Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lean Manning goes Salamander

BZ to Phil Ewing, he has been hounding the Lean Manning FOD for a long time - just as we have here. Let's count this as another Team Salamander WIN!

I expect reports on water being wet any day now. From the 28 JUN NavyTimes and other places;

An independent probe into the state of the U.S. Navy's surface force has found widespread, systemic dysfunction in its manning, readiness and training, and repudiates much of the service's high-level decision-making in the last decade.

The report - commissioned by Adm. John Harvey, the Fleet Forces commander, and produced by a seven-member panel led by retired Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle that included two serving rear admirals - warns that unless the Navy mends its ways, it will continue to see surface ships condemned in inspections and sail unready to fight.

Although sailors and Navy observers have pointed before to many of the problems and trends that Balisle's "fleet review panel" uncovered, the report provides the clearest, most detailed look yet at how a preoccupation with saving money drove the surface Navy to a low point.

"It appears the effort to derive efficiencies has overtaken our culture of effectiveness," the Balisle report says. "The material readiness of the surface force is well below acceptable levels to support reliable, sustained operations at sea and preserve ships to their full service life expectancy. Moreover, the present readiness trends are down."

How did it happen? Driven by top-level pressure to be as efficient as possible, Navy leaders in the early 2000s made a series of interrelated decisions to cut sailors, reform training, "streamline" fleet maintenance and take other steps in keeping with the philosophy then en vogue of "running the Navy like a business."

The fleet organized itself into layers of "enterprises," which thickened already legendary layers of military bureaucracy and made command relationships difficult to understand, the panel found.
Good googly moogly. All the Navy needed to do is pay for Skippy-san and myself to lock ourselves away in a conference room in Singapore for a weekend and we would have told them the same thing years ago for 1/10th the price. Or they could have read our blogs.

In summary; give the COs what they need to take care of their ships. Cut the bloated shore bureaucracy. Stop the happy talk, that is how you got here. Exhibit 1.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said that the move to "optimal manning" made practical sense earlier this decade, but "changes to the structure ashore, changes in some of the oversight functions" have come to hurt ships' ability to train, do maintenance and fight."
That is not clear and direct talk. That ignores facts. Why not just say that we made a mistake? It never made sense. Never at the pier. Never in the wardroom. Clark, Mullen, Roughead - this is your baby; name it and claim it.
Between 1994 and 1999, about 3.5 percent of ships failed inspections by the Board of Inspection and Survey, Balisle's commission found. From 2005 to 2009, almost 14 percent of ships failed. Not only does this hurt the fleet of today, it means the Navy can't keep around the ships it says are vital to building its hoped-for fleet of at least 313.

"Independent reports indicate that if the surface force stays on the course that it is presently on, DDGs will achieve 25-27 years of service life instead of the 30 years planned and 40 years of extended service life desired," the report says.

Even the highest-profile and most vital system aboard the Navy's front-line warships - Aegis - fails much more often than panel members expected; technical problems with cruisers' and destroyers' SPY-1 radars have gone up by 45 percent since 2004, the report said. But because of smaller crews, poor training and the complicated bureaucracy of getting repairs or replacement parts, many ships sail while "consciously accepting degradation."
See that years of service? The Terrible 20s just got worse.

Where is accountability?

For half a decade, there have been outstanding officers, SWO and EDO who have been telling me their tale of woe. If this is a shock to the CNO in 2010 then it is his fault. I am just a garden variety, work-a-day retired CDR. On active duty, I was just the guy stage right on CNO calls - and I knew this. Why did I know this? I watched, listened, and asked.

But Mueller would not comment on specific recommendations in Balisle's report, including precise numbers for how many sailors the panel thinks the Navy needs: 4,496 new sea billets and 2,028 shore and maintenance billets, for a total of 6,524 new billets. Those numbers are based on an overall recommendation that surface ships be automatically manned at 110 percent over their base level, to account for the roughly 8 percent effective loss of crew the committee discovered across the board.
Once again - I can help you find those billets to shift from shore to sea - you just have to be willing to accept some high-freq squealing. Sailors belong on ships; ships belong at sea.

The USMC in the last few years did a scrub of those Marines who had not deployed in the last few years. We should do the same. Examine the billets and designators that they come from. That can help justify what needs to be done. And yes, because it is THU - start by
cutting 66.66% of these billets and related ones throughout the Fleet. You'll save a bundle of money on TAD as well - enough to send more Sailors to schools to do things like teach you fix radars and repair pumps.

What 4-star comes out of this looking good? Admiral Harvey - he is the one that charged Balisle with assessing fleet readiness last September. Methinks he knew this was a problem for years. This is the only way to get the word out without being crushed. We all have our place in the Navy ecosystem. BZ to him as well.


JimmyMac said...

Vern Clark's legacy and his "we are a business enterprise" BS....  "Leadership at the Summit", my *ss.  What we needed was leadership at the deckplates.  And it's not too late for that to happen!

LT B said...

