Wednesday, August 27, 2008

COTS, MILSPEC, and the ILS trainwreck

This is WAY inside baseball, but a reader sent this along that I thought speaks a little truth to the Navy blogosphere from and enthusiastic, knowledgeable professional who read frustrated and a bit angry. A little public vent now and then is good for the soul ---- and may prompt some conversation.
I have worked at 5 major shipyards over the last 25 years. Most of my area of expertise in ILS and I am now on the industry side of the equation. What makes me go nuts is the term COTS material. COTS a less expensive road not taken. If the military truly wanted COT, than do not cloud the SDRLs with MIL-SPEC requirements.

When LCS and DDG-1000 specs call for COTS, the subordinate SDRLs add references to MIL-SPECs. Once the MIL-SPEC is added to an SDRL, it is no longer COTS. Everything from provisioning R, M & A, Technical Manuals and Spares analysis cost go back to MIL-SPEC pricing.

Industry cannot do this work for free. Shipyards are losing ILS department personnel as they usually are the oldest (in physical years) and retire without replacement. The shipyards are now putting the ILS burden on Industry to complete. The ILS departments also the last line of Q.A. for engineering as they review BOMs and drawings for ILS products after they are issued. This particular field of work is not taught in colleges. I was a bubble head A ganger who fell into this line of work in the late 70's. My mantra was what would I want in Technical Manuals on the boat if I had to repair or maintain this equipment. Then I developed the materials right down to spare parts requirements. Now the Navy wants JIT inventory management, contracted maintenance from OEMs and 24/7 tech support at little or no cost.

MM's are now rushed through A schools taught by contractors, C schools are disappearing, and shipboard technicians are in short supply. Destroyers with 185 people is mandated. Maintenance suffers, INSURV inspections reflect this trend. Everyone on board not actually on watch are now "Deck Apes" doing cleaning and painting and waiting for the first fire drill. "Reaction Forces" do little for major battle damage and total automation does little on a dark ship.

The USS Cole came home to be reborn, not through automation but with a "Complete, fully trained group of sailors." Doing more with less is not what the military should be considering with $5,000,000,000 weapons platforms. That's my humble opinion on this matter. Now I must get back to work identifying INCO spares for our customer. Fair winds and following seas.

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