A half-decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, a top-down movement started to take root in the US Navy around a word; transformation. The Transformationalists gained steam as they were swept up in the mid-90s Zeitgeist; all was new and now was the time to make a new Navy.

With the end of the existential threat of global Communism, technology’s promise of Moore’s Law, and with the self-esteem and optimism that their generation felt as they first gained the reins of power from the White House to the first GOFOs – this was the time where, yes, all was new – in a fashion.

There were challenges though. In the pre-9/11 Pentagon, the post Cold War was one of lean budgets and an expensive to maintain legacy Fleet. Each new ship and each new program put greater demands on a already strained budgetary pie. How do you sail in to the future with, as you see it, a sea-anchor of the past holding you back?

Even with a larger budget, as the Navy fed off the fat of the Cold War Fleet – how do you get the Fleet of tomorrow? With challenges comes opportunities the saying goes, all that was needed was a vision.

Decades, indeed centuries, of best practices of shipbuilding and aircraft development – how to build them, maintain them, and man them – were showing one path of requirements and a way forward; but that was a hard story – one that made beloved new theories come away bruised and battered. On that path to that still undefined “there” one thing was clear – we could not get “there” from “here” with the money in hand and the numbers in mind.

If experience, history, and best practice told us what we did not want to hear, there was but one thing to do – ignore that reality and create a new one. From such was born Transformationalism.

By selective hearing, blinkered optimism, para-scientific concepts, faith, a dose of hope in the best case scenario, and even more importantly – the force of personality – we thought would get “there.” Our Navy would be transformed – a Navy based on New Technology, New Networks, New Manning, New Training, and New Maintenance; the PowerPoint gods had it written; therefor it would be done.

There is a fine line between institutional optimism, overconfidence, and arrogance. When facts are brushed aside and history ignored, and instead you gird your future with untested theory and hope – you have to play the odds. As an institution we decided in that brief period in time that now was the time, it was a moment that a generation needed to grab hold of an institution and Transform it; to steer not in to – but away from the skid and see what the odds brought.

“Don’t you want to take a leap of faith? Or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone!”
— Saito, from the movie Inception.

And so we threw away the charts, put the radar in to stand-by, and we sailed forth in to the sea of New Technology, New Networks, New Manning, New Training, and New Maintenance.


Who was to ride the wave of Transformationalism and have a front-row seat? Naturally, those who would make it happen would be those Captains who at the turn of the century would make Flag and would spend the next dozen years doing the best they could to bring the fruits of Transformation to the Fleet.

The best perspective would be from someone who spent a good quarter-century in the Cold War “legacy Navy” – one knowledgeable of the “build a little, test a little, learn a lot” philosophy & culture that brought about such programs as cruiser development in the 1920s and 1930s, and surface-to-air missiles from the 1950s through Aegis. They would have seen how it was done, knew how it was done.

What have those individuals who have rode that path seen? In a moment of candor – what do they have to say at the end of their travel? What fruits have come from the tree of Transformationalism?

4-star Admirals come and go. Some leave larger footprints than others, and today one of the size-13 4-stars has re-joined the civilian world; Admiral Harvey – welcome to the other side – and thank you for your service.

Like one of his predecessor 4-stars from another service – Admiral Harvey has left those who are taking over the watch a gift, if they want to take it.

Earlier this month, Admiral Harvey sent out an email to the other SWO Flag Officers. I encourage you to read the whole thing; The Fundamentals of Surface Warfare: Sailors and Ships and read the embedded attachments.

Some highlights;

The past few years have been a serious wake-up call for our surface force. We discovered that the cumulative impact of individual decisions made over long periods of time, driven by unique and widely varying circumstances, had put the future readiness of our surface force at risk.

Prepare yourself, because a decade of manpower, maintenance, and programmatic sacred cows are about to be brought to task by one of the ones who raised them.

We shifted our primary focus away from Sailors and Ships – the fundamentals of surface warfare – to finding efficiencies/reducing costs in order to fund other important efforts such as recapitalization. We took our eyes off the ball of the main thing for which we were responsible – maintaining the wholeness and operational effectiveness of the surface force. Because readiness trends develop and evidence themselves over years and not months, shifting our primary focus to individual cost-cutting measures gave us a very myopic view of our surface force and the way ahead; institutionally, we essentially walked into the future looking at our feet.