It's never too late for deckplate leadership.  66.66%?  I prefer 66.6% in keeping w/ their evil, sectarian goals.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Kudos to Admiral J C Harvey.  He had the seeds to say what needed to be said.  Time to fire the emperor and his tailor.

Spade said...

Why not cut more than 66.6%? Hell, why not cut more shore billets?
Identify the shore billets that really require uniforms. If they don't, turn it over to Navy civilians. I'm sure there's plenty of people who could be shifted around from current near-useless civilian posts to more useful shore posts, or plenty of sailor's wives/husbands who could use a job in these times.

I'm sure more people would cry about that ('but I don't want to live there!'), but the civilians could always quit if they don't like their new post (and probably be easily replaced) and the sailors could've joined the air force.

Spade said...

Unsaid there was that the people who's jobs would be taken by civilians would get shifted to ships.

ShawnP said...

I always have said within 5 minutes on any ship you can tell if it has or has not been maintained well. Shame on the CNO if he can't figure this out.

AnOldSailor said...

You have to be careful with that deem it unworthy replace it with a civilian mentality. That has ripple effects that we are (and will be) suffering from.

Training - contracted
Maintenance - contracted
Personnel Support -  contracted

Beyond the obvious "lack of ownership" this can and has caused, is the inevitable where the heck do Sailors go after a couple of ship-board tours? If all the
traditional "shore billets" are taken by DoN Civs or contractors, it limits the options for Sailors and as much as love going to sea, I don't know anybody (sane
that is) willing to do 20+ straight on ships.

WESTPAC Warrior said...

Thanks Vern.  Your MBA wannabe programs are coming home to roost.

FCC said...

What burned me about the "optimal" manning was the bait-and-switch buy-in methodology Big Navy used.  At one of my commands, we were given a baseline number of BA to work toward, and given a reduced mission criteria upon which to base which billets we recommended for the chopping block. 

Two years later, the billets are gone but the mission/tempo remains the same.

Bill Peterson said...

Speaking as a recently-retired CMC, our community certainly missed a golden opportunity to "speak truth to power".

Whose responsibility is it to advocate for the Sailors, Ships, and Mission of the Navy?  The Chiefs - specifically the Fleet and Force Master Chiefs who not only acquiesed, but actively supported the "Optimum Manning Experiment".

For shame...

pandanoms said...

Congress quietly raids the OMN budget every year.  OPNAV raids the program office maintenance and training budgets after that to pay for other priorities.  The program offices are therefore not funded to pay for or support proper Fleet support and training.  The Fleet is then made to pay for and handle its own training, support, and maintenance out of funds a budget that is also shrinking.  COs and aspiring COs are unwilling to sacrifice their careers by admitting that their crews' training or maintenance boxes cannot be checked.  Same goes for some Chiefs.  The Fleet then breaks and the flags are stunned that things went wrong.

Several years ago, the (then) head of Afloat Training Group Atlantic admitted that the only way sailors assigned to new construction ships got trained was by participating in test and cert events.  That's not good.  But the schoolhouses were abandoned because OPNAV didn't want to pay life cycle costs for complete ship sets of equipment ashore.

OPNAV/OSD has to decide what it really wants and what should die, and then fully fund things accordingly.  Stop asking Congress to appropriating money for the new shiny and instead make the case for fully funding the care and feeding of what we've already fielded.  But only the Fleet has the weight to oppose OPNAV's search for "easy budget savings."  The program offices must give way in the end as they are funded by and in many cases outranked by OPNAV.  That's the grumbling program office perspective.

XBradTC said...

It is interesting that the monetary savings of reduced manning have pretty much been eaten up by increased maintenance costs and shorter ship lifetimes. It seems that for a given platform, over a 30-40 year life, there is an absolute baseline cost, and you'll either pay it in personnel costs, or maintenance costs. 

SDSailor said...

Vern Clark--Business Enterprise and Tim LaFleur--Seaswap?  What a bunch of baloney.  That guy never saw a "metric" he could not manipulate.  Identify the result you want and then rig the results to get you there.  Leads to where we are today.

DG said...

Yes, cut diversity foolishness, but also cut the Flags. We need way fewer flags and we fewer staffs. 50% fewer admirals and associated hangers-on would product very many junior enlisted, which would be very very helpful for little things like preservation. Free up those first and second classes to keep those radars working, etc.

UltimaRatioRegis said...


Bullseye.  Total cost of ownership is total cost of ownership.  What was that old commercial? "Pay me now or pay me later"? 

Capital investment 101.  You would think an organization that wins all the JD Power awards would know that.  Which they do.  They just shell-game expenses at the cost of readiness.

Hell, maybe they can melt down all those worn-out ships decommed before their time because of horrendous INSURV results and mint a whole bunch of MSMs and Legions of Merit for the ones responsible.

XBradTC said...

Re: 110% manning, my battalion deployed to Desert Storm with about 125% strength. We'd raided the brigade of the division that wasn't going, and took damn near all their troops. 

