We all know the phrase that nothing is more dangerous than a terminal-CDR. Ahem. Maybe ….

Well – all 4-stars are terminal, in a fashion – and when a 4-star is about to head out of the service at the pinnacle of their career, a cynic might look askew at last minute conversions – but I don’t think that is always fair. There can be something else going on when a Admiral or General goes off the reservation; “The Craddock Effect.”

In May 2009 as General Craddock was heading out the door at SHAPE, he gave a speech that said what everyone inside the lifelines knew about NATO and AFG and the story of half-truths we all sold. It was nice to hear in the open what was said behind closed doors – but one had to wonder what the impact might have had if he made the speech a year or so earlier in mid-tour – when he wasn’t a lame duck – when the full truth of his opinion could have informed the public debate … but … it was what it was.

There is a lot be be said for working within the system. Highly successful men and women get to where they are by having a track record of “making it happen” without burning those they work for and with. They often think that once they reach a certain level – then they can make things work. It usually doesn’t work that way.

When they they are running out of time or after soaking long enough that they reach a moment of clarity – often a refreshing wave of candor can come from a senior leader. It is a wave that isn’t quite at odds with what they have said in the open before – but sounds more like the missing chapters of a book half read.

In that light – over at his CFFC blog, Admiral Harvey has a post out that from my perspective is, in a word; remarkable. It is somewhere between a splash of cold water and sobering slap to the face to the professional drift our Navy has been under for a decade+.

This is Admiral Harvey from his blog;

When I look at some of the big issues we’ve encountered over the past three years with programs such as LPD-17, Aegis 7.1.2, VTUAV (Fire Scout), and the many software programs (e.g. R-Admin) installed on our ships, it is apparent to me that 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.

Yes, yes – great Neptune’s trident – YES! Sailors are our greatest asset – not our most costly liability.

I would personally add two things – everyone and Admiral Harvey knows this problem is much older than his three years at CFFC – and to change this will take the right people in the right places in power. How do we get them there? Hard question.

His comments are so spot on. Just to drag out the usual suspect; designing manning plans for LCS that has Sailor burn-out considered a feature as opposed to a bug, and is baked in to the design that we will have to deal with for decades? How do you fix that? … but let’s not get in the Admiral’s way here;

… 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.

Though my selfish side wishes he put this out years ago, the professional side of me has to give him a nod to a timing that he felt worked best given his responsibilities. More responsibilities do not always translate in to more freedom to speak.

I’ve been a fan of Admiral Harvey’s curious intellect, open mind, and tolerance of other views for a long time, and this is a very welcome addition to the conversation that must be brought to the front – larger, louder, and to more readers.

To fix these problems, the hour is already late, and more delay just means a more difficult fix later.

There is more at his post to to reflect on what is creating the dysfunction we have watched over the last decade in our Navy. Admiral Harvey states the catalyst for his post was the book by Bob Lutz, the Vice Chairman for Product Development at General Motors; Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. When you think of GM from the last few decades, one car that should be in anyone’s “GM Bottom 5” would be the Pontiac Fiero. As a smart friend pointed out to me at the linked article;

The Pontiac Fiero an economy commuter car? That’s how GM marketed the sporty coupe, which was Pontiac’s first 2-seater since 1938. GM had originally intended the Fiero to be a sports car (hence, the Ferrari-sounding name), but budget constraints forced them to ditch the original suspension design and steal parts from other GM cars. The result was a sporty coupe that didn’t actually deliver racing performance with a meager 98-hp 2.5-liter I4 engine in a heavy body.

Sure, let’s go there again to what remains the poster child to what Admiral Harvey describes – to the gift that keeps on giving.

Isn’t speed and handling performance are most important for a sports car? Likewise, aren’t offensive and defensive firepower performance the most important for a warship? With the similar failure of basic core competencies – couldn’t one say “GM:Pontiac Fiero” as “USN:LCS?”

Another quote from Admiral Harvey’s post;

… upon his return to GM, Lutz found that the design teams had moved away from an organization focused on product excellence and the end user – the customer – and instead transformed into a company driven by complex business processes, executive boards and working groups focused on eliminating “waste,” “streamlining” operations, and achieving “efficiencies.” As a result, GM produced generations of automobiles that met all the technical and fiscal internal targets yet fell far short of the mark in sales – what really counted.

Does that sound like OPNAV/NAVSEA track record as of late? Designing warships that meet all the technical and fiscal internal targets (except maybe cost, stealth, IOC, etc), but fail to meet the fundamental test of warfighting capability?

Interesting thing about the Fiero – by 1988 they actually go the design right – but by then it was too late and most of the run was – ahem – sub-optimal. Is that where we are going with LCS? The first 43 sub-optimal …. but the last dozen, success!?

Bravo Zulu to Admiral Harvey for putting this out there. Maybe after a few years with the gold watch and reflection, down the road someone might go with a Shoomaker option – I don’t know. In the word of the American songwriter Kris Kristofferson; freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.

Admiral Harvey – enjoy your freedom.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy
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  • M965466

    I sense this frustration from the Fleet when working with USFF. From the acquisition side, it is equally frustrating that while the civilian sector can innovate and push new product ( think of how your iPhone aps are constantly updated with bug fixes) our systems require decades to push out the door. I can only speak for VTUAV when I say that we learned more from a couple of FFG deployments than we did from years of test flights around Pax River. Don’t want to pass the buck and blame the test community, but they simply can’t produce the evaluation of the system that a deployment generates. I bet more good comes out of The upcoming LCS deployment than was generated from years of sitting around Mayport and San Diego.

  • Re. the Fiero reference –the first AND 2nd generations also had a nasty tendancy towards engine bay fires, a not altogether pleasant issue for a plastic bodied car, and definitely appropos the discussion WRT certain platforms we are stuck with through the middle part f this century…
    w/r, SJS

  • Mike M.

    WRT Firescout, it’s worth remembering that ISR systems, especially unmanned ISR systems, have a long track record of being ordered to break off the test program and deploy. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – you get to learn a lot – but it DOES require prior preparation. Which takes resources.

    Combat Test is a developing field.

  • The tenor of this post reminds me of the hubbub over retired General Cartwright’s comments at the Joint conference. Folks said he was “unleashed;” but that implies his active duty job obliged him to be on a leash—and avoid fundamental truths, and restrain candor.

    I applaud ADM Harvey’s post and commented at his site; but he is in such a minority as to have little impact in Navy/DOD culture of groupthink accustomed to worshiping at the feet of process/technology/PowerPoint; a trinity that has effectively “closed” the minds of defense leadership.

    John Boyd said, “People, ideas, hardware; in that order!”

  • To the Pentagon and Detroit I add Hollywood to the list:


  • Diogenes of NJ

    The last time “diversity” was a good idea is when it was applied to radio communications. How’s that helping us now?

    – Kyon

  • FFG_CO

    I agree this is far more than a “moment of clarity” or a new “wave of candor” from a departing leader.

    ADM Harvey has been nothing if not candid and consistent in his advocacy for Fleet Sailors for (at least) three years. His direct engagements with his most junior Sailors, his speeches, blog posts, directives to his staff, and initiatives as the Commander at USFF are all clearly based on his embrace of his responsibility to ensure our men and women have what they require to do what we ask.

    This particular blog post does not fill in the “missing chapters,” but it does offer guidance to those who have only “half read” his book.

    Why does it matter? Because, as you rightly suggest, there are cynics who will dismiss the post as a one-time, out-the-door attempt to atone for failure to tackle these hard issues while in uniform.

    That simply isn’t the case, and cynics will do well to focus more on the message: “It is apparent to me that we were not doing our jobs with a focus on the end user, our Sailors,”

    …and focus less on its timing.

