Monday, October 04, 2010

Where have you gone RADM Meyer?

A Navy turns its lonely eyes to you ....

Below are a few paragraphs from the remarks as written for ASNE conference by
ADM J.C. Harvey, Jr., U.S. Fleet Forces from 14 Sept. 2010.

In it he brings up something that has been critically missing during the Lost Decade - accountability. People or process? How about both.

Did/does it have to be this way? no.
.... Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer's reflection on what made the Aegis program so successful.

I won't bore you with all of the details, but he attributes his success to two major characteristics. First - good governance, which included a very high degree of personal accountability. For 15 years, Admiral Meyer was the single accountable officer responsible for bringing Aegis from concept to implementation.

And PMS 400 was the single organization responsible for the Aegis program.

We no longer have an Admiral Meyer and PMS 400. Aegis was once a small island in a big fleet - now Aegis is the fleet. And as Aegis has grown, so have the number of organizations responsible for some piece of the Aegis pie. Which leaves us the question - "who is now responsible and accountable for the whole pie?"

Second, Admiral Meyer describes the importance of single minded dedication to the pursuit of technical excellence combined with being obstinate.

Admiral Meyer understood both the operational impacts and the burdens that would be placed on the backs of our sailors if he delivered a combat system that was not operationally effective, suitable, and reliable. And so Admiral Meyer refused to budge one iota from that standard of system performance, reliability, and effectiveness.

Admiral Wayne Meyer and his team were true to his roots as a professional navy engineer - he never wandered, he never waffled. His example shines before us to this day - an enduring commitment to excellence. Now, I know many of you here today aren't EDO's. But that doesn't matter - I believe my message applies to everyone here today. Whether you are an EDO, a government civilian, or a private contractor; whether you work at a shipyard, a regional maintenance center, or at a headquarters - we are all one team.

And so my message to you today reflects my expectations as a fleet commander for the maintenance and modernization of our ships - our foundation must be the absolute adherence to the time-tested standards of performance, reliability, and effectiveness.

We don't need maintenance managers or system life-cycle managers - we need technically savvy, hard-nosed systems engineers who are absolutely committed to delivering excellence in design, development, construction, test and delivery.

I need you focused first and foremost on effectiveness - if it's cheap, efficient, but doesn't work - it does the fleet no good. The worst sin we commit is when a new system or platform is expensive and still doesn't perform to specification and requires still more expensive fixes to get right.

You are the front line in the battle to maintain our standards, it all starts with you. I expect you to ensure our ships are built correctly, receive all the proper maintenance necessary to reach expected service life, and that the ships and their installed combat and engineering systems will perform to design specifications as long as our crews do their jobs underway correctly and conscientiously.

No matter what organization you're in, and whatever "box" you're in within that organization - and however the boxes are arranged linking you with other boxes or other organizations - straight lines, dotted lines, dashed lines, or imaginary lines - be obstinate! Never, never, never give way on our standards of excellence.

And you know what they are...

The standards that have sustained our navy so well for so long - standards of technical rigor in design and performance, standards of uncompromising adherence to our maintenance plans and standards of professional performance in every aspect of your duties.

These are the standards this community brought to our navy in response to Secretary usher's call to arms in 1841 - they are in your DNA.

Today, each of you must make the personal choice to go back to your roots, face today's challenges head-on and take ownership of whatever actions are necessary to bring our design, development, construction, test, delivery and maintenance programs back to standard.

And you, each one of you, must consider yourself accountable, wherever you serve and whatever you do, to the fleet sailor to sustain those standards.

That accountability is non-negotiable and must drive your daily work just as it drove Admiral Meyer.
ADM Harvey is on point. Accountability begins at the top though, we need a follow through with how we structure our programs.

I think it would also be helpful if we went beyond discussions from decades ago and do some self reflection. For starters, why does ADM Harvey need to make a speech on accountability? Why does he need to encourage one of my favorite personality characteristics, obstinance? Why does he need to remind a group of exceptional professionals to,
"Never, never, never give way on our standards of excellence."
Of course, we all know why. The pressure to PPT over excellence for expediency's sake to support ADM/VAD/RADM's pet project is huge. Without top-cover or you are crushed and left adrift. Everyone would like to be Col. Boyd ... but not everyone is Col. Boyd. As a result, we get ACS, DDG-1000, LCS, and LPD-17.

To really fix a problem though, you cannot indirectly allude to it in an intellectually passive aggressive manner. You need to be honest and direct.

As an institution, the Navy needs to take a deep breath and reflect.

