Saturday, January 18, 2014

Surface Force Commander's Vision - Part 2

Admiral Tom Copeman has done it again.  He previously authored an internal Navy memo which we discussed ("Surface Force Commander's Vision") and in which he described his view of the current surface fleet and some of the actions he believed warranted consideration.  There was a lot to like in the memo and ComNavOps was impressed – no easy feat from today’s Navy leadership.  Copeman has now issued a follow-up memo (1) giving a bit of a State of the Navy assessment and a description of the ongoing, and still needed, actions required to get the surface fleet where it needs to be.  Here are some excerpts from the document.

Copeman points out that various measures of success can cause unintended conflicts.  He offers an example,

“Success in spiral development of C4I systems means inefficiencies in training, main­tenance and logistics on the deck plates as 62 DDGs have 42 different configurations when measuring just eight major Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) systems.”

He’s pointing out that the Navy’s obsession with spiral development (essentially the model being used to develop and deliver LCS modules) means that not only is there never a “final” version but that continuous development litters the fleet with many versions of the product which hinders training, maintenance, and operation due to the many fielded versions.  This is an absolutely insightful observation that has, potentially, profound implications for the Navy’s acquisition and development programs.  Outstanding!

Discussing manpower shortages, Copeman notes,

“Manning actions are required for many ships to deploy with the minimum critical skills onboard, and these “rip to fill” actions not only erode ship readiness for those ships at home preparing to deploy, but also erode the morale of the force.  The timing of these actions-just before deployment-also means that these Sailors don’t train with the rest of the ship or the strike group.”

Despite the convoluted Pentagon-speak, he’s talking about cross-decking of personnel to fill gapped billets in deploying ships and he notes the negative impact that has.  As he points out, cross-decked personnel haven’t been part of the ship/group’s workup and are not fully integrated the way they should be.

Copeman then links new ship construction quality issues to training and maintenance,

“New ship construction deficiencies (LPD 17, LHD 8, and LCS in particular) must be corrected after ships have entered the deployment rotation, resulting in bills that must be funded through fleet maintenance accounts and major schedule changes and interrup­tions that directly impact the crews’ ability to train.”

His comment recognizes the failure of NavSea to ensure the quality of the ships the Navy is accepting.  NavSea is being forced to sign off on incomplete and substandard ships as a political and PR measure.  This is pure and simple ethical cowardice being displayed by Navy leadership.

He further addresses training as we have so often in this blog,

“Arguably the most important finding in our Readiness Kill Chain effort was that we documented how far we have fallen behind in individuals training.”

Spare parts availability is addressed,

“…gross effectiveness numbers have increased, though they are still in the 50 percent range (five times out of 10, a Sailor can get the part they need from the storeroom to correct a casualty).”

CNO Greenert can talk all he wants about warfighting and readiness but it’s clear from this kind of evidence that it’s just talk.  Our leadership is failing the Navy.

Copeman looks at warfighting readiness, which is something I’ve long criticized the Navy about.

“As we look critically at how we do business, we cannot escape the fact that deploying ships that can successfully execute Phase 0/1 operations and those fully prepared for combat operations are two different things. In recent decades, warfighting has not always had the focus it requires for us to meet our obligation to be prepared for prompt and sustained combat operations. It has my complete attention.”

He states that warfighting readiness has his complete attention.  Well, that’s just great.  I have only two questions:  what has had his attention for the last several years and why aren’t the other Navy leaders focused on warfighting given that it’s the Navy’s reason for being?

Listen to this one,

“Warfighting excellence starts with training.”

My goodness!  Doesn’t that sound like half the posts I’ve written?  (Try "Realistic Training" as one example)  This guy could write this blog.  The disturbing part is that I’ve been on this bandwagon for some time and he’s only just now getting on board.  Still, far better late than never.

He offers a statement about effective training that has implications that even he does not grasp,

“Our officers and enlisted personnel will be developed using a holistic approach with a deep, solid foundation in the basics of naval warfare and will be trained so as to have the cognitive agility to land on their feet inside a chaotic situation, pivot to the task at hand and carry the day.”

This is exactly what I’ve called for – realistic training that intentionally incorporates chaos and confusion.  That’s how you avoid the Vincennes CIC debacle.  Unfortunately, while Copeman recognizes that chaos is an integral part of combat, I don’t think he grasps that the chaos must be trained for and incorporated into the training exercises.

Copeman indirectly addresses one of our recent points (see, "Industry In Charge") about the Navy abdicating its responsibility to define requirements for weapons and systems in favor of allowing industry to deliver whatever they want rather than what the Navy needs.

“…it is incumbent upon us to ensure that research organizations supporting us understand what we need … “

He’s speaking specifically about research organizations but the thought applies equally to industry.

Looking at soft-kill (ECM) defensive measures,

“Culturally, the Surface Force is hard-kill oriented, but the quantity and quality of threat weapons that our forces will face in any future conflict necessitate better soft kill capability …”

C’mon, now.  This guy is just copying my posts! (see, "AAW - Hard or Soft Kill?")

Copeman acknowledges the death of optimal manning programs,

“We will no longer reduce manpower first, hoping that innovation will follow. To this end, I have formally rescinded the rule sets that led to the shipboard manning reductions of the last decade.”

Maintenance “savings” are addressed,

“As we have learned, “saving” money by not doing maintenance in the short term does not save money. It defers payment and increases costs over time.”

Seriously?!  This is intuitively obvious to all the rest of us.  Again, better that the problem is recognized now, however late and however obvious.

There were many other observations contained in the memo and I urge you to read it in its entirety.  As I have stated previously, Adm. Copeman is, so far, the only Navy leader I’ve identified that seems to have a common sense and logical understanding of the various issues facing the Navy.  He is a rare treat among an otherwise putrid rank.


  1. We need a fire to burn out all the corruption and incompetence. Too bad that type of fire seems to only come in wartime...

  2. “”””He’s pointing out that the Navy’s obsession with spiral development (essentially the model being used to develop and deliver LCS modules) means that not only is there never a “final” version but that continuous development litters the fleet with many versions of the product which hinders training, maintenance, and operation due to the many fielded versions. “””

    There is a planed program on the Burkes to fix this with a systematic upgrade of older ships so that they would be more uniform. I saw some of the plan for upgrades and it was very extensive, much more then other earlier classes of ship I was on. I was on one of the earlier Burkes and we got several of the upgrades when I was on board.

    But on the other hand the money came out of part of the maintenance budget and when the maintenance budget was hit so were the upgrades. One of the upgrades on the ship I was on was replacing the WSN-5 inertial navigation system with the WSN-7 but that was delayed because of a lack of money

    Here is a link to a story about upgrades to the Arleigh Burke herself


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