Institutionally, there was a culture that had you keep your head down, and your mouth shut. Who created that culture, and why?

There is also that “f” word; “fundamentals” – that most ignored concept as of late but the record is clear; the naval gods of the copybook headings are calling for their offerings. Ignoring fundamentals in manning, maintenance, and program management were all warned of, why were they dismissed?

Did we grow an appreciative and rewarding environment of operational excellence – or did we grow and reward administrative bureaucratic bloat? Did we function as a learning and self-correcting institution of critical thinkers?

… we “trained” our people on the deckplates that improving efficiency trumped all other considerations – certainly an approach and a philosophy that was completely contrary to the institutional culture of ownership – “this is MY ship; this is MY gear” – and the institutional focus on operational readiness – “we are ready NOW” – that have been at the very foundation of our surface force since its beginnings.

… and what did we do to those who objected to this outgrowth from the cheap grace of b-school management books and silly 2-week Outward Bound MBA seminars? Simple – they either shut up or were professionally told to follow the sign to Ausfahrt. How many people did we promote that didn’t have a deckplate culture (months at sea, hours in the cockpit) – but did have other things non-related to performance at sea or in the aircraft? What were those things we valued so much, and why?

The flawed process is just a byproduct of a more critical problem, a flawed culture.

When the assumptions behind the man, train, equip and maintain decisions did not prove valid, we didn’t revisit our decisions and adjust course as required.

In short, we didn’t routinely, rigorously and thoroughly evaluate the products of the plans we were executing.

There you have your answer.

Again, the word of the day; why? Part of the answer is an undercurrent to the entire Transformationalist movement; their totalitarian opposition to dissent. They abused the very important military concept – keep your differences quiet outside closed doors.

That is a great thing for war – but a recipe for failure outside a no-kidding war war. The institutional cancer of promoting a culture of loyalty to individuals over institutions, I would offer, is north of 51% of the answer to the above, “Why?”

Those assumptions were evaluated and found wanting many times over the last decade … and those results were ignored and/or suppressed. Little action was taken for reasons related to needs of individuals temporarily in positions of power, not the institution’s long term viability.

We shifted maintenance ashore, scaled back our shipboard 3M program and reduced our preventive maintenance requirements to fit a smaller workforce, and then failed to fully fund the shore maintenance capacity we required.

The result was optimally-manned ships that we could not maintain to the performance and reliability standards we previously mandated in order to achieve mission success over service life. This result became apparent with the increase in the failure rate of the INSURV Material Inspection, the “gold standard” inspection which measures the performance of our Sailors and their ships against the established standards required to sustain wholeness and mission effectiveness over the life of the ship.

How did we respond to this? We made INSURV classified in order to further hide the problem, and protect the tender egos of those who helped create the problem. That may sound a bit harsh, but it is the only answer that can survive the follow-up question.

Here is one of the best parts of the email – one everyone should read twice.

Now in discussing these issues with you, I want to acknowledge up front that I realize how much more I could have done to fully evaluate the impact the actions I’ve described to you had on our surface force’s overall mission effectiveness. Looking back on my time as a Flag officer, I can see that I focused too exclusively on the tasks and responsibilities immediately at hand and did not take sufficient time to “step off the pitcher’s mound” and reflect more broadly on the Navy-wide/community-wide impact of what we were doing. And, when we did gather together as community leaders, we did not get to the heart of the matter: our Sailors and our ships and their collective readiness to carry out our assigned Title 10 missions. I could have done better. We could have done better. You MUST do better, because now we know better.

I was guilty too. On active duty, I allowed myself to be shut up. Why? Complicated answer for myself, so I won’t pretend to know it for someone else either – but I do know what the culture was that drove me to shut up. Even at his level, I think Admiral Harvey was in the same culture.

… our TYCOMs, ISICs and ships must be focused first and foremost on EFFECTIVENESS – if it’s cheap, efficient, but doesn’t work, it does us no good. If our budgets drop, we may certainly have to do less; but whatever it is we decide to do, we must do it well.

