Tags: amphibs, balisle, msc
Well, of course they can. I’m not even sure how that became the question. The real question, which I hope the Navy’s study and pilot program will show, is should they and, if they do so, what the long term impact is to the rest of the fleet.
There is an interesting study worth locating written by the Center for Naval Analyses – “Applying Civilian Manning Practice to USN Ships”.
Here are some salient points from the Executive Summary:
“No evidence that the smaller crews on MSC ships resulted in degraded performance. In fact, for all metrics examined (replenishment quantities and rates, readiness, injuries, collisions, fires, grounding, and oil spills), MSC civilian crew performance was equal to or better than that of USN military crews.”
“MSC Seagoing workforce is older and more experienced. Its members have more time at sea than USN military officers and enlisted personnel with comparable years of service.”
“…more focused education and practical training of civilian mariners.”
“If the Navy were to decrease its crew turnover by as little as 10 percent on all ships, we estimate that crew sizes could be reduced by about 1.4 percent without affecting readiness.”
“We observed that the Navy, unlike the private sector, assigns menial gallery and laundry tasks to technically trained enlisted personnel for as many as 3 to 4 months after their first arrival aboard ship…we estimate that the cost to the Navy of diverting skilled sailors to menial tasks on surface ships is in excess of $30 million annually.”
“…such programs as the Optimum Manning Experiment and Smart Ship have helped reduce the number of watchstanders and enlisted billets aboard USN ships, but more can be done to reduce crew sizes and improve the quality of USN ship operation and maintenance overall.”
- Stop assigning insufficiently trained officers t engineering departments aboard ship.
- Implement a two-track career path for SWOs (engineering and command/deck).
- Shift the USN SWO culture to expect hands on participation of officers in ship engineering departments.
- Increase emphasis on lateral entry and workforce pyramid reduction to achieve a more optimal workforce profile.
- End the practice of assigning technically trained enlisted personnel to menial tasks aboard ship for laundry and galley duty.
- Minimize frequent watchstanding rotations, to allow adequate periods of uninterrupted sleep for watchstanders.
- Increase at-sea tours of key personnel, such as Commanding Officer and Chief Engineer, and other careerists with 10 to 20 years’ service to gain maximum benefit from their service.
- Consider changing ship requirements documentation to require manning suitable to “fight or save the ship” rather than “fight and save the ship”.
“Before adopting these changes, the Navy should initiate one or two pilot programs, as described in detail in appendices F and G.”
The overall report is an interesting read, but fraught with unsupported opinions, improperly used facts, and is obviously slanted in its approach and conclusions. None of which are what I want to write about today.
Now, did I mention that the report was written in 2005?
Yep. FIVE years ago.
So, here is a report, five years old, that Navy paid for, has 170 pages of detailed (if flawed) study of steam, diesel, and gas turbine engineering plants operated by Military Sealift Command. Yet, we are only now looking at implementing a pilot program – and doing so for a class of ship that was not reviewed in the study. Why?
Because someone without practical and relevant experience thinks that a diesel engine is a diesel engine, and convinced CNO of the same idea…and either ignores, or is ignorant of, a study that laid out in detail (40pages!) a pilot program that used FFGs and DDGs to implement MSC crewing and manning practice.
YN2 Gauthier eloquently addresses the cultural impacts and other issues of this move, and any Naval Officer worth his salt will also recognize that simply painting a blue and gold strip on the stacks and crewing a ship with civilians – no matter if they are older or more narrowly trained – will solve the Navy’s maintenance and readiness problems. At best they will just move the peanut under another shell.
At its core, the pilot program that Navy leadership has proposed has little to do with readiness, and far more to do with a culture that ignores both operational realities and changed strategic landscape in favor of protecting and nurturing the idea that we will one day face fleet combat. While we may do so, we cannot, and should not, continue divesting ourselves of the capabilities that are used over and over again in peacetime.
As a final note, if there is any one thing that the Balisle Report showed it was the inability of the Surface Navy leadership to do holistic and strategic planning. Perhaps with a five year old study, and almost two years worth of internal review and debate on the operations of the Navy’s amphibs we can see a plan that makes sense and actually addresses the root causes of failure, rather than just another attempt at budgetary theater.
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