Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sleepy Time!

Well, here’s a welcome bit of common sense rules regarding sleep requirements for sailors.  What’s the problem with sleep?  It’s that the sailors haven’t been getting any!  From a Navy Times article (1),

“Government watchdog studies have found sailors on ships working more than 100 hours a week, and have cautioned that this can lead to fatigue and reduced readiness.”

The standard U.S. business work week is 40 hours so 100 hours is 2.5 normal work weeks compressed into one, week after unrelenting week.  How long do you think you could do that before sheer, overwhelming fatigue began to make you lethargic and mistake prone?

Now, the Navy has issued new crew sleep guidance.

“In an internal Navy message issued Friday, Rowden said surface fleet skippers will be required to implement watch schedules and shipboard routines that better sync with circadian rhythms and natural sleep cycles.”

“Such a move aims to give sailors a more consistent and less erratic sleep schedule, resulting in a more rested and alert crew.”

“In further guidance sent out this week, skippers were given the choice from among several watch schedules that follow this natural cycle, according to copies of the messages obtained by Navy Times.

While the guidance does not mandate any specific schedule, it will likely mean the end of grueling 5-hours on, 10-hours off watch schedules, known as “five and dimes,” because that does not align with circadian rhythms and a 24-hour daily cycle.”

Well, that sounds great.  No more fatigued crews.

“You’re going to have to form some level of watch bill that protects sailors’ sleep,” Naval Surface Force spokesman Cmdr. John Perkins said.”

Of course, one can’t help but wonder how crews are going to get that sleep given that the reason they’re working 100 hour weeks now is because most ships are significantly undermanned.  The manning shortfall is going to be even more pronounced if more of the crew is sleeping more of the time!  This is what lead to the widespread use of waivers to get around all those nasty expired seamanship and warfare certifications that happened due to lack of time.  Are we just going read the new sleep guidelines, congratulate ourselves, brag to Congress about our proactive reactive actions, and then begin issuing waivers?  History says, yes.  History says shipboard fatigue and mistakes are not going to go away.  History says the Navy will find ways around the new rules just as they find ways around all rules that aren’t convenient.

No More Tired Sailors or Just More Waivers To Issue?

Optimal manning is not conducive to a good night’s sleep!


(1)Navy Times website, “Navy issues new sleep and watch schedule rules for the surface fleet”, Geoff Ziezulewicz, 20-Sep-2017,


  1. They may be addressing optimal manning as well, according this USNI news article:

    About 1/3 through or so, Adm Richardson is quoted as saying that they are starting to ease the workload by "supplementing the crews". Now, what I don't know is if this means increasing crew complement back to rational levels or if it merely means providing additional bodies for in port tasks.

    1. Navy leadership has been talking about increasing crew size for a couple of years now but nothing significant has happened. There is no reason to believe anything will change. All available money will continue to go into new construction. Maintenance, training, and personnel costs will continue to be shortchanged.

  2. Precedent is certainly on your side.

  3. Shit if your an engineer you never get any sleep. We were always short on manpower. At sea your lucky to get 4hrs a day. Used to keep a string up hammock in the hole and string it up on the lower level and sleep there.

  4. Burke's date back 30+ years,with HM&E thirty years old design high manpower. Burke was due to be replaced by the Zumwalt, with half the crew size, but it was so mismanaged it was cancelled as too expensive.

    Navy now saddled with old tech high manpower Burke's.

    1. High manpower, high cost, Navy cut back maintenance.

      New ships would have half to two thirds operational cost of Burke's both in Manning and fuel so budget pressures to cut costs.

      As you say Navy priority has been new build not operations so have been starved of funding.

      The same as with F-18s as over half fleet non-operational awaiting re-build.

      This year's budget getting massive up lift for maintenance. It will cost big time due in part to not moving on to using new ship design tech, just have to look at how commercial ships have improved and reduced Manning since the eighties.

    2. "just have to look at how commercial ships have improved and reduced Manning since the eighties."

      There's a huge difference between getting a commercial ship to sail from point A to point B with minimal manning and getting a warship to sail into combat, fight, survive, repair, and return. You may not be grasping the magnitude of that difference. The Navy could easily build a warship that could be sailed by a crew of a dozen but the ship would be combat ineffective.

    3. Agree totally, but todays technology has moved on from the 80's, just compare car tech from that era and today. Only one example is Valmet Marine Automation with built in redundancy, emergency shutdown. Not saying its a Naval qualified but sure there are equivalent naval systems available and why new naval ships crews are half to two thirds of 300+ crew of Burke's. The 2000 era Zumwalt was designed for crew of only 140, though expect that might have been optimistic.

