Tuesday, September 06, 2016

LCS Maintenance Stand Down: This Isn't a Sailor Problem

Of all the doomed-to-fail concepts that are baked in to LCS, the one that is most infuriating is the manning concept.

A classic case of, "Here is your number. Make the rest justify it." - it was strictly an artificially constructed idea force-moded on to our Navy by a toxic, anti-intellectual command climate and kept going through bureaucratic inertia, personal loyalty, and the standard issue careerism tactic of pushing problems to other people's PCS cycle.

The last few weeks have been a parade of horrors taking up a lot of space on this blog, but the news is the news. This "quickening of fail" was just a matter of time. As LCS critics have warned for over a decade, once these things start to displace water, you will only be able to hold off the reckoning so long, and then it will all cascade in. Forget chickens, the turkeys are coming home to roost.

The response to the series of engineering problems has been disappointing, but understandable. We always knew that when reality showed itself, the only cure to extruding some utility out of the Little Crappy Ship would be seabags full of cash and the blood, sweat, and careers of innocent Sailors. As the forklifts are moving additional pallets of cash, it looks like the system is going after the Sailors.

It was bad enough that part of the force-moding of LCS was to simply work our Sailors harder from a normal hard job using the idea that, "100% if fine, but we can get 120% if we just call it something else - how about "hybrid?""

So, here we go. Via our ever-reliable Sam LaGrone at USNINews;
After four combined engineering casualties within the last year, the commander, Naval Surface Forces (NAVSURFOR), “ordered an engineering stand down for every [Littoral Combat Ship] crew to review procedures and standards for their engineering departments,” the Navy said in a statement issued late Monday.

Following recently disclosed engineering casualties on the Independence-class USS Coronado (LCS-4) and the Freedom-class USS Freedom (LCS-1), Vice Adm. Tom Rowden ordered stand down for all LCS crews and the LCS squadron (LCSRON) which was completed on Aug. 31

“These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate, and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely,” Rowden said in a statement.
Again. This is no more a Sailor problem than an overheated engine is the fault of the needle pointing towards the red area of the dial.

Where is the OPNAV and NAVSEA stand down? Where is the Clark, Mullen and Roughead call to account? 

Yes, VADM Rowden, we do need to "review, evaluate, and renew" - but your best bet is to find a way to weld in more berthing. Give our Sailors the time and focus to do their job right and serve their ship and its Navy, and not allow a manning concept to continue based on bad ideas, and a Plan B which is only, "work harder and hope."
“I have asked the Surface Warfare Office School (SWOS) commander to review the wholeness of our LCS engineering education and training to include the testing and retraining of all LCS engineers,” Rowden said.
“This training will occur over the next 30 days and will allow the SWOS leadership to review our training program and determine if other changes need to be made to the training pipeline.”

According to the service, “the required engineering training will be conducted by the SWOS’ engineering team, who will develop both a level-of-knowledge test and specialized training that will be deployed in the next 30 days to the LCS engineering force. The commanding officer of SWOS is also conducting a comprehensive LCS engineering review, which will likely take 30-60 days. From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline.”
I know, lots of word salad and bureaucratic squid ink there. First thing, we have outstanding Enginemen (EN) in our Navy. They are only doing what they have been trained to do and can do inside a 24-hr day. We are talking about training, but the real fix will be in what we are asking them to do.
In addition to announcing the stand down and the retraining, the service also announced following Sunday’s return of Coronado to Hawaii NAVSURFOR sent a team to the ship “to take a holistic look at the engineering program on board. A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” read the statement.

The word of the stand down and the ongoing retraining for the engineering departments comes ahead of a soon-to-be-revealed LCS review that promises fundamental changes on how both classes are manned, equipped and operated, USNI News understands.
OK. We are welding on a patch until we can get LCS's manning concept back to the intellectual dry-dock.


Now, as I am not through kicking my hobby horse, let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? We cannot know how we got where we are unless we look at the path that brought us here.

From 2005;
The Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) is the lead Learning Center of Excellence for LCS and is working in conjunction with the Center for Naval Engineering (CNE), Center for Service Support (CSS) and Center for Information Dominance on individual schoolhouse training issues. To identify the skills needed to operate the ship, Human Capital Objects (HCO), a detailed description that identifies all work, including watches and collateral duties.

"LCS is the first ship on which manning and training requirements were determined based on the development of Human Capital Objects, leveraging the significant work accomplished in Job/Task Analysis and skills-based assessment," said CSCS Commanding Officer Capt. Rick Easton.

With a total projected crew of 75, the optimally manned Freedom requires that its crew members have skills in more than just their rating. They will have a blend of skills from several ratings, which is creating a new, or hybrid, Sailor.

"Today you have a billet on a ship that's ascribed to an Engineman second class. That means you have a stovepipe you can only put an enginemen in that billet that does enginemen type work based on occupational standards and things of that nature," explained CNE 5 Vector Model Manager Roy Hoyt. "When you want to build a hybrid Sailor, what you're doing now is mixing and matching the flavor of work contained within that billet that becomes your Human Capital Object."

As a result, some of the LCS work requirements such as some scheduled maintenance and repairs are being moved ashore.