An alcoholic does not recover from his disease by reminding himself that he needs to take better care of his health, he needs to drive safely, that he needs to get more sleep, that he needs to spend less money on Boone's Farm and more on breakfast.

No, that won't do. It is a good start, and a sign that the person knows he has a problem - but it won't cure the problem. Like the alcoholic, we need to be brutally honest with each other and ourselves. We need to clearly say, "This is what I did, and this is why I did it. This is why it is bad. This is why I won't do it again."

The alcoholic will never recover if he states, "I had a hard day at work, made poor decisions, and couldn't keep the car on the road. Sorry I wrecked your Porsche and shat in the pants I borrowed."

No. We are getting closer - much closer - but we are not there.

BZ to ADM Harvey though - he is speaking clearer and is identifying problems better than anyone else in CONUS right now who has a prime parking space. Very important part of the conversation.

Share it.


The Cabal said...

Wonder if this has anything to do with repair availability having three to four times as many preservation items as before?

Byron said...

Gee, Phib, didn't know you were a closet Simon and Garfunkel fan! :-P

ender said...

I am currently in a ACQ tour. 

What an eye opener.  Good people, doing good work, and getting no where.  I attribute it to a couple of things:

1) You have 5% of smart people doing the hard work.  The rest are "supporters" or "collaborators" for the main effort.  This, my friends, is what I hope is in Sec. Gates' sights for his acquisitions cuts.  The Navy has this problem too (Curse of the Competent - the better you do your job, the more job you will be given), but the percentage is more like 40% in my experience. 

2) Indecision regins supreme.  It takes a whole committee to decide on a COA.  By the time we have "buy-in" from everyone, the decision has been so watered down that we end up requiring another meeting to "rengage on the issue."  As the good ADM said, no one owns the pie, and if they do, they won't stand up make the call and give everyone the finger that doesn't like it. 

3) We ask people to be too general.  Most engineers I know (I am an engieer by position vice education) really want to do their one thing and do do it well.  They want to be an expert on widget 76589 and will obsess over that widget.  That is how you get quality control.  Ask an engineer to run the widget program and they soon lose focus, lose interest, and will stop caring.  It is a personality mismatch.  You need just enough management to maximize the engineering team.  We have too much today and that is where the delays and bloat come from.  As Phib said, from the top.  Zap 40-50% of the Program Management staff.

Just observations, but I've only been at this for a short time now, so please correct/educate me and my observations.

anonymous said...

RADM Meyer and the Aegis program were successful because they had the backing and support of big-Navy leadership and the congress.  You can see what happens to a new ship and combat system program when Navy leadership waffles and congress doesn't support the program, DDG 1000 being the case in point. 

You either make up your mind what you want/need out of a ship and stick with it, or you end up building a bunch of cheap (sic) aluminum go fast ships that look cool but do nothing. 

Andy Rowan said...

You can never go wrong by para-phrasing Winston Churchill -

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

ADM Harvey is a great American and a true leader. 

Salty Gator said...

Ender, you are spot on.  Been playing this game now for longer than you  on both sides of the river.  Over here at 5 sided puzzle palace I've been given multiple full time jobs while my counterpart spends most all day every day watching YouTube videos.

But hey, the acquisition folks love him because he is a rubber stamp for them.  >:o

Chap said...

Ah, but he wasn't always.  Don't forget the decade or so the thing sat in a field somewhere waiting to be used.

Also, one thing Rickover did that is of note in this case: When Rick left, he *left*.  Didn't come back.  Didn't try to keep driving the bus.

WW2 said...

No, that has to do with our neglect of basic preservation work like tanks and outside fittings for years.  We used to do a lot more of that work on a recurring basis and then stopped when maintenance money started to dry up during the "Vern" years when we running the Navy like a business and when we decided Sailors needed to do more important stuff than maintain their ships.  The fleet has gotten to such a state of disrepair for basic preservation that you are finding those jobs rising on the availability list to "must do".  Sad.

FormerFC said...

You need to go check your history.  Aegis and the Ticonderoga faced a mountain of critism.  Claims it wouldn't work, that it was too complicated.  A lot of the noise came from within the USN leadership.

cdrsalamander said...

Ahhh, but was it revolutionary or evolutionary? 

Did they require that the Tico all start with Baseline 3, VLS, ect all in Hull 1?  Did they insist on a dedicated "cruiser hull?"  A brand new and groundbreaking engineering plant too?  All in Hull 1?

Of course they didn't.

The Cabal said...

Ah...watertight doors, hatches and scuttles, "fittings". Do you know how many watertight doors are replaced just because they are out of adjustment? $10,000 hatches that get replaced just because no one will take the time to make sure that corrosion control is performed?

