From this blog and others I have monitored, I have seen many comments discussing a variety of issues related to manning of our ships, squadrons, submarines and expeditionary units. I am very aware of the shortages we have in certain communities as well as distribution issues currently being addressed by the Chief of Naval Personnel. I think I have a very good understanding of the history associated with many of these issues, but much of what I’ve read hasn’t dealt with the baseline requirements established in the various afloat billet bases.

I would like to hear from you regarding the fundamental manpower requirements for your ship, squadron, or unit. What changes would you make to your Officer Distribution Control and Enlisted Data Verification Reports that would better enable you to execute your current operational requirements? Please include in your response the type of ship, squadron, or unit you are referring to so I can put your remarks in their proper context. I would also like to know the rationale for the proposed change. For the purposes of this thread, I am directing this question primarily to those currently in uniform and part of the USFF team.

One note for your consideration – as I have remarked on elsewhere, the resources the nation will be able to devote to the services in the future will not continue the pattern of the past eight years where service budgets and contingency funding steadily increased. Our overall operations tempo, with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq entering new phases, is likely to remain high. The challenges associated with recapitalizing the Fleet are daunting. Very tough choices lie ahead for us at every level in the chain-of-command.

Accordingly, simply asking for more people won’t work – what we must do is ensure the people we do have are serving where we most need them and that they receive the necessary training en route and on the job once they report aboard. That’s why I’d like to hear from you about the billet base for your unit. All the best, JCHjr

Cross posted from Fleet Forces Command Blog

Posted by ADM John C. Harvey, Jr. in Navy

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  • Byron

    I’m not now nor have I ever been, and far be it for me to make any suggestions. BUT…

    There’s an awful lot of people that post on a variety to this blog, and more that lurk it, and not a one of you is raising your head. This is a golden opportunity: the Man is asking for your input! Of course, you have to also supply an answer to your favorite personnel gripe, but so what? Time to Sailor up! He’s asking, you need to ANSWER!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Admiral Harvey, et al.,

    ‘Fraid all a Marine artilleryman can comment on is the T/O and T/E of combat arms units, but we sure do have opinions on that. So, if you are a member of FFC in particular, I echo Byron above. Now’s yer chance to comment about whether or not you are shorthanded in critical MOS density, whether you have billets that seem always staffed that don’t serve valuable purposes, etc. Don’t let it go by without comment!

    I was once, upon returning from an Okinawa deployment, regaled by a certain Commandant of the Marine Corps stating emphatically that we did NOT transfer Marines from “victor unit” to “victor unit” for the purposes of making the next deployment. Of course, immediately preceding the CMC lecture, my First Sgt and I had been processing transfer orders for my cannoneers to move them to the next battery in the chute for deployment. I would have LOVED the chance to comment then on a forum like this. So FIRE AWAY!!!

  • AT1 Berlemann

    Adm Harvey,

    I am with a VAQ squadron that is currently forward deployed with a carrier strike group. We operate four EA-6B Prowlers and are slated to make conversion to the EF-18G in FY11. You ask about changes we [sailors] would make to our manning documents to give us the capability to preform the mission better. I don’t even know where to begin with that statement. I am a little cynical, I sat through a brief in October 2002 during the USNI’s annual Warfare synposium in Va Beach, VA. It was a brunch lecture that Rear Admiral Harry Ulrich told a room full of attendees that they were going to “right-size” the navy via the elimnation of TAD billets and the elimination of general duty billets. On top of that they would flood deployable sub-units (like a squadron in an air wing) would be front loaded with additional support staff like CS’s, SH’s, MA’s to take up the slack due to the elmination of TAD billets and shrinking of unit sizes. This should let some of the other ratings stay in thier work center to due the fact that we spent money on them training them to fix airplanes, not go man gate guard, wipe tables, or preform other general work stuff. That was great until someone at Millington or the Pentagon looked again and realized this change to manning wasn’t working according to someone’s plan. So just recently we saw a change to our manning documents where billets are there, but will not be manned up and allowed to die via attrition. The second issue that has caused me to become very cynical is the new sea/shore flow program. When the inital message traffic came through I was a night check supervisor and brand new first class. Looking at my work center composed of 10 Avionics Techs of various pay grades, myself and my LPO both realized the shop would have been gutted of experience and we would be in the serious hurt locker because most of our bodies would be transfering earlier then we expected. To top it off we were getting fresh faced bodies from the STAR 21 program, who didn’t even get a chance to attend C-school for the EA-6B. Instead we were suppose to make up “training deficts” by OJT and in rate training. Oh and by the way our deployment schedule had been stepped up, something about being high demand low density platform. So it would of been a whole slew of issues with teaching on the fly about an old cankerous old jet to fresh faced kids. While making sure those that were up could complete the mission. It was very, very tough. All I have seen since the global war on terrorism start in 2001 has been tinkering by CNP and OPNAV offices in attempt to keep retention high, while “right-sizing” the Navy to meet lower manning plans. I keep hearing that technology will be replacing the requirements for personnel to do jobs. Yet, it isn’t working out like ONR says it should, but any day now. I keep seeing shore billets be contracted out to civilian corporations and in turn forcing those sailors who would like to stay in a geographic area either apply for the every smaller number shore billets or accept never seeing thier families again with yet another sea tour. I am starting to see more and more of my fellow ship mates look at voting with thier feet just to preserve thier families. So I am very cynical about attempts to correct the inbalance.

