Mine countermeasure ship Sailors will soon see a fix to correct the design flaw on the diesel engine exhaust flanges which have caused smoldering fires on their wood-hulled ships; guided missile frigate Sailors will soon see the results of a study to investigate options for repairing or upgrading aging FFG engineering plant control systems; and patrol coastal Sailors will see work begin on more effectively maintaining their corrosion-prone forward gun mounts.
These are just a few of the fleet issues addressed at the latest face-to-face conference of Surface Warfare Enterprise (SWE) stakeholders held in Washington D.C., Sept. 23-24 in which action was taken on a variety of issues affecting every class of ship in the Surface Force.
Led by Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces and commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and the entire SWE Surface Board, the conference brought together major surface warfare stakeholders representing the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Supply Systems Command, the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Class Squadron commanders.
The centerpiece of the conference was a series of briefings on the first day from each of the CLASSRON commanders outlining their top priorities for the SWE's Sustainment and Modernization Team (SMT). Those briefings were followed by SMT briefs addressing actions already taken and possible courses of action for each issue.
According to Curtis, breaking down barriers to free and open communication across the enterprise and the resulting dialogue are what makes the SWE successful.
"Having all the stakeholders either in the room or online via teleconference resulted in lively but productive conversations that made it possible the very next day for the SMT to outline the way ahead on each and every one of the issues discussed. Our goal is to increase warfighting readiness!" exclaimed Curtis.
"It was the best face-to-face conference we've had in the 18 to 24 months that I've been associated with the CLASSRON," said LHDRON Commander Capt. Bill Valentine. "Communicating between the myriad and complex activities associated with Surface Force maintenance, identifying requirements, then beginning to match scarce resources to the most important issues. It was a requirements and resource-focused discussion that was really bottom-up, from the issues originating at the deckplates to solutions developed and implemented up the chain all the way to NAVSEA and even the CNO."
All told, conference attendees reviewed 30 fleet issues from all eight CLASSRONs. Most of the issues sought improved capability and reliability, as well as improved safety on the waterfront.
According to SMT Flag Lead Rear Adm. Jim McManamon, about 30 percent of the issues raised can be addressed or largely mitigated with existing resources, while 70 percent of the issues will require longer term efforts and prioritization within the enterprise.
In addition to the specific issues mentioned above, others falling into the 30 percent that will receive immediate attention include:
• Implementation and sustainment for LCSRON ship-to-shore distance support programs;
• Conducting corrosion control surveys and identifying work that needs to be done across the CGRON in future availabilities to maintain the ships for their expected service lives;
• Implementing changes to how LHDRON Continuous Maintenance Availabilities (CMAV) are scheduled with an eye toward minimizing interference with training schedules and adapting the process to other classes;
• Addressing LSD diesel engine formal periodic assessments ensuring smart scheduling practices which consider the ships' schedules and updating the supporting technical documentation; and
• Investigating options to possibly give a higher priority and earlier implementation of the planned phased replacement of Aegis large screen displays onboard DDGRON ships.
Many of the issues discussed were important not only to the CLASSRONs that brought them up, but to all ships in the force. An obvious example is the issue of corrosion.
“If I had to pick a single issue that cuts across all classes, it’s corrosion,” said McManamon. “We have to get the identification and fixes in place for all classes, in order to get to 313 ships in the Navy.”
According to the commander of the PCRON, Cmdr. Steve Coughlin, that’s one of the great benefits of the face-to-face conference format used by the SWE. He said he learns lessons and solutions to common problems from the other ship classes.
“It’s about the big picture,” Coughlin said. “I learned things about FFGs that I had no idea they were doing. The engineering control problems that they’re having are very similar to some issues with our main propulsion diesel engines. For me, right now, it’s not as important as my other issues.
"But I can appreciate their challenges, and if I start seeing similar issues on my ships, I’m going to consult these guys and find out what path they went down. So there’s a lot of potential for future work getting done on my ships just by the work being done by these other guys.”
The SWE’s Chief Readiness Officer Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn says surface Sailors have strong advocates in the CLASSRON commanders.
“They get up in front of a crowded room and explain issues with confidence to the program managers, senior civilians and flag oficers,” said Quinn. “They go over their issues — the fleet’s issues — with an outstanding level of technical knowledge and competence backed up by good data. They explain everything in a high level of detail.
"The credibility they’ve built up here inside the beltway, and certainly out in the fleet, makes them powerful, impact players. It struck me as clear as a bell as I was watching these guys that they’re the best, and they’re really making a difference. I’m proud of what they’ve done in their squadrons and I’m proud of what they did here — all of it designed to improve warfighting readiness!”