Byron said...

Evolutionary, of course. Nearly the same hull as the Spru can with a few very minor differences.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Well for a while they did think revolutionary until SecDef Brown told them to pack it in and cut back on thier spending. Remember that one of thier big projects that they maintained well into the Carter Admin was the Typhoon Strike Cruiser concept. At its height of paper planning, there was something the size of a Wasp or Tarawa Hull, nuclear powered under option A and gas turbine under option B, AEGIS system, 2xMk26 launchers and 8xRGM-84's and 16xBGM-109s, and the 8in MCLWG, and a flight deck capable of supporting 12 XFV-12 VSTOL strike fighters, or 16 SH-3/H-60's in a dedicated sea control concept, or some mix of those two aircraft. It ultimately died from an heavy dose of bad economy and anti-good idea fairy spray. This thing was supposed to be the center piece of a surface action group, ASW flag ship, convoy escort, or be tasked with a CVBG as its AAW screen commander's ship. To get to that spot though they did think of taking the Long Beach, and all of the late model CGN's (like the California's and Virginia's) and adding in the AEGIS in evoultionary steps as proof of concept.

Skippy-san said...

With respect to Aegis-there is another complication. When the Navy got signed up for the BMD mission, it ceased being the bill payer for that mission.  And Aegis-at least the BMD part of it-was now open to the administration of an outside agency(MDA). That outside agency has a very different culture, is a top down driven organization, and values process over performance. All the protests about how successful Aegis was matter not a whit-because the outside agency does not care how successful they were. They were not successful using their way.

That was perhaps tolerable when there were only a few BMD ships-now by 2015 over half the Navy's Aegis fleet will be subject to this outside agency. And to the COCOM's (at least it seems to me) the BMD mission is the only mission they see. They forget that the vessel is supposed to do SUW, ASW, and provide NGFS if required. AAW? What is that? The fleet acts as if that mission no longer exists.

Navy refuses to stand up to this outside agency and demand that they just leave the money at the door and leave us alone. As a result we are paying a huge price in things not done.

And as long we are quoting Churchill and bad mouthing those of us enjoy alcohol, " <span> "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."</span>

Skippy-san said...

Your network allows You Tube? Damn-where I work it, and every other fun thing, is banned from the computer screen.

Skippy-san said...

<span> taking the Long Beach, and all of the late model CGN's (like the California's and Virginia's) and adding in the AEGIS in evoultionary steps as proof of concept.</span>

That would have been a great thing. We might have gotten ten years more out of the California, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, etc.

Steeljaw said...


  NMCI just recently re-opened that door and is getting ready to allow webmail again

G-man said...

Was fortunate while at NavSea to sit in on numerous Aegis meetings with RADM Wayne leading the charge.  Most notably a comment made at a SPY-1 CEB which if I recall was "dumb questions are unlimited in scope".  Had it printed up and it hung in NavSea 00's office. He introduced me to Long Island iced tea, and being a southern boy I took a healthy slug.  Woo doggy.  He was impressive in his vision and drive to achieve and then maintain excellence.

WRT Ricover, saw the end of his tenure as well.  As the aide I got to ensure his "request" list was met for occasions like a Groton sub commissioning - things like 5 shower curtains, blue towels embroidered with gold letters of ship's name and hull number, 1 pound seedless red grapes (SEEEEEEEDDDDDLLESSSSSSSSS you *&^%$*&(), etc.  The first time the secretary handed me the list I was clueless.  But even an aviator can recognize that a "4 star request" is more than a request.  And at that late stage he was not one you wanted to cross and then remain in close proximity. 

And yes, even back then we had major problems - stern gate falling off at sea, shaft and prop coming out of the butt end of an underway sub, diesel engines from italy that rotated the wrong way for reduction gears in a minesweep, LCACs (omigosh), CG-47 weight distribution, hull and superstructure joint cracking, boiler tubes on an aircraft carrier, etc.  And I heard the same arguments "how long have we been......", "why can't those NavSea engineers ....". 

But with a decaying budget we can't afford anything other than "build it right, fix it tight, make it fight"  - as said by VADM Earl Fowler, NavSea 00, may he RIP.

Byron said...

I dunno, Skippy, back in my beer drinking days, it seemed like a six pack went in and a 12 pack went out... ;)

Curtis said...