If it is expensive, inefficient, and doesn’t work – then it is doubly no good. I am not sure we were focused on “cheap.” LPD-17 and its titanium fire mains were not cheap. LCS as a littoral corvette is far from cheap. The pocket battleship sized Zumwalt “Destroyers” are not cheap. I’m not sure what we have tried to make that is cheap in the last couple of decades. F-35? No. F-18? Well, they are cheaper than the alternative … but they do work at least.

Here is another quote that is valuable and deserves great reflection in our Flag Officers;

The absolute accountability of our COs for the performance of their ships and Sailors is the sure foundation for the performance of our Navy under the most challenging conditions imaginable. We know that the concept works.

So why did we so readily walk away from an approach that had accountability at its foundation with regards to how we deliver combat capabilities to the Fleet?

Yep. Accountability up? Spotty record there.

Towards the end, there is a call for an about-face to what is already the dying concept of Transformationalism;

Re-establishing the fundamentals of how we train, how we equip, and how we operate and then putting those responsible to deliver on those fundamentals back under accountable officers in the chain-of-command … for the sake of our surface force and our Sailors, be ruthless in the maintenance of our standards and keep your focus where it MUST be – on our ships and Sailors. …

That is a good start.

Some may say that Admiral Harvey’s call is too late, perhaps – but that does not matter. Is he now an anti-transformationalist? I don’t know, but he’s trending that way at least.

I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and all should welcome the message of this email. The higher you go, the larger the Sword of Damocles is … but of course no one but the person in the seat can see it. As most everyone does – he did the best he could for the country and Navy he served, and he did it better than most.

We should hope that this letter is the start of an ongoing conversation, not just by Admiral Harvey as he adopts the suit and tie, but by those in uniform as well.

There is a lot of ruin in a navy as big as the US Navy. Regardless of well intentioned mistakes of the past, there is still plenty of excellence left to build a better Navy from. Let us repair and redirect the damage done as we move forward from the last couple of decades of poor concepts and cultural warping. If the larger Navy community is looking for a starting point for that conversation – Admiral Harvey has provided us one to use; we should accept it in the manner it was offered and get to work.




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  • http://tobeortodo.com J. Scott Shipman

    CDR S.,

    This is the single best essay I’ve read on the Navy this year. Culture counts. This is the centerpiece of my work and interest. There is a better way, and one quick fix is loyalty to the institution and not people. To be or to do speaks to what moves us; do we serve to get promoted, or do we serve to contribute? You can do both, but the true test is whether when challenged and promotion hangs in the balance, you’ll make the best call for the Navy or yourself.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m almost finished with my book on this topic, but already have enough material to help those wanting to make a change.

    Very best regards, JSS

  • Mike M.

    Amen!

    The rot runs deep, though. Naval Aviation went through something like this in the early 1990s. The Platform Wars culminated in the fight between supporters and opponents of the F-18 E/F – and resulted in the opponents being purged.

    It’s one thing to demand that the Loyal Opposition execute a decision that’s been made. It’s quite another to stomp the Loyal Opposition for existing at all. Do that, and you start squashing your innovators. Shortly thereafter, a Navy that doesn’t stomps yours into defeat.

  • Perry

    It was pretty clear that ADM Clark was unapologetic about his “my way or highway” philosophy. At a public conference, someone on his staff said “you need to get on the bus or get run over it.”

    Some other problems:

    1) The Navy has been firing about 20-25 CO’s/year for several years now. Despite the sorry state of the Navy, I haven’t heard of an admiral getting fired. Either the advancement criteria is significantly better than command screening, or once you’re in the club, you can never make a mistake. However, I agree with Voltaire: “it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others.”

    2) The “officer-ification” of the CPO ranks has significantly hurt the fleet. Before, Chiefs were the ones who may not have had much “book learnin'” or a fancy diploma but were filled with common sense, rating knowledge, and deckplate leadership. They would know the exact status of every piece of equipment they owned and every Sailor who worked for them. Now, a degree is almost a requirement to make Chief. I know that Chiefs are supposed to be supernatural entities who can do anything, but in reality they are human. While they are spending time getting that degree, something has to fall off the plate.

  • Phil C.

    It might have excusable had the efficiencies actually been efficient and had the Navy actually recapitalized. But here we are, 15 years after the budget trough and have experienced a 50% increase in real spending but the surface fleet is 28% smaller. Oops. Missed opportunity.