And still by the time we'd fully supported our battalion and brigade taskings for bodies, and filled some unexpected needs (trucks in the support platoon needed someone to ride shotgun, for instance), we found our strength in the rifle companies was back down to about 85%, which was what we'd usually see in peacetime. 

Grandpa Bluewater said...

How many PO3 advancing thru to PO1 will a deleted flag billet pay for?

Don't forget to include the overhead for perks, straphangers and coffee pourers and the manhours consumed generating letters to other flags and the fluttering, twittering and general friction those letters kick up.  Not to mention really dumb ideas like "optimum manning".

Anything that doesn't improve the ability to put the correct ordnance reliably, accurately and quickly on the enemy, and doesn't degrade the enemy's ability to do the same, is rubbish.

Turning the firing key doesn't mean a damn thing unless greasy shoed, bloody knuckled, paint chips in the hair sailors cleaned, painted, greased, tightness tested, torqued, aligned, loaded, connected, system tested, detected, tracked, solved range and bearing, and range and bearing rate, nailed the solution and reported MANNED AND READY! and that was an iron clad guarantee and a lead pipe cinch because the Chief made double damn sure. And had been for the last 10 years and will be for the next 25, on the ship in question.  

Training, proficiency, and maintenance skill acquired through practice keeps the hull tight, the engines strong, the radars, sonars, and radios peaked, the stores and ammo loaded, the fuel taken aboard, dinner on the table, and scurvy and the plague at bay. Then and only then when the enemy comes in sight, he sinks in view.

Conclusion?  Sailors are not an expense, they are an essential, the sine qua non for Victory. At sea. With ships. And ashore when the ground pounders need a little help. And in the Air, because global reach at 5 sorties a day or please build me an airfield in range first isn't always going to do.

A Navy isn't a democracy and it isn't a business. Anybody who thinks it should be is a dangerous fool.

Humane, yes. but zebra must stay set.
Efficient and reliable in the hell of battle, yes...
but that isn't the same thing as making the Sagami Nada to San Pedro run at 20 kts great circle, with a crew of 28 and a cargo of 3000 Honda Civics.

Maybe we ought to go back to making interior decks blood red, for the same reason the Marines have blood red stripes on NCO's britches.


Mike M. said...

That's a valid point.  In some ways, the shore establishment has a bottom limit set by the need for shore billets.

I'd look a lot more closely at overhead paperwork, as well as BS metrics and computer software.  NMCI is the biggest disaster since Pearl Harbor, and every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own home-brewed software to fob off on the working troops.  And the current fad for tracking everything is insane...they are trying to measure with a micrometer what was measured by eye, marked with chalk, and cut with a chainsaw.  It's an insane amount of useless overhead...and discourages hard work.  No sense sweating when you've no hope of accomplishing anything.

Anon said...

We can't cut all the shore billets.  I agree Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea, but if we don't give our Sailors a break from the Optempo we aren't going to keep them.

I partly blame some of the maintenance issues on the disappearance of the SIMAs.  I know people have had some back experiences with SIMA, but they were Sailors we could use on weekends and after hours to get some emergent work done.  The fact the Navy was pressured by the politicians to have the shipyards do repair work has forced up costs, lengthened response time, and reduced training.

Anon said...

The USNR frigates are an excellent example, and SURFOR even used them as an example of what frigate manning could be.  USNR ships had 30 Sailors less and still deploying so SURFOR says all the FFGs should sail that way.

Next thing you know FFGs are getting hit during ULTRA for not being able to man repair lockers and SCAT and other watchstations 100% during GQ.

UltimaRatioRegis said...



xformed said...

My 2 cents: CAPT Phil Balisle was my boss at CSMTT turned into CSTG/ATG.  He was there to see massive efficiencies get put into place in 1992-1993, so he really comprehends how this got there.  Good to see that expeirnce get put to good use, even if it's degraded further than it all should have.

FCC said...

Yup.  I see you've also lived through the pain of "BA 172."

DM05 said...

All Malarkey, and yep it's not just SOP; It's SOD, or Service-in-Decline. Delete Flags? A good start. BZ to ADM Harvey for shaking the trees.

Warrant Diver said...


SIMA- Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity. It was the shore based repair facility for ships, manned by sailors on shore duty. It was an invaluable place for mechanics to hone their skills as mechanics and see their families for two years before returning to sea for another six year tour. Now almost completely civiilianised...and the effect in the fleet is a generation of mechanics who can't do maintenance and repairs at the levels of competency that we had during the Cold War.

Warrant Diver said...


Warrant Diver said...

What pains me is we have a generation of sailors, especially Officers and Chiefs, who grew up during this optimum manning experiment crap and were repeatedly told they were wrong, the manning was fine, and they were just unable to plan/manage/budget correctly and needed to learn how to change with the times.

Did we lose them? how many voted with their feet?

What kind of confidence can they have in the Navy now? Will they feel vindicated or confused?

sid said...

This pic pretty much sums it up....

The Flags scoffed at some age old wisdom, and went stupid with the latest "new" management theories.