Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What N-code is Eeyore again?

After reading Lance Bacon's bit over at Navy Times, I felt like we all need to go get a drink or six.
The atmosphere was one of frustration shrouded in uncertainties as 1,100 Navy and industry leaders discussed ways to provide maintenance and modernization to a surface fleet burdened by growing demand and diminishing funds.

The Fleet Maintenance & Modernization Symposium 2014, aptly titled “Delivering Readiness in Austere Times,” provided a forum for ship crews, maintenance centers and industry to express their needs, challenges and potential solutions.
Sailors said they are increasingly mired in the mess that routine maintenance has become. Even things that should be a quick hit — something as simple as laying non-skid surface on a frigate’s tiny O3 level weather deck — is burdened by paperwork, conflicting requirements and the lack of contract flexibility. Similarly, civilians said they have insufficient visibility of what is happening on ships to better assess maintenance issues.

There are 89 administrative steps to hurdle from request to work for common maintenance, and that is “incredibly burdensome for the crew,” said Jeffrey Baur, maintenance policy manager for Fleet Forces Command. To overcome this “malicious expectation of adherence to a process,” a new planned maintenance system is in the works that will front-load maintenance schedules to ensure the right parts and people are sent to meet the problem. The new PMS is expected to be implemented by late 2021.
Yes, you got that date correct. Seven (7) years.

We fought and won WWII in less than five (5). Chew on that a bit.

Back to the Joy Parade;
While the Navy has looked in 92 percent of tanks and bilges aboard ship, some amphibs have not had that inspection in nearly 20 years.

Even more startling: Fewer than 29 percent of items identified in assessments are actually fixed, ... Even carriers have been forced to defer work — something once unheard of — because the surface Navy’s dire needs have drawn all available maintainers.

“I can’t get a pipe fitter because of the amount of work going on in surface,” said Capt. Mark Oesterreich, Naval Air Force Atlantic’s director of ship material. “There is a lack of resources to do critical jobs.”

Public shipyards are about 1,500 workers per day under the requirement, said Vice Adm. William Hilarides, head of Naval Sea Systems Command. The result: a carrier more than two months late in availability; two attack subs more than six months late, and two guided-missile subs more than a year late.
There is a great phrase that has always been a reference point for me from one of my intellectual heroes, Adam Smith;
“Be assured, my young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”
-Adam Smith, 1782
There is a Salamander corollary that goes with that,
“Be assured, shipmate, that there is a great deal of deferred maintenance to be drained from a once well led Fleet.”
Things can get very bad, but with the right leadership and priorities, things can be turned around. We have the Sailors and knowledge, we just need the right leaders.

And to wrap it up ... we got so close,
“If we surge in the next four months, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Oesterreich said, pointing out that the West Coast has less availability than his fleet.

The reality of shorter maintenance periods and longer deployments is leaving too little time to fix problems and the cycle is increasingly unrealistic, a panel of command master chiefs said.

“I’ve seen ships that are scarily undermanned and under experienced,” said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Justin Gray, who serves on the destroyer Gonzalez. “It’s not the sailors’ fault. It is the Navy doing that to the ship.”

According to one official estimate, as much as 40 percent of planned work is not done or done incorrectly.
How long have we been numbly accepting the "9-month deployments are the new normal for awhile until we settle in to a 8-month new normal for a few years?" Do we think this has no cause or consequence?

Master Chief Gray - you won't say it, so I will. The "Navy" isn't doing that to the ship, the Navy's senior leadership is allowing it to happen. It starts with SECNAV, his deputies, and then the CNO. What are their priorities? What are their speeches on? Where is their travel time spent?  

OK, let's be fair. Re-read the above, the linked article, and the below as well. Keep in mind the following from SECNAV's article in the Harvard Business Review from this year;
Leading a large, complex organization like the U.S. Navy ... calls for a certain approach. You begin with a narrow focus on your organization’s unique strength and role. ... 
That focus helps establish priorities. .... 
My primary objective since becoming the secretary of the navy, in 2009, has been to rebuild a fleet that declined from 316 ships in 2001 to just 278 before I took office. 