    In our quest to develop leaders we forgot — and still neglect — our responsibility to develop managers. Somehow people think that leadership supersedes that. No, no it doesn’t.

    I wrote a short essay back in January 2008 entitled “adverbs in lieu of verbs” that advocated we shift from Transformation – change for change’s sake — to Proficiency – doing whatever we do well. Glad to hear the idea is finally catching on.

  • Old Farter

    Adm Harvey has spoken the truth about the Surface Navy. However, what he said can probably be applied to all of the enterprises. Unfortunately most in senior leadership will probably discount what he has written as simply a surface navy thing.

  • http://tobeortodo.com J. Scott Shipman

    A line of thought just occurred to me on re-reading:

    We spent 50 years defeating the totalitarian Soviets, but have chosen to run our Navy (DoD at-large) (at least the thinking part) in a manner not unlike their methods. Groupthink, dogma, writ-large.

    Concur w/Perry on the Goat Locker issue; we emphasized collateral duties and higher education over being system experts—something has fallen off the plate, indeed.

  • http://www.chaoticsynapticactitivity.com xformed

    2) When the assumptions behind the man, train, equip and maintain decisions did not prove valid, we didn’t revisit our decisions and adjust course as required. In short, we didn’t routinely, rigorously and thoroughly evaluate the products of the plans we were executing.

    Col Boyd, please call the CNO’s office to consult on a “loss of OODA loop” accident…

  • bc

    Sal, this one goes in the Save bin. You’ve nailed it. ADM Harvey caught my attention (again) with his FFC blog post on 24 May entitled “Keeping the Fleet at Center (http://www.cffc.navy.mil).

    In this, he said, “…we were not doing our jobs with a focus on the end user, our Sailors. In these instances, the desire/need to deliver the program or system became paramount; we did not adhere to our acquisition standards and failed to deliver whole programs built on foundations of technical excellence. Then we accepted these flawed programs into the Fleet without regard to the impact on our Sailors.”

    And: “…we have entered a period in which the resources we have now and can expect in the future will no longer support the behaviors of the past. The likelihood of decreasing budgets and increasing demand for Naval forces leave us with no margin for delivering poorly designed, poorly delivered or unnecessarily burdensome programs to the Fleet. We must keep the Fleet and our Sailors at the center of the programs, systems and platforms we deliver and ensure operational effectiveness is the bottom line of our efforts, not simply increased efficiencies.”

    Sure, ADM Harvey posted these roughly four months before retiring, and there will be those who lament “too little, too late”. I agree with you that “he did the best he could for the country and Navy he served, and he did it better than most.”

    I copied the 24 May blog post and mailed the full and a redacted/summary version along with the ADM’s bio to the IPT and OEM logistics leads I support because I believe we’re guilty of some of this and should always try to do better. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of well-intentioned people doing their best, but collectively, we – like other teams – fall into group-think and “that’s-not-our-problem-itis”. The attempt won’t make much – if any – of an impact, but I felt strongly enough about it to try, even at risk of being labeled alarmist or a non-team player. There’s impassioned, and then there’s P.I.T.A..

    Lastly: @Perry, Phil, JSS: I read and respect your positions and experience on many issues. WRT to leadership and management: concur all.

    Though Drucker may not have been a Sailor or Naval Officer, he wasn’t all wrong when he observed, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” As a Chief and later an LDO, I tried to do both. I believe we need to get some of our folks off top dead center, worry less about themselves and their careers and get back to taking care of the business at hand. Send a Chief to sea, indeed! When one re-reads the ADM’s comments about the condition of our ships (and by extension, our squadrons with similarly aged aircraft and equipment versus manning states), the thought that we have gapped CPO billets afloat is mind-boggling.

    CDR S: keep up the great work. This one was singularly remarkable. We’re fortunate indeed to have the forum and opportunity for people like you and others to guest post here. Thanks very much! Kind regards, bc.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Nice last letter – thrown back from half way down the flag brow after the penultimate pass through all those sideboys, in wingtips and a brooks brothers suit.

    It said things that have needed saying for some time, long overdue.
    Still, the timing, hmmmm.

    I’m long faded from laboring in obscure anonymity to retired insignificance(short trip), so I don’t know enough to speculate if Adm Harvey ruffled some elephant feather merchant’s feathers while he still had tusks, and fixed something… when done at risk of that next step up the ladder, that’s impressive. Me, I’m not even on routing for rumor and gossip any longer. Here’s hoping.