    That being said, If I could play a god and cast the wand to correct the manning documents in my squadron. I would bring back the billets and have two or three SH’s. The general duty billets could be used to the required TAD billets for ship’s hotel services (like laundry, staterooms, and similar TAD spots), but while at home base these personnel were effectively used at the barracks and hangars to preform general housekeeping and maintenance around, 1st LT division.
    Beyond that, anything I would suggest doesn’t matter because the planning documents for a VAQ(EA6B) is radically different from a VAQ(EA18G). The next biggest thing is asking for bodies that are trained from A school on through to C-school prior to sending them to the fleet. It is very disruptive to find out that I have to give up a body (or more) and rejuggle my work shifts because I have to send a kid back to C-school because the money wasn’t there for a seat when he left A-school.

    AT1 (AW) C. H. Berlemann
    VAQ-135 The World Famous Black Ravens

  • Anathema

    You already know the LSD’s woes…and the FFG’s are also well documented. Off the cuff there needs to be a division officer to CPO ratio of at least 1:1…and that doesn’t mean the billet is a Chief and its filled with a First Class. Every major inspection program needs a CPO…or the program needs to be redefined. Too many Second Class are ending up as program managers with no experience other than the one ship they’ve been on for that one enlistment.

    ATG should only accept folks from sea…and should only be allowed one tour at ATG. Ever. No back to backs, no sea to ATG to sea to ATG repeat, and so on. ATG needs to be the training place for leadership and that training needs to be spread around. The leadership at ATG needs to be upwardly mobile. No terminal commanders. No terminal lieutenant commanders. People who will have to go back to sea again and live the standard they are enforcing.

    If the technology or procedural changes promised to make the manpower cuts of the LaFleur and Etnyer era’s haven’t been fielded, or were rolled back, then those ships need to return to pre-change manning. We’d all do well to remember that most of Smartship’s savings were NOT technology…but were instead a different way of doing business. In the intervening decade that was glossed over and technology was the rage…but we kept the old ways of working and then the technology never showed, or added requirements.

    I am certain that this is not as laser guided as you would have liked…but I’m on leave and it’s the best I can come up with without the manpower tables and some older files at home and at work.

  • Spade

    This is so far out of my lane that we’re not even on the same range, but I wish there were more responses to this post as well.

  • Byron

    Probably wouldn’t hurt to have a Naval Aviator and a bubblhead input as well.

    Really a shame when a heavy mover asks your opinions and really means it, and no one chimes in…HINT, HINT.

  • ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN

    AT1 Berlemann, thanks very much for your comprehensive and very well thought-out response.
    I really appreciate your taking the time to give me the information I need, particularly since you are deployed and have a great deal on your plate every day.
    My best wishes to you and the rest of the World Famous Black Ravens in VAQ-135. Fly well, sail safe and get it done. All the best, JCHjr

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I think part of the reason is that many of us no longer have skin in the game and many of those that do have been so intimidated by the perception that to speak is to invite retribution (e.g. a climate of fear) that few do. The AT1 is quite right though. Since they can’t hurt me (never could, for 31+ years I always was “just passin’ through” in my mind) a few bullet points:

