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CHIPS Articles: Warships Ready for Tasking

Warships Ready for Tasking
By Sharon Anderson - July-September 2007
To maintain U.S. Navy maritime supremacy around the globe and respond to a multitude of humanitarian, peacekeeping and operational missions, management of the surface fleet was reorganized under the Surface Warfare Enterprise, an effects-based approach that will yield high payoffs in warship readiness and highly trained Sailors that translate into a lethal, adaptable force.

Using proven business practices, the SWE was established in November 2005 as a means to develop and implement more disciplined cost control processes and identify barriers to effective enterprise-wide operations. Under this model, illustrated as a pyramid and shown in Figure 1, the SWE ensures that limited resources are effectively and efficiently applied to developing and sustaining its product: warships ready for tasking, which is the apex of the pyramid.

The pyramid's base consists of the SWE's core strengths – maintenance and modernization, logistics and manning. This solid foundation makes possible the execution of the next level – training. Under the SWE, the organizational concept of Class Squadrons, or CLASSRONs, was implemented in October 2006 to increase accountability and improve overall operational readiness. The stand up of class-specific squadrons aligns and integrates surface force organizational relationships in the areas of manning, training, equipping, modernizing and sustaining surface ships from a class perspective.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Terrance T. Etnyre, the SWE chief executive officer, established eight CLASSRONs. Four of the CLASSRONs stood up February, three were stood up in April and the Guided Missile Cruiser Squadron is expected to stand up later this summer.

Although they support the commanding officers of assigned ships and their ships' immediate superiors in command (ISIC), CLASSRONs align the SWE process teams with established waterfront support organizations then report directly to the CLASSRON Chief Readiness Officer Rear Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander of the Naval Surface Force Atlantic Fleet.

Before CLASSRON implementation, ships were under the command of different commanders. So finding and assessing issues that may have been common across a ship class would be difficult at best. But now the ability to define maintenance (SHIPMAIN) or training (SHIPTRAIN) issues that may affect readiness across an entire ship class is expected to reap significant cost savings and efficiencies across the enterprise, according to Curtis.

The admiral outlined the strategic benefits of the SWE and CLASSRONs in a brief to the media in mid-April. Assisting in the brief were Capt. Bill Valentine, Amphibious Assault Ship Squadron (LHDRON) commander; Capt. Mike Hegarty, CLASSRON deputy chief readiness officer; and Capt. Mark Leary, Guided Missile Destroyer Squadron (DDGRON) maintenance and trends analysis officer.

CLASSRONs are staffed by surface warfare professionals who identify the cost drivers for each ship class. They use common standards and metrics to assess readiness, examine class trends, establish lessons learned and provide recommendations and solutions, according to Curtis.

"Now we will be able to look at all the FFGs [guided missile frigates] across the Navy not just the ones in Norfolk or Mayport. We look at resources to make the right decisions and not just fix a problem and then move on. We need to see if it's a class problem, to see if there is a smarter way of attacking it, to see if there is a better way to save money and support the warfighter," he said.

Hegarty explained that investigating maintenance problems runs the gamut from the smallest machinery parts to large integrated systems.

"One particular example was in Mayport, Fla. The FFG CLASSRON commander saw that he was spending a lot of money on seals for fire pumps. When he started 'pulling the string' on the issue, he found that there were four different seals manufactured and a couple of them were not of the highest quality. One of them was the seal that worked the best so he took steps to interface with the other commanders, the supply commander and the design commander at NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) to make sure we had the best seal in place. That saved us from spending money on bad parts," Hegarty said.

Curtis agreed that evaluating high part usage across a CLASSRON has led to interesting results.

"When we have a part that fails across the DDGRON, instead of continuing to replace it we look at the cause of the failure. We found that on the DDG that one part had a higher failure rate than another. We had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace the part, but we found that the life span is only about five years. Do we want to keep buying this part or do we want to look at a new manufacturer or supplier so that every five years we won't have to replace this part," he said.

Valentine said the strength of the SWE lies in the makeup of its Board of Directors (BOD) and five functional teams which report to the BOD: sustainment and modernization; personnel readiness; strategic financial management; communications and overarching metrics. The BOD and functional teams provide the authority and alignment required to quickly resolve enterprise-level issues.

"The decisions, the analytical results and the insights we get from looking at the metrics juxtaposed against processes don't go via the same chain of command they used to go through. They go right into the enterprise and decisions are made right now. Before it was months, years sometimes before you wove your way through something and then someone with vested interest would say, 'You can't do that,'" Valentine said.

"Now all those guys are sitting together at a table and they actually run the surface Navy much like you would find the board over a business," he added.

In addition to admirals Etnyre and Curtis, other BOD members are the Chief Financial Officer Rear Adm. Barry McCullough and Chief Operating Officer Vice Adm. Paul Sullivan. An Executive Committee (EXCOMM), which includes representatives from the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, NAVSEA, Military Sea Lift Command, Naval Supply Systems Command, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the program executive offices for Ships, Littoral and Mine Warfare and Integrated Warfare Systems, round out SWE governance, as illustrated in Figure 2.

"The BOD and Executive Committee look at the entire enterprise and what decisions we need to make. Now we have that communication, with all the lines of communication open and we have that trust and that bonding to help us with our priorities," Curtis said.

The CLASSRON model is already shown to be effective in assessing training requirements across a ship class, according to Curtis.

"We found for a typical DDG, the requirement is about 830 schools for the various jobs on board and that equates to over $1.6 million that a captain had to spend to get his personnel trained. Time away from the ship was about 64 percent, which meant that instead of having the personnel on the ship, being trained and gaining their warfighting knowledge, they were at a school somewhere and maybe not gaining the proficiency that they need.

"We did an analysis, took feedback from the fleet and now we are determining that we don't need that many schools and that much time away from the ship. The CO (commanding officer) is happy because he has his watch teams, he can still reach all of his certifications plus he is not spending as much temporary funding to send his personnel to different schools. We have probably reduced expense and unnecessary training by more than half," Curtis said, "and we are just at the tip of the iceberg."

The CLASSRONs also offer advantages to the deck-plate Sailor. Under CLASSRON, deficiencies can be identified and permanent solutions can be applied class-wide to problems. This efficiency will ultimately lead to increased readiness and improved warfighting capability.

"We allowed ships to come back from a deployment, and not be ready for a long time. The ships would go way down [in readiness] and we would build them back up. When we looked across those metrics, we realized that it was not very smart. Not only is it expensive, but we were having trouble meeting demand signals," Valentine said.

According to Leary, the change in SHIPMAIN and SHIPTRAIN will be transformational — and one that the ship's crew will find empowering.

"CLASSRON is not another layer of bureaucracy between the type commander and the ISIC or the type commander and the ship. It is not another organization that's purpose in life (from the Sailors' point of view) is to come down and poke us in the eye because we are all screwed up," Leary said.

"Instead, we are here to provide a service to the type commander, to the ISICs and to the ships by identifying problems that the class has, identifying solutions and implementing them while acting as a quality assurance check on the whole deployment and training cycle," he added.

Metrics are adjusted to take into account the varying ages of ships in the surface fleet, for example, the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) was built in the late 1980s, and the USS Kidd (DDG 100) is new to the fleet.

Readiness is aligned to the demand signal from Fleet Forces Command based on Fleet Response Plan requirements for carrier and expeditionary strike groups. Additional demands include operations such as counter-drug missions, homeland security, fleet exercises, such as CARAT, Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training, and peacetime shaping requirements.

Prior to the stand up of CLASSRONs, maximizing operational time was based on achieving a target level of readiness. But Valentine said that essentially ships had to be ready 100 percent of the time, and it was incredibly expensive.

"We would be fixing things we didn't need to fix right away and fixing things that weren't germane to a particular mission at a particular time," he said. "The key is the demand signal so that you are not over ready and you know where to take risks and have the right readiness at the right time at the right cost. That is the new metric."

The admiral gave an example, "Let's say the ship has a casualty on a Friday, and it is not getting away for two weeks. We may not come in Friday night and fix that fireplug. We may wait until Monday to have all of the drawings and all of the repairs and then fix it. That saves us a lot of money and a lot of time. Before, if that pump broke we had somebody right there, we spent the weekend getting it ready — and we paid premium dollars."

Readiness at the right cost is key to the SWE's success. The SWE matches programmatic and budget decisions to planning and fleet needs and will stay within fiscal and resource constraints, according to the SWE Strategic Plan. The plan includes a strategic financial management process that includes realistic budget projections, a resource allocation model and enables efficient reinvestment of resources. The SWE process will plug into the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) process, which allocates limited resources among many competing requirements within and among the services.

Reinvestment and recapitalizing the Navy are critical and top priorities for the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, especially in regard to shipbuilding to maintain the global reach of the awesome striking power of the Navy and Marine Corps.

"I have heard a statistic that if we could get 8 percent more efficient in the surface fleet, the Navy, by avoiding costs, could save 8 percent and recapitalize the whole Navy. When you think about the capital investment in ships and airplanes and people, it is not cheap. We need to get better about how we do business," Valentine said.

The SWE will also collaborate with the other warfighter enterprises: Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE), Undersea Enterprise (USE), Naval NETWAR FORCEnet Enterprise (NNFE) and Naval Expeditionary Combat Command Enterprise (NECC) to maximize limited resources when addressing cross-enterprise issues.

Rear Adm. Curtis said he is excited by the transformational changes that the CLASSRON model has already achieved and predicts further successes as the SWE matures.

"I would invite you to come back six months or a year from now and ask us what has happened in a year and make us prove it to you. I think you will be surprised and see that we really are delivering things — at the right readiness — at the right cost, at the right time," Curtis said.

"Interview some Sailors a year from now and ask them how their lives have changed. They may not know about CLASSRON or SWE, but they will say we are more ready or tell you they have more time off."

The CLASSRONs are:
• Patrol Coastal Squadron (PCRON) based at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.
• Guided Missile Frigate Squadron (FFGRON) based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
• Mine Warfare Squadron (MCMRON) based at Naval Station Ingleside, Texas.
• Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) based at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
• Guided Missile Destroyer Squadron (DDGRON) based at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
• Amphibious Assault Ship Squadron (LHDRON) based at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. (This squadron will have three departments, each covering the LHD, LHA and LPD-4 classes.)
• Guided Missile Cruiser Squadron (CGRON) based at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
• Amphibious Dock Squadron (LPDRON) based at Naval Station San Diego, Calif. (This squadron will have two departments, each covering the LSD and LPD-17 classes.)
Figure 1.  Surface Warfare Enterprise Model.
Figure 1. Surface Warfare Enterprise Model.

Figure 2.  The Surface Warfare Enterprise Board of Directors.
Figure 2. The Surface Warfare Enterprise Board of Directors.

The Surface Warfare Enterprise stands up the Guided Missile Frigate Class
Squadron (FFGRON) on board Naval Station Mayport. U.S. Navy photo by Mass
Communication Specialist Elizabeth Williams.
The Surface Warfare Enterprise stands up the Guided Missile Frigate Class Squadron (FFGRON) on board Naval Station Mayport. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Elizabeth Williams.
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