As the governor of Mississippi, I learned the power of setting a few specific priorities and relentlessly pushing them. As the CEO of a private company, I saw that creating a compelling vision and crafting an inspiring narrative are key to achieving results. You must never lose sight of the ultimate goal.   
Leadership in an interdependent system also means taking responsibility for keeping the system healthy.

Inside big organizations, managers themselves work interdependently, bringing their various strengths to the mix. Devote your energy as a leader to reminding your organization what its crucial role is, creating the vision and the narrative, and looking out for the health of the system. Then your presence, like the navy’s, will make a difference.
Well, crap.

How is that working out for us? 

That is who should be answering the questions. This did not happen out of the blue. We've seen this movie before. We are here on his watch. Given all he has said - he needs to address how we got here head on.

No blaming others - no - again - this has happened on his watch. If he thinks Rowden and Oesterreich are wrong, then fire them.

While we are at it, let's look again at Captain Oesterreich's point about manning. How are the shore billets doing compared to deploying units? How thick and rumpled has the tail gotten as the Fleet starves? Is there as much pain ashore as at sea? 

All those people ashore may have spent the last decade making sure that everyone got their special snowflake non-warfare pin, but what about the unsexy but important like pipe fitters, did they spend a little time there? 

What has been the percentage change in BA/NMP for HT over the last decade compared to the diversity and inclusion commissariat (both military and civilian). Did we design HT to be in a position to "optimally man" the Fleet? 

What support staff was working on decreasing and streamlining those 89 steps, as opposed to creating and finding redundant SAPR training events?

This did not happen by accident. This was not benign neglect. This happened for one main reason; leaders sand bag and delay either making a decision or a ruckus until the PCS cycle makes it someone else's problem. They are trying to survive in a command climate where you are to shut up and color, be one of the Carebears, and join in the sing along.

When the music stops, then the person left standing has to fix what others pushed to the right.

Here and at Midrats over the last few years we have reminded everyone that we will reach the point of fail-to-sail or catastrophic failure at sea. So far, we seem to be doing our best to make EagleOne and your humble blogg'r correct - again.

I think it is great to have a panel like they did at the Fleet Maintenance & Modernization Symposium, but what about action? Let's parse the 3-star's statement;
Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the new commander of Naval Surfaces Forces, said this era must be marked by competence among maintainers and confidence in decisions made by leadership.
OK. Work with me a bit. What era in our Navy did not require "competence among maintainers?" The implication is, of course, that the era just prior to now is/was one that was beset with "incompetence among maintainers." If so, who are they, why were they allowed to be incompetant, and how are they being held accountable?

If we now, shockingly, find ourselves actually requireing competence to rebuild the material readiness capital that has been beset with ruinious policy in the near past, then what changes are being made to bring about the needed competance?

Also, if we need for there to be "confidence in decisions made by leadership" - then that implies that we are in a position where there is not confidence in decisions made by leadership. If that is believed, then, why? Who is responsible for this loss of confidence, and how are they being held accountable? What steps are being made to re-establish that confidence?

If nothing is being done, then we can assume that everyone is just fine with the level of competence and confidence in October of 2014 ... but no one is.

So, again - deeds not words. What is being done, who is doing it, and what is going to be made a lower priority so warfighting - and without proper maintenance there can be no warfighting - is the priority?

Back to Master Chief Gray,
“But if we want ... a Navy of true technicians, we need to invest in them.”
Agreed. But in a time of decreasing to at best steady state budgets - we have to establish priorities. The budget is a zero-sum-minus game. We have to take the money from one thing to create another. If we cannot do things now we are being asked to do without destroying the future ability to do it and more important things, then we need to say, "No" until resources match requirements.

That call isn't the Master Chief's. No, that is a 4-Star problem that requires 4-Star leadership inside direction and guidance from civilian leadership.

That is who we need to hear from. If we don't get what we need, then we will need to have CDR, CAPT, RDML, and RADM who reconcile themselves that they are happy with their terminal rank and decide to make a stand.

If we don't make this stand at peace while our material readiness capital is still at a salvageable level, then someone out there will be this century's Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky. Don't be "that guy."

Study your Admiral Rozhestvensky - and while you are at it - your Admiral Makarov as well.

No comments: