The Navy’s Readiness Reform Oversight Committee (RROC) released its one year report this week, claiming progress despite not being close to finishing its reform work.
The RROC is co-chaired by Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. William Moran and Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. It was established on Jan. 30, 2018 to oversee the combined reforms and recommendations that came out of the reviews spurred by the fatal Navy collisions of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) in the summer of 2017 (Defense Daily, Feb. 6, 2018).
It particularly combined and synthesized the recommendations in the Strategic Readiness Review (SRR) and Comprehensive Review (CR), turning 117 original recommendations into 111 and then eliminating eight more since the RROC began, leaving 103 total. The report said as of late February 91 of the final recommendations have been implemented.
This does not mean 91 are complete, because each recommendation includes plans to monitor and reevaluate policies and procedures put in place. The report said thanks to lessons from the private sector, “we are developing new data hygiene procedures and digitized metrics to validate improvements as an institution, as individuals, units, and leaders.”
While the Navy took some steps on immediate matters, the RROC focuses on actions that require “institutional effort to ensure effective naval operations over a sustained period of time.”
The report cited how the Navy is moving to prioritize manning in support of operational requirements. Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan (FDNF-J) manning requirements were formally assigned a higher priority than continental United States (CONUS) requirements for sea and shore billets.
Although short-term manning actions like temporary duty assignments and operational holds ensured ships went to sea with the manpower needed, the report noted in the long term the Navy needs to use more rigorous personnel screening programs, increased incentives for overseas and at sea billets, and increased tour lengths to improve the stability of ships assigned to the FDNF.
In its reforms, the Navy has removed 63 inspections and certification visits as inefficiencies in the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFPR). The report said it incorporated “sophisticated human factor analyses” to help do this, returning more time for commanding officers to use for training and maintenance “without reducing the rigor of the inspection program.”
The RROC also said following an order by the CNO, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) committed more resources to the Total Ship Readiness Assessments, making ships more likely to finish availabilities on time. Therefore, dedicated maintenance time in the OFRP for FDNF-J increased by 30 percent. NAVSEA and U.S. Pacific Fleet also approved new maintenance strategies at the Sasebo and Yokosuka shipyards to help make sure availabilities are delivered on schedule, adding more predictability to the operational schedule.
The report underscored some efforts by the Navy to quicken the insertion of new systems into surface ships to add redundancy after the mishap reviews found problems with radar systems and electronic displays.
NAVSEA awarded contracts for Commercial Off-the-Shelf radar systems for surface ships, with fleet delivery set to start in April 2019, bought a second Automated Identification System (AIS) laptop for all surface ships to deliver in March, and accelerated the Next Generation Surface Search Radar by one year. These efforts are meant to improve management of the bridge and combat information center (CIC) systems on ships.
The report said commanding officers also now provide feedback directly to the Type Commander within 90 days of assuming command. This aims to establish a direct line of conversation between COs and the flag officer responsible for the readiness.
On Tuesday, Adm. Christopher Grady, Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Adm. John Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the House