    But,… maybe the guys with the solid gold shoulder boards shut the door before going nose to nose (as they should, IMHO), and he did and was shut down, or, just maybe, got something fixed behind the curtain. If so, likely no one will know (and rightly so, IMHO).

    Mighty hard to fix anything after you are relieved, detached, and are enroute to your next assignment…”Home”.

    “Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
    That every man of arms should wish to be…

    … – Who, if he rise to station of command,
    Rises by open means; and there will stand
    On honorable terms, or else retire…

    Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
    Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
    And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
    for wealth , or honors, or for worldly state…
    (Wordsworth: “The Happy Warrior”)

    Here’s hoping it’s true of you, Admiral Harvey.
    Welcome to the great leveler – the Retired List.

  • Full Nelson

    My opinion its not just the SWO community. NAVSEA is a tremendous organization which has accomplished many great engineering feats. However, I tend to think that everyday shipbuilding and ship-repair experience is being bleed out of the organization. This as the older gen hits the retirement door and replaced by fresh graduates. Most of these new engineers are fantastic, smart, capable people. But as soon as they get into the organization they are deluged with Lean duties, human trafficking training, etc. Not that these are not important quals to be maintained but are we giving them the basics? I often ask young engineers to tell me the galvanic potential between aluminum and steel (with galvanic chart in hand) and why it’s important for ship repair/construction. The blank looks I receive in return indicate to me that there is not enough emphasis put into real “deck plate” engineering. Ship building/repair and combat system engineering are specialized professions that require years of experience just to be functional. The needed skills, who has them, and where to get them are not (in my belief) presented to the young engineers coming into NAVSEA. We may be replacing the older retired engineer with a new one but the replacement is only occupying a seat. The institutional knowledge is gone. The new engineer becomes good only at their individual skill set or system. At best that leaves NAVSEA entirely too dependent on contractors to do good faith work. Worse case the Navy gets ships that have severe galvanic corrosion mere months out of the new construction yard. Fail.

  • Byron

    I wish ADM Harvey well. I did not agree with all he did (mostly a certain CAG and retroactive punishment but in the end, I understood why). I have to give him props for engaging the Fleet through his blog and taking in the slings and arrows of the commenters. By no means were they all pats on the back, myself included. And I have no way of knowing if he actually did right some courses; only those of you inside the lifelines would know that. Still, a four star put his ownself right up front and asked people to tell him what they thought. This Navy could stand a lot of that. Theres far too much close-mindedness in the Navy, especially from the Flag ranks.

    Small side note: Not long ago, ADM Harvey laid out the plans for the upcoming security exercises. Last year Mayport NS was a complete cluster-grope: theres only a coupe of ways out in the evening and for some odd reason base security (bless their flat little heads) would only allow exit from the base to one lane. Coming into the base two lanes were open, three in the morning. I explained all this to ADM Harvey and how badly it screwed traffic up and how many gallons of gas were burned creeping our way out the base, not to mention frayed nerves. Everyone wanted to go home and the happiest time of the day is seeing the front gate in the rear view mirror. Three weeks later the security exercise started…and in the afternoon, both lanes were open! For that, I say, Thank You,Sir!!! :)

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Byron,

    Concur with you re: Admiral Harvey. Disagreed strongly with his handling of Captain Honors, but greatly respected his grasp of what is important and a requirement for a warfighting service. And for his grasp of the rich Navy history and tradition and the contemporary lessons that can and should be gleaned from it. (I realized I am talking like he is dead. I RESPECT his grasps…)

    His last blog post over at FFC was recommending two superb articles from the NWC review. Every Officer in the Navy and Marine Corps would do well to read them and be ready to discuss them.

  • Outspoken

    CDR S.,

    Great work, and excellent words from ADM Harvey. Hopefully the voices of reason, this new generation, learned the lessons of Transformation and will steer the Service back toward effectiveness.

  • http://navy-matters.blogspot.com/ ComNavOps

    Adm. Harvey as hero? Hardly. Until the very end of his career he was part of the problem not the solution.