Ah G Man,

When Ponce's stern gate fell off mid atlantic they tasked all of us to check those bolts.  I had to stop my leading fireman from leaping off the flight deck, wrench in mouth like some kind of pirate from taking off a bolt or two for NDT.  NAVSEA has been pretty broken for a very long time since we turned it over to civilians.  Me and Disco Dan from navsea had a lot of sharp conversations as I contrasted what we had with what NAVSEA was now delivering in terms of broken on arrival ships from his friends and neighbors who ran the civilian shipyards and would hire him the instant he left, alleged, government service.

Curtis said...


Been there done that.  The problem from my experience with ACQ was that they had a plethora of lab guys that were totally devoted to creating stove piped systems that were not interoperable with anything, were not open architecture and were purely devoted to maintaining NAVY lab jobs at any expense.  They would take COTS system, modify it to propriety GOTS and then use that as a never ending rice bowl to further future funding. spawarscom, any PEO, spawarsyscen lant and pac, NUWC all divs, NSWC all divs. Same for NAVSEA.

I went to a recent feel good about themselves rally where the admiral and USD addressing a room full of industry urged us to give them our best ideas for innovations to meet the challenges of the 21st century and I went up after and asked why bother?  Industry submits an unsolicited proposal and the sponsor allocates the money to the PEO or SYSCOM and they turn around and use that money to fund one of the government labs people to develop, execute and deliver the product that industry suggested.  You propose, they dispose and the syscom invariably disposes to maintain full employment at the government lab.

It's not really a very good business model.

Curtis said...


Went through Buttercup twice.  Weeping hatches and WTD are gravy to shipyards.  Without progressive flooding it's not a big problem.  Pumps and eductors.  More to the point in grave conditions the ship's crew is maxing out the flow of firemain into the ship and seriously, a little trickle or two from an above main deck hatch is a joke.  Just another rip off.  applies at all deck levels.

Seriously, a gap analysis is needed.  Waterflow in from gigantic holes punched by missiles or mines; dreams of those who think they can save a modern ship punched by WWII weight weapons; and fools who think that not-quite-water-tight-doors or hatches constitute any sort of risk.

Byron said...

Well, Curtis, first thing I've got to say is, "bullshit". We don't pick and choose what job to do; the ship generates the 2Kilo and then NAVSEA contracts puts together a work order. Since part of my job involves doing required visual inspections, I've actually told the SUPSHIP that there isn't a thing wrong with a door (hatches and scuttles are another thing, they tend to get ignored and either rust to hell and gone or the hing arms on a scuttle get broken). Didn't matter a bit. The ship wanted the door to be replaced, so we're going to rip out a perfectly good $10,000 quick acting watertight door and put in a new one. Curtis, all of our watertight fittings get check pointed to death. When we're done, it's WATERTIGHT AND FUME TIGHT.

And I'm just a civilian but I can think of several ways that wanting a below decks hatch to be watertight is a GOOD thing...and that's in peacetime with zero threats.

Last but not least, Curtis, this dumb civilian yard bird knows that every fitting is a key element to damage control, at least from the main deck down. Even the ones above decks are necessary due to fire's in the compartment.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Ah the good ol'4790.2K aka the work order in the 3M world. Can't get a ship alt done, nor be authorized to modify the hull in any way shape or design without first filing the 2K and then redoing it again when you hit the yard cause NAVSEA tells you it isn't going to pay for it, then once again when you hit the yards in a hope that the contractors will see that since they are already doing this in the space why not add on to it and the both of you double barrel the NAVSEA rep, and finally just accepting that NAVSEA is full of a bunch of cruel/heartless/sell their own mothers beachfront property in Wyoming peoples who don't care about your ship. Scrounge up the needed parts (even it means committing some midnight ninja ops on a decomm'ed ship next mooring over) get the parts in or manufacturing the part in house (a little tougher at times with some CBT rate schools) and hope that the NAVSEA INSURV team doesn't notice that the 2K was never filed. Finally it is absolutely amazing how many times you pester the 3M coordinator that a 2K needs to be filed on something since the crew is having a bigger and bigger issue trying to maintain it and nothing us done until magically an eidetic from above (usually XO level) that says since INSURV is coming and we don't want to fail again, everything that is broken will have a 2K cut on it. Goto Sentence two and repeat for the next 50yrs on that hull.

Let us add to that training about 3M is one thing and the power points say another with real life proving to be something from the black lagoon. Sailors being sailors, it is amazing to watch some sailor flip out when thier rebuilt rides paint/wax job is jacked up; but when it comes to the fact that their zone of responsibilty has massive corrosion control issues on their ship, that is a horse of a completely deck gray color.  

Grandpa Bluewater said...


True and true. If the job was easy, everybody could wear doublebreasted blue/black suits with gold buttons and embroidery and not be called a sissy (much, there is always URR...).