"The LCS Task Force that built the Navy's first HCOs selected, based on the approved Concept of Operations, those functions critical to mission accomplishment and then moved remaining functions ashore to be provided through Distance Support," Easton said.
Yes, the BS Bingo has always been thick with LCS;
"Sailors on this Littoral Combat Ship are going to attain various certifications, qualifications, knowledge, skills and abilities that will be resident on their 5 Vector Model, so that in the future when they want to move to another Human Capital Object that is created, they can compare their resume against that position and in many cases may fit better than their contemporaries," he said.

"LCS is without doubt an advanced combat platform that provides significantly expanded opportunity in both operational and technical responsibilities outside of traditional Navy Rating boundaries," Easton added. "Part of the Revolution in Training vision is to expand opportunities for Sailors to grow beyond traditional constructs of today's ratings. LCS provides that opportunity unlike any other platform in today's Navy."
Laugh, cry, or scream. Me? I'm well in to the laughing phase as I quit screaming in 2009, and crying? Well ... their is no crying on the blogger platform.

Freedom is designed for a "core" crew of just 40 people, supplemented by another 30 or so who accompany "modules" fitted with weapons, sensors and robots. It’s been an open question in Freedom‘s five-year development how a small crew would handle such a large ship, especially if she were attacked. Would there be enough hands to cook, clean and stand watch — never mind fight fires, pump out flooded compartments and repel boarders?

To get the most "bang" from a small crew, the Navy has doubled up their training. Nobody gets assigned to Freedom without years of experience, a proven ability to handle all sorts of tasks, plus qualifications on pistols, rifles and machine guns. The youngest sailor aboard is 26, compared to 18 for most vessels. The Navy calls these cross-trained sailors "hybrids." Passing through the locks was a test for the very first all-hybrid crew. "Even the skipper got into the act, hauling in and resetting fenders set from the bridge wings," Defense News‘ Chris Cavas reported.
When you are busy doing other people's job, you can't bloody well do yours. Yes, I know that is "old think" - but hey;
Even so, Freedom collided with a gate, tearing a gash in her bridge.

Speaking of 2008, let's quote our buddy John Baggett's NPG school quote of Fleet Forces Command #3 Cardinal rules for LCS;
3. Do not try to compare LCS to legacy platforms. It cannot be manned, trained,
equipped, maintained or tactically employed in the same way. No old think.
Old think wins again, or as the great American philosopher said, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut.

Moving on to 2010;
"As an engineer I had never stood watch on the bridge before," he said. "It's a lot different from being down below the waterline."

On this ship, multipurpose monitors allow engineers to oversee the entire operation from a seat on the bridge rather than having to stand watch in each engine space.
Out of sight, out of mind, out of ... well ...
Compared to the crews on most ships in the fleet, those aboard the Independence go through more training, do a broader array of jobs and rely more on technology.
As we warned; when everyone is a jack of all trades - then you have a ship where no one is a master of anything.

This is known.
But the crew of the Independence wasn't focusing on the future during the two days it spent at sea this past week while traveling from Key West to Mayport.

Instead, it was a chance for the men and women to hone their proficiency at handling the array of jobs that comes with being "hybrid sailors," as well as an opportunity to do things like launching a boat and dropping the anchor, which they had not yet done in the open ocean.

Getting those jobs done with a crew about a quarter of the size of the one on a frigate can be daunting, with sailors jumping between unrelated tasks.

Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Bunch, for example, had barely removed the gear he wore for a fire-fighting drill when he was jogging to the ship's massive mission bay for the boat-launching exercise.
When you ask too much of your Sailors and think that wishes can fix math - you get what we have today.

Still in 2010;
Ooley, for example, had to attend engineman "C" school and learn much more about the workings of diesel engines than a normal GSM ever needs to know.

Engineers also regularly stand bridge watches, in fact, as it gets into the fleet, Independence needs to qualify as many of its engineers as possible for bridge work, so the ship can spare its fire controlmen and operations specialists to work radar and monitor the ship's air picture, Renshaw said. For that, the ship has two combat information centers, known as "interior communications centers" in LCS jargon, one of which is located behind a curtain in the pilothouse.
And despite the Navy's growing experience with LCS, Independence suffers from the same basic challenge as Freedom: doing the full-time work of a ship at sea with far fewer people than normal.

Chief Engineman (SW) Gary Thomas said that under normal circumstances it might take 50 or 60 sailors to run an engineering plant like Independence has, but instead, it has 10.

"It's no secret here that the e workload is excessive," Garrow S said. "If you didn't have people working overtime, giving it their all...." He trailed off.
This is not a Sailor problem. This did not happen overnight.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.

What remains in the background but has yet to really break above the ambient noise, is an understanding of "sunk cost" and "opportunity cost." Both are huge in the program, and if as an institution we understood the concepts better we would know that it was wrong not to kill this program in 2008. Wrong to not kill in in 2010. Because of those wrong decisions - can we even kill it now?

We may not have a choice. Do the best with what we have been saddled with, but don't add to it by buying more? How do you keep the builders busy so you don't lose industrial capacity?

Fun mess we have put ourselves in.

Let's all hope LCS gets off the front page for awhile now. I'm tired of kicking it, again.

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