requirement. Starting in June, black shoes must pass a multipart assessment once they’re recommended for command. This includes a written test that quizzes them on management, materiel readiness, shiphandling and combat at sea.

Officers must correctly answer at least 75 percent of the questions to pass — 90 percent in the “rules of the road” section. Since December, when officers were limited to two chances to pass it, the pass rate has risen to 73 percent for each test, said Capt. Richard Brown, the head of the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, where the test is given.
No, this isn't the DuffleBlog. A solid "C" and you're set!  Good to see, "2.0 and go" still works when you are in your late 30s and early 40s. 

Somewhere in Portsmouth, UK - Royal Navy officers are laughing their arses off. Does explain some of the shiphandling challenges we have seen - something that more time at sea on the bridge would help, maybe. 

Also, if we are going to have a SWO "Perisher Course," could it be done pre-Board? Oh, either that or we could have FITREPS that actually give as much weight to such knowledge as ... well ... you know.
Surface warriors also must tackle a virtual trainer, safely steering the type of warship they served aboard on their most recent department-head tour through a scenario designed to test their skills and judgment.

Brown said the scenario will assess issues like, “What’s the officer’s command presence? Is he or she listening to what their watch team is telling them? And what kind of decision-making process are they going through?”
So, they are ready for Command .... and we don't know that yet? OK.

Now, over to the 13XX side. If as written, this is pre-Board - this makes sense.
Prior to being chosen for squadron command, brown shoes will have to pass a new board made up of current and former skippers. Board members will gauge that officer’s grasp of topics ranging from aviation combat and decision-making to their personal behavior and ability to handle the stress of command.

The system aims to “enhance the candidate’s preparation” for command, states the April 19 Naval Air Forces instruction implementing the board, which starts in June. “It also serves as a mechanism ... to identify candidates who are not yet ready.”
I guess they assume they have mastered the flying part ... as if not, well .... 

So, are they going to do this for every LCDR ... or are they going to have a "pre-Board Board" for those who are "in the bucket" so to speak?

As for the 1120s,
While some communities have changed their rules and other small, specialized fields have standardized their command track, other branches haven’t changed anything.

Submarine skippers, for example, are already selected via a board of senior officers, a setup that will continue. They’ll also go through the same process at CLS as their peers.
Their call. They seem to be doing things roughly correct though.

So, doing something is good, and all snarkiness aside, it will be good to do this a few cycles to see if we actually gain anything from this. Is anyone actually "washed out" who otherwise would have gone on to Command? Or, is this just another insert in to an already very long Command pipeline?

On balance, I'll call this a patch to what is a systemic problem. Especially on the Surface side - if you are still trying to determine that answer at this stage of their career - the process that brought you to this point is not suiting your needs. The aviators seem to be doing "something" that they probably wish they had been doing for awhile. The sub-bubbas have said, in essence, "No, we're fine."

UPDATE: See Navybo's comment for a better description of what is going on with the SWO changes. As he reports it, it is a much better cart vs. horse positioning than the original article outlined.


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