    — Don’t sugar-coat things. “Right sizing” my behind. It was cuts, pure and simple.
    — Tell the truth, even if it hurts. If someone say’s “The Navy needs to…” and it can’t be done, then tell them it can’t be and why it can’t be.
    — Stop playing personnel games, like the AT1 says.
    — Follow SecDef’s lead and start to get rid of contractor-based everything and start putting uniformed personnel back into those positions.
    — Listen to the deck plates. Your sailors and officers are voting with their feet. Money is NOT the answer, that’s just what they tell you to make you stop bothering them.
    — Recognize, publicly and often, that the Navy, like the nation, is at war. Train, fight, train. Stop as much personnel and manpower document roulette as humanly possible.
    — Get CNO to issue an immediate “cease work” to the Navy Uniform Board for a minimum of three years. Disband them if needs be. The idle mind is the devil’s playground and these people have very idle minds. Find something to wear on board, doing the dirty work and stick to it. If going inshore then give them combat clothing. All else is dress-up and we all know it. (Not that it doesn’t look good)
    — Listen to the deck plates, they know what their needs, community by community, are.

    End rant.


  • LT Brine

    Sir firing from the hip.
    Bring back super JO tours: the experience they can bring to wardrooms is worth the nuke bonus expense and may help bring our DH numbers back to plan if some decide to stay.

    2. The other one is more far afield: #of bunks should equal #of personel, but only when #of maitenance hours mandated does not exceed #of personel*20.

    2.a. On that note: the Virginia class is very scary with the interaction between berthing and DC.

    Most other suggestions that come to mind wouldn’t work if manning equaled beds.

    Annon SSN DH

  • lesser ajax

    While serving on a CG, I always felt that the number one manpower problem was that the ship was expected to perform many of the most basic training tasks for new Sailors. For example, I never knew a Sailor who came from bootcamp or A school with a weapons qual, despite the fact that the shore establishment must know that every Sailor in the modern Navy is going to be expected to carry a weapon for force protection purposes sooner or later. The consequence of this is that ships are forced to provide minimal training at substantial cost (in terms of man-hours and distraction). The shore establishment must work to identify which tasks are common to all fleet assignments and then train new Sailors to perform those tasks before assignment to the fleet. Bootcamp has to be about more that “Sailorization”.

  • Yardbird

    Admiral, my two cents on a portion that directly affects my work: eSOMS. I’ve seen on too many ships where the database was seriously in error or incomplete, requiring a lot of time for first-time manual entry. A co-worker, who is a retired Senior Chief helped with that program, and said that there is a two part solution: pre-load databases by class and sub-class, and to institute a training program BEFORE shoving it down a ships throat. I’ve done several SRAs and CMAVs since eSOMS hit the waterfront, and it can take up to 1 hour to do a very simple tagout, and a day and a half to do an ships gas generator’s intake and fire supression system. It was 8 tags, and by the time the ship actually found all the valves, actuators, breakers and switches, I’d lost 36 hours of productivity to get this ship back funtional and ready to sail. Part of the problem, as I saw it, is that there are far too many options to click on, and sailors are confused with the small screens they have to work with. There’s little organization of systems, and it’s mostly a scroll-scroll-scroll till you find the right system.

    I even had one ship that tried to get me to sign over another organizations tag sheets and red tags. I clearly stated (in my own terms) what the chances were that I would sign over someone elses tagouts. I also stated that I’d be glad to discuss the matter with CHENG or CO if that’s what it took. Live’s are at stake with tagouts…there is no margin for error.

    And for what it’s worth, the various ship’s companies really don’t like eSOMS either.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Okay, Admiral, I will bite.

    The idea of “right-sizing”, a term thrown around with every shrinking of the manpower pool, connoted all sorts of extra people who aren’t contributing. Not a very accurate picture, it would seem. All those “extra” people managed to stay mighty busy and deployed a heck of a lot.

    Yes, people cost money. But “right-sizing” to a budgetary goal has put us at the tipping point for loss of capability and for sailor retention. The USMC stared that situation in the face in the late 1990s.

    The other place where this manifests itself is in the “reduced manning initiative” which trumpets the rather silly idea that very small warship crews can do all the things required to maintain and fight their ship for extended periods in the most challenging of environments.

    Note from ADM R K Turner’s after action report in the Solomons, late-1942: “The second lesson the amphibians learned at Guadalcanal was they just had to have more people in their ships and craft.”

    As was stated in the Guadalcanal series posted here, “the ability to man weapons systems, perform damage control, man the bridge, handle cargo, maintain machinery, and perform the hundred extra tasks that come with venturing toward a hostile beach where the enemy is trying to kill you and sink your ship, requires trained crewmen capable of reacting and making decisions.”

    Not really a specific answer to your inquiry, Admiral, but perhaps the canvas on which this whole picture is painted.