Monday, March 02, 2009

Navy sets a thicker smoke screen

I don't know about you - but this makes me professionally embarrassed.
The Navy has classified regular reports about the material condition of its fleet, an about-face from when the reports were accessible as public documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

The reports, filed by the Board of Inspection and Survey, or InSurv, contain the findings of meticulous, days-long inspections that cover every detail of the workings of surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines.

In December, InSurv president Rear Adm. Raymond Klein decided the reports were to be classified, said Linda Alvers, the FOIA coordinator for Fleet Forces Command. She said she did not know why. Also unclear was whether the classification order applied only to InSurvs performed after December, or whether it included reports from before then.

Neither Klein nor a representative for InSurv could be reached to comment for this story.

InSurvs are circulated widely among commanders and technical authorities within the Navy, but seldom seen by civilians unless they’ve been specifically requested under freedom of information laws. Even then, Navy officials can redact the names of people; information about classified equipment; or trade secrets of shipbuilders or other venders.

Over the past year, InSurvs obtained by Navy Times have revealed severe problems aboard the cruiser Chosin, the destroyer Stout and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans.

The reports have also revealed when the Navy has taken delivery of well-built ships, including the amphibious transport dock Green Bay and the first littoral combat ship, the Freedom.
NB: look at the timeline. This has nothing to do with the new CINC - so keep that FOD out of the comments.

However, combine this with the SECDEF's "shut up," and you have a more and more opaque system of review and accountability unprecedented in decades during both peace and war.

Read these INSURV posts, do you see anything classified?

How do you respond to someone with an objective mind trying to understand this decision but finds but one thing - a desire by the Navy to keep INSURV information from the taxpayer? The only other reason could be a desire to cover some systems in more depth - but we have been doing classified annexes on other subjects for years. Someone's PAO needs to come out and do some talking, because I don't know what to say to that person but - "Yep, that is what it looks like."

Galrahn made a good point Saturday,
I believe the current CG and DDG forces are the most important ships to the future Navy, particularly now that the Navy intends for them to serve 40 years. The material condition of those ships matters a great deal, and preventing the public from knowing the material condition of our ships with INSURV information insures that we do not get valid information that results from policy changes related to maintenance funding.

The bigger problem is Congress doesn't get good information either. Lets face it, unless they ask for it specifically, they will be unfortunate victims of the 'failed to mention that' syndrome that always trumps full disclosure.
That is a "Stump the Admiral" point.

I am sorry, but if we in the Navy wanted to regain some of the credibility and integrity that we have lost over the last decade due to the trainwreck that has been acquisition and material condition - then this is no way to do it.

Hat tip SB @ USNIBlog.

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