    There are only two possibilities for Navy leadership over the last decades. Either they’ve been too stupid to see the problems that have been painfully obvious to outsiders or they’ve been too cowardly to take the proper stand and, if necessary, sacrifice their careers for the good of the nation. Which was Adm. Harvey?

  • Phil

    J. Scott Shipman wrote, “We spent 50 years defeating the totalitarian Soviets, but have chosen to run our Navy (DoD at-large) (at least the thinking part) in a manner not unlike their methods. Groupthink, dogma, writ-large.”

    Indeed, but it is not new. DoD is the largest remaining centrally-planned economy in the world. Since the demise of the Soviet bloc who else still creates top-down 5-year production plans with rigid schedules, strict oversight, and a do-it-even-when-it-doesn’t-make-sense execution mentality? And it is not a new phenomenon: 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of implementation of that PPBS system.

    The DoD Instruction and DoD Directive that govern the system were last updated when G.H.W. Bush was president (no typo, Bush senior). If we have misallocated our resources, maybe it is time to pay a little attention to the design of those resource allocation systems.

  • Tony Cowden

    Great article, although frustrating. Let’s segue to current surface combatant shipbuilding programs: I predict that DDG-1000 and LCS, neither of which are designed or intended to serve as escorts, have already proven to be HUGELY expensive for the fighting power they bring to the fleet. In addition, their “optimum” (read ‘minimal”, because that is all it ever was) manning strategies (two different strategies because somebody thought it was a good idea to turn that over to different industry teams) is already proving to be a failure. I predict that when Congress really pulls the wraps off DDG-1000 it will make LCS look like a sane shipbuilding program. These two programs, coupled with the current and future budget environment, are going to suck the money out of the Navy budget and make it impossible to address the maintenance/readiness shortfalls that ADM Harvey is talking about.

  • Robert_K

    Great post and great comments!

    Phil addresses an important point – maintaining processes that don’t work as intended. I would love to see someone do the analysis on what the total cost of a single budget cycle is for the DON. The PPBES, JCIDS, and DAR processes, get increasingly more cumbersome – and costly- and clearly don’t deliver the right outcome. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a way to reverse the trend.

    The end result is the OPNAV, Joint, COCOM, and OSD staffs continues to grow while the actual operating forces shrink. As personnel costs increase and the purchasing power of the acquisition system lessens, the future of the US defense enterprise is in serious trouble. If nothing is done to reform the bureaucracy, given a flat or shrinking defense budget, the problems that ADM Harvey described will continue to worsen.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Speaking of processes that don’t work as intended, what’s the chance the Navy re-thinks this idea of women at sea?

    From an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone.

    I regret what is becoming of my Nation, but I will die in the company of the honorable.

    – Kyon

  • http://tobeortodo.com J. Scott Shipman

    Hi Phil,

    Many thanks for the comment; we agree. We have layered requirements and directives to the point the mission and our collective knowledge is burdening under the strain. There is so much bureaucratic noise, many have little time to comply and very little left over to do their real job. Like a gerbil on the wheel…

    We can do better, and we’d do well to start with honesty: we’re in a mess culturally.

  • http://tobeortodo.com J. Scott Shipman

    Full Nelson said:

    “Ship building/repair and combat system engineering are specialized professions that require years of experience just to be functional. The needed skills, who has them, and where to get them are not (in my belief) presented to the young engineers coming into NAVSEA. We may be replacing the older retired engineer with a new one but the replacement is only occupying a seat. The institutional knowledge is gone. The new engineer becomes good only at their individual skill set or system. At best that leaves NAVSEA entirely too dependent on contractors to do good faith work.”

    Spot-on; we learn by doing, the gov’t needs to take back critical skills we’ve ceded to contractors—an educated customer is best…right now, in too many areas, we’re flying blind and placing too much faith in the contractor.

  • Swo735

    I concur with Scott and Half Nelson. I just retired from a 30 yr career supporting a Navy organization that, 30 yrs ago, was held up to the entire DoD as the epitome of an acquisition program. Today, they can’t organize a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without a 100% cost over run. And the problem stems from what Scott and Nelson mention. The old hands left and the youngsters that relieved weren’t trained properly and everything organizationally headed for the bilges. Millions were spent for COTS equipment that didn’t, Six Sigma projects that failed etc, all because of the political correctness of the era.

