Anyone Want To Engage?

January 2009


I’m active duty, so these opportunities are not for me. However, the New Media Directorate at ASD-PA has some great opportunities to stir up trouble to provide blog fodder. They’ve got phone bank roundtable discussions available with various high up muckety mucks a few times a week, and a couple of interesting Navy embarks / embeds coming up.

Some of the comments being made here would be illuminated by a phone call or two, or a couple of days visiting at sea. How about it?

Posted by Chap in Navy

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  • Byron

    Did four days on Sara, did a rolling launch off in the COD, where I got to see the underside of the catwalk. No thanks, been there, done that, don’t want to do it again. Unless I get to bunk and eat with the Chiefs, who everyone knows eat better than anyone else 😉

  • Chap

    Hey, didn’t you get a ride on the new LCS?

  • Byron

    LCS? I’m the LAST person they want on that Tiffany Navy ship. You’re thinking of Galrahn.

  • Id like to see some NECC coverage and how this TYCOM is operating outside the normal Naval lines.

  • Well, I’m not as cantankerous as Byron. After putting 4 years on an old diesel boat in the 1970s, every navy ship I’ve been on lately seems luxurius.

    I’m willing to go visit a ship, but more importantly to discuss. My primary area of value added is improving our ship acquisition process. Others have figured out how to manage monopsonistic markets. I think our OSD/US Navy should to.



  • Byron

    Want to help the ship aquisition process? Eliminate about half the stupid milspec requirments that add NOTHING to the quality of the product, but do add to the cost. Since I do a lot of ordering, I know whereof I speak.

  • sid

    Isn’t this what Galrhan, SJS, Eagle1 are already active in?

    Found out three hours ago our company contingent had a slot open for the Bush commissioning tomorrow…Too late to finagle out of work to go 🙁

  • Byron, I know some of them seem pretty crazy.

    However, I think someone of them are vital. Forgive me for my pragmatic writing, but here’s my thinking.

    Ship survivability is a fundamental for naval capital assets. Unlike ground wars where it is a game of attrition, naval ships are expensive and therefore are primary targets. And that requires an ability to survive, using hard/soft kill solutions, as well as good engineering and material selection. In long drawn out engagements, even if your ships mission was stopped from damage, as long as it didn’t sink, you could have it repaired and sent back to sea. (mission kill versus a sink kill).

    I’ve noticed the trend of other nations to give up some of their milspec requirements. The Dutch significantly reduced their requirements for withstanding hull shock on their newest AAW Frigates. They were able to reduce the number of transverse frames, and the types of frames used, along with a number of other savings. However, if these ships hit a mine, I fear they will be sink kills.

    For our less than capital warships, perhaps reduced specifications may be applicable.

    As a nation I hope we never send our sailors out on ships that won’t survive.

    The issue on cost is one of relativity. What do we relate high cost to? I think our Navy should begin comparing our costs to other navies.

    If you compare the cost of our ships to similar constructed ships throughout Europe, we are very comparable, yet with more difficult requirements.

    Our Navy simply needs to get its navy ship cost estimating house in order.

    Byron – 1st beer is on me.



  • Byron

    AMI: the problem is that the CGs and FFGs and even the Burkes were built a good long time ago. More importantly, the engineering and thus the material specifications were set in stone a long time ago (for a ships life). The FFGs in particular had their material criteria set down back in the mid-70s. Combine old material requirements with an ever shrinking number of vendors who can meet the requirements (or want to, given the hoops you have to jump through to insure the DoD that your product meets or exceeds the spec), you soon reach a situation where getting material, damn the cost, is near on impossible.

    Case in point: For years, shipyards have used aluminum sheet, 5456, to the ASTM-B-209 standard. Within the last two years, due to the age of the existing ships structure and (my guess) design problems, the spec was changed to ASTM-B-928. Since you’re in the business, have someone in purchasing call around and find some of that in 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″, and tell me how long it’ll take you to get the material, and where it comes from.

    This is NOT an isolated case. We constantly have to seek guidance because the specification invoked by the item simply no longer exists, or the lead time from award of contract to delivery (never mind fabrication time) is 2 months after end of contract.

    These are the kinds of problems I’m talking about. I have zero desire to place sailors at risk from design or material compromises (why do you think I bang on LCS so hard?). I do want to see costs go down from using a rational specification system.

    Last, if your customer was not the DoD, but simply the commercial market, how much could you reduce your overrhead by simply cutting out all the overhead it takes to jump through the federal hoops?

  • sid

    An illumination of this would be helpful…

    The USS “Freedom”, (LCS 1), which was commissioned in October, is going into Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk this week for a $37-million four-month overhaul, before undergoing Acceptance Trials.

  • Byron

    No problem: It was built crappy, whether by design or lack of design. We do whole SRAs on CGs and never go over 15 mil, and it’s going to take 37 to get it to pass acceptance? Taxpayer get screwed again.

    Another guess: There was so much PR about this project being late and overbudget that it was rushed out of the builders yard and sorta haze grey and underway. Put a bunch of civilians aboard with their cameras, show them around, get some more PR, then sneak into Portsmouth for the rest of the fixing/installing.

    Hey, anyone else want to buy a pig?

  • Byron;

    I’m begining to sense I don’t want your job 🙂 Those are tough challenges.

    Of course, I’m not in the business of purchasing aluminum plate, but it seems that changes to specifications are the role of your customer, or NAVSEA, USCG, ABS, etc.

    Finding better source of supply is likely the shipbuilders role.

    These problems of material availability are not only faced by us here in the US but with our European shipbuilders as well. What’s the name of the Dutch owned firm providing steel plate for naval projects all over the world? Is there a similar supplier for aluminum? Who does Navantia use? Damen?

    With the economy in a major slow-down, perhaps we will see China and India’s consumption slow down and make some suppliers pay attention to smaller customer requests.

    Regarding the cost of doing business with DOD, a shipbuilders overhead would simply be different doing commercial business versus DoD. While administrative overhead costs would drop, the cost of investment, product engineering, and selling would significantly increase.

    I wonder if NSRP might have some insight on the aluminum plate issue?

    Cheers! ok, 2nd beer is on me too.


  • Byron

    AMI, short answer: my understanding from purchasing dept. is that last mill that produced mil grade aluminum in the US closed in Dec. The problem is limited market: the US Navy. With such a small end user of goods, only a limited amount of vendors will go through the process of qualifying their standards and submit to testing. And the price? Passed on to the customer, of course.

    Give you an classic example: the $200 hammer. The hammer itself probably cost one tenth that amount. But what did the vendor have to do to first prove to the government that their company complies with all the hoo-hah, and also has to perform really stupid tests on the damn hammer which in-house QA has to fill out endless forms, along with it’s training and testing to assure the gov’t that, yes, we do know crap from good, then….starting to see the picture? A lot of the cost for goods or services to the Navy is simply administrative, before the first bit of manufacturing or service had been rendered.

    I’m so proud to be a taxpayer.

  • Byron, I agree it is frustrating.

    Yet, there’s the other side of that coin.

    I remember when a foreign yard used bronze nut & bolts on the HP steam piping on one of our L ships during a repair in the Med. I think we lost 3 people when those melted and the piping let go under pressure.

    I served on a subsafe submarine when it was 25 to 30 years old. That submarine continued to operate until it was 29 years old. Still went to original test depth. I spent 4 years of my life on that boat thanking those individuals that built and repaired that boat and allowed us to surface after every dive.

    Thanks for putting your time into making sure we have quality!

    Cheers my friend.