      The old Burke design is dense and cramped and the Flight III ships are weight constrained so that though Navy spent many years developing hybrid electric machines to alleviate its use of its gas guzzling main propulsion GTs they were was not included due to weight and volume constraints. Another side affect is its so so crew accommodation, does not help with retention and so more training required due to turnover, all additional costs.

      Both Burkes's large crew and high fuel consumption will be a continuing drain on the Navy Operations & Maintenance budget for the next 40+ years. O & M budget for 2018 $51.3 billion, big numbers.

  5. This story, coincidentally about the 'Big John' before the collision this year, showed not only were they doing ship level maintenance while underway but 'depot level maintenance'

    No wonder there is no time for sleep ?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. "there are good reasons for wanting new hulls and dangers associated with allowing personnel, operations and maintenance costs to crowd out the acquisitions"

      Most of us were taught as children that you don't get a steady stream of new "things". Instead, you take care of what you have and only get new things when the old are no longer repairable.

      You have it exactly opposite. Personnel, operations, and maintenance are not crowding out acquisitions, acquisitions are crowding out personnel, operations, and maintenance. What's the point of buying new ships if the ships are undermanned to the point of being unsafe, if the crews are untrained and uncertified, if maintenance is being ignored, if the end result of new hulls is a hollow fleet that cannot fight?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Wow! You're on a roll today of ... unusual ... perspectives. Again, you're welcome to your opinions.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. I think you're trying to create an argument out of nothing. No one would dispute that a newer ship costs less to maintain than an old one (well, the LCS kind of disproves that but we'll ignore that example). You stated that there are good reasons for wanting new hulls. Of course there are! However, what you've failed to grasp is that every new ship is incredibly more expensive than the ship it replaced. That results in an ever smaller fleet. Look at the numbers. The fleet is shrinking steadily. Look up "fleet size" in the keyword archives and you'll see the combat fleet count and how it's shrinking. So, new ships are killing the fleet.

      To address your absurd example, no, of course no one would advocate upgrading WWII weaponry. The technological discrepancy is simply too great. However, let's make the tech gap a bit smaller and pose the same question. How about upgrading Spruance class destroyers versus buying new? I'd much rather keep upgrading the best ASW vessel ever built than buying multi-billion dollar new ships. How about Perry FFGs? I'd much rather we would have upgraded the Perrys than buy new LCSs. So, your question actually proves the opposite of what you intended when you start looking at real world examples!

      Your way is what's shrinking the fleet.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Regarding fleet numbers, you appear to be carefully manipulating numbers to try to win an argument. I don't allow that on this blog. Deal with actual data or don't comment.

      Here is the combat fleet size per my consistent posts defining combat fleet as carriers, BBs, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, subs, and amphibs.

      year size

      1985 421
      1990 405
      1995 283
      2000 243
      2005 220
      2010 225
      2012 210
      2014 205
      2015 197
      2016 191

      The fleet size trend is factual and clear. If you continue to manipulate data you will lose your commenting privilege.

      You're welcome to believe that buying new hulls is the right thing to do but do not attempt to support that belief with manipulated data.

    8. I warned you. I will not allow data manipulation. Now your comments are deleted.

  7. It is a real problem. As a young SWO, I remember some 5-day underway periods where I maybe slept 5 or 6 hours total. It is not uncommon and is a dangerous practice. The CO's lack of sleep was noted as a factor in the Port Royal grounding, for example. Best solution would be (1) increase crew sizes; and (2) train sailors before arrival so that they can qualify for whatever watch they are supposed to stand as quickly as possible (more qualified watchstanders means less watch for everybody, in theory). It is also a cultural feature that must be adjusted--maybe not going as far as the aviators, but still.

  8. I ain't buying this lame excuse along with the others they have been trotting out.... This one has McCain and even the new clueless SECNAV buying into... Gibberish and whining..8 months ago the same PC-koolaide drinking CNO tried to dismantle the Navy rating system.....!

    Why? Eight years of PC and 15 years before that of bad choices and the new cynicism...

    "Leadership- Leadership- Leadership".. starting at the top and tighten up everything, I mean everything, and quit gimmicking everything- no super technology is gonna save our butts...

    Read a sickening story like this and you will see, especially if you ever served pre-2000, just how screwed up the US navy 2017 is:

    Need I say another friggin word?


  9. You know it really bothers me to see the exact same types of mistakes as I see in the civilian world being played over in the Navy.

    Same idea of what leadership is same mistakes. To me a lot of the time it seems like the top of the military and the corporate world have become so similar that they are the same. Same group think same solution pattern.

    Why don't people just look at the problems and do whats needed. Maintain your equipment and train your people.

    The military isn't the civilian world you can't optimize for it. You NEED a surplus of people on your ships for damage control.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.