  • Byron

    I just noticed that the Fleet Forces blog has shut down comments. I know ADM Harvey (ret) can’t speak for his successor, but I sincerely hope he doubles down on ADM Harveys ability to communicate to the Fleet.

    You’ll never get all the answers from your staff, or reports, or even talking to the various commanding officers.

  • Spade

    “At best that leaves NAVSEA entirely too dependent on contractors to do good faith work.”

    I think in some organizations this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

    Contractor has a viewpoint you don’t like? Good thing he’s just a contractor with no authority, even if he’s got 20 years in the Navy and 10 as a contractor. That means you can safely ignore everything he said with 0 accountability anywhere.

  • GIMP

    Admiral Harvey’s words are worthy of consideration by all the “enterprises,” as they all seem to operate in similar ways and get similar results.

    It’s not too hard to identify the people who are part of the problem. They’re the ones always looking to change organizational structures and procedures to “produce efficiencies” when all around them realize that you get more done by having more people do more work, not constantly shuffling them around and “producing efficiencies” on a FITREP without actually getting anything done in the world.

  • Byron

    The level of oversight over contractor work (at least in the repair side) is staggering. In just the past year my paperwork load has tripled. If every point in the test and inspection plan is not accounted for not only will the Navy not pay off the contract it will hold the contractor accountable for missing documentation. Further, NAVSEA is doing many more deep dive audits of our paper trail, looking in every nook and crany to make sure that we give the government what it pays for. Last but not least, safety is a HUGE issue: every violation is reported to NAVSEA and if a certain threshold or egregious violation occurs the contractor will receive a “Letter of Concern” which is a step away from losing your certifications to perform Navy work.

    I have no idea whether or not this applys to new construction. I would hope that the process would have even more rigor.

    Last but not least, the Navy no longer has the organic means to do their own repairs, not even the simplest. The goal is to keep it working until the contractors can fix it. I think this is pretty stupid but hey, I’m just an old shipfitter.

  • Adversus Omnes Dissident

    Sad to see you publish this e mail. I saw a copy of it–as I’m sure many did–but the idea was that it was supposed to remain within the flags. They needed a “pep-talk.”

    Today, we have NO 4 star SWOs. NONE. Burke is rumored to be getting groomed for his fourth.

    It is time for us to circle the wagons, and have a Come to Jesus moment. Harvey did a lot while he was USFF; however, let’s remember. He was NOT the senior SWO for the overwhelming majority of the time. If he were CNO, I think a lot would have changed. He wasn’t; it didn’t. Too bad.

    Sequester and budget talks have forced us to have some unpleasant conversations that we have needed to have for a while. Likewise, so did the Bold Alligator exercise. I wonder what would happen if we had a “Bold ALligator” sized ASW exercise…

  • OldSchoolMC

    ComNavOps hit it out of the park. Harvey was part of the problem, and like many (not all) who are part of the problem, he waited until the end to promulgate his philosophies via email. Why wasn’t this sent while he was active duty? Yes, decision making sometimes requires closed doors. But, in the end, an ill-advised decision is still an ill-advised decision, and transparency in the process that resulted in that decision should not take a back seat. Part of the cultural issue is the unwillingness to air dirty laundry. Well, that mindset needs to stop or the decisions made over the last 20 years will continue. It’s time for the Boomers to leave (yes, you too, ADM Greenert) and for some old fashioned leadership to return.

  • Paul Dean

    While this is a great step in the right direction it appears you all still haven’t quite figured it out yet or you’re not willing to say the obvious – your culture changed from being Naval Warriors to corporate america’s philosophies. SPAWAR’s Admiral had a board of directors and even a SPAWAR Senior Chief sitting at our permanent personnel mess hall at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego kept loudly telling his Chiefs he wanted their junior enlisted to keep pace with their supervisors. Everyone in earshot cringed. Excuse me but boards of directors for Navy Admirals and enlisted supervisors??? Not our Navy Brothers and Sisters. A lot of Servicemembers lost their jobs during the nineties meat axe cutbacks so of course a lot of senior leadership insulated their own jobs by building their empires within their respective services which is how everything became so fouled. Now that you’re recognizing what’s actually going on, get back to being your true Warrior Selves and reclaim the greatness that has always been your’s. Semper Fi from your Brother

2014 Information Domination Essay Contest