The Navy ordered an engineering stand down for all LCS ships after the fourth major engineering casualty in the last year and, specifically, the two most recent engineering mishaps. The suggestion in the order is that poor training was at fault. Here’s what VAdm. Tom Rowden had to say,
“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.” (1)
OK, I’m going to assume that Adm. Rowden’s statement wasn’t just for public relations cover. I’m going to assume that it was a genuine and accurate statement. Typically, these stand downs are 24 hours. So, in that short period, whatever it was, the Navy and the LCS community managed to completely review the ship’s personnel, their level of training and knowledge, their competency, review all applicable engineering procedures, evaluate the entire training pipeline, and assess that the crews are fully prepared to operate the ships safely? That must have been some busy 24 hours!
Hmm … I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t take Rowden’s statement at face value. I’m starting to think that maybe it was just a PR cover stunt that accomplished absolutely nothing.
But, wait, there’s more! According to Rowden there’s more training and reviews on the way.
“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.” (1)
Outstanding! The LCS engineers, who have each spent years mastering their profession and then an additional year or so qualifying for LCS engineering in the most advanced and rigorous training in the Navy, are now going to be retrained in 30 days! If we can completely retrain engineers in 30 days, why did it take so long to train them the first time? Again, the 30 day “training” period is a joke.
It gets better though.
“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.” (1)
So, the LCS training program which took years to develop is now going to develop a completely new test and specialized training, also in 30 days. Again, not really credible, is it?
Unbelievably, there’s still more!
“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.” (1)
So, the carefully crafted LCS training program and engineering training programs, developed by many brilliant people, the best the Navy had to offer, over the course of years, is now going to be comprehensively reviewed and adjusted by the commanding officer of SWOS. If he’s that amazingly good that he can do this along with all his other duties in a span of 30-60 days, why didn’t we have him develop the training programs originally and save untold millions of dollars and years of time? Yet again, this is pure bilgewater.
“In addition to announcing the stand down and the retraining, the service also announced following Sunday’s return of
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.” (1) Coronado
So, yet another team is going to take a “holistic” look at the engineering program. Setting aside the buzzword bingo aspect of a “holistic” look, this team is going to provide an initial assessment, review, and corrections in an even shorter time – virtually instantaneous, it would appear! Why do we need all the other reviews if this one can fix everything instantly? Setting that aspect aside, shouldn’t this kind of review have been conducted, oh, I don’t know, say, when the first LCS was built?
This sudden frenzy of LCS reviews and assessments and retraining is just blatant PR attempts by the Navy to look as if they’re doing something. It’s also an attempt to avoid being up front and honest and simply saying, “We screwed up the manning levels and training beyond belief and now we need to start over.”
Does this surprise anyone? You cram high tech, complex equipment that requires careful care and attention into a ship that is horribly undermanned by engineers who have a hundred other duties besides engineering and then wonder why the equipment isn’t operated properly? If this is a surprise, it’s a surprise only to the Navy. The rest of us have seen this coming for years. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
(1)USNI News website, “Navy Ordered Littoral Combat Ship Engineering Stand Down, Retraining Ongoing”, Sam LaGrone,