  • Byron

    Agree with FFG_CO completely

  • M965466 has this spot on. The absence of agility in programs is the killer, adaptation comes too slow and product delivered is often badly in need of upgrades before sailors are ready to deploy a ship fresh out of the yard. If a ship has other issues as well, too often design margins prevent course corrections.

    Which is why LCS looks like the right analogy here, but is actually not even close. Change has now become inherent to any modern platform or system, if a system is static – it’s dead. Only sailors can define the changes, as they are the users. Acquisition of platforms and systems capable of changing with changes driven bottom up by sailors is the solution. Changes driven top down leads to sailors being left out to dry.

    Harvey hit a home run, but i think the point of his lesson got lost trying to use the LCS as an example.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Interestingly enough, ADM Harvey did not mention LCS once in his missive. That analogy was extended in this article, and I agree it is not necessarily very apt.

    I suspect that the real genesis of the Fleet Introduction Program was incubated by the the early troubles with the LPD-17 class. I am also not entirely convinved that anything could have really been done from a technical excellance perspective (with any sort of reasonable budget) to get that program right. When a ship program attempts to bring a shipyard kicking and screaming into the modern era of ship design and construction, there are going to be challenges. Throw Hurrican Katrina (and the subsequent decimation of the shipyards’ workforce) into that volatile mix and you’re likely to end up with some non-trivial challenges.

    I’m a fan of the FIP, and it looks to me like it is being executed with good effects. We’ll see if it works with DDG-1000, JHSV, and subsequent LCS buys. Some of the other programs would be interesting to hear about as well (I’m looking at you P-8A bubbas).

  • Ken McMullen

    Sorry, but Kris Kristofferson did not write those lyrics – Roger Miller did.

  • Gal and BW:

    Admiral Harvey: “… it is apparent to me that 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.”

    When you design a ship specifically to deploy Sailors to the point they have to return to port at the 4-month point due to what aviators call “crew rest” while not having the ability to properly maintain their ship – then I am sorry; LCS is very much part of the problem Admiral Harvey describes. You cannot discuss LCS without looking at the already recognized weaknesses in its manning concept. A weakness that is, roughly, exactly what Admiral Harvey describes.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    CDR S,

    I grant that you believe what you say about LCS and that you don’t like the concept or the execution. The rest, however strongly believed by you, amounts to stuffing quite a few words into what the good Admiral actually said in his blog post.

    I think it’s interesting that he did in fact mention several specific programs that were examples of incomplete or ill conceived while fielded. He had the platform and opportunity to name LCS, but he did not. I’m not sure much can be inferred from this ommission, but I’m not sure your assertions fit any better.

    One could argue that my minimizing manning the Navy is in fact looking out for their sailors by mitigating the obvious danger of sailing into harms way. Less manning should also have the positive impact of pushing responsibility and decision making back down the chain of command which I believe has been a necessary development for some time. Also, less manning will very quickly shed light on some of the under resourced requirements for non-value added and redudant work/reporting/adminitrivia that over time has been foisted on the whole of the fleet. Identifying that nonsense and eliminating it from the entire USN would be a welcome development for many.

    In closing, I understand many of your assumptions and arguments against LCS, but I still maintain that you stretched the analogy too far to support your position.

  • Nick

    Admiral Harvey is Admiral Ackbar? I knew there was a reason I always like Harvey.

  • Capt. HW “Woody” Sanford,MC,USNR(ret.)

    I was hoping someone would comment on the Great Admiral Akbar, Commander of the Rebel Forces in Star Wars, Episode ?1. You may recall he was under consideration by the University of Mississippi(or at least nominated)for designation as their Official Mascot, replacing the venerable Colonel Reb. It is indeed unfortunate that the Good Admiral was not honored as such. He would be a much better representative of the Rebels from Oxford than the slow ‘ol Boy with a cane.

    Thanks Nick,


    P.S. Thanks also to the Great George Lucas.

  • Terry Kraft

    Hey I liked my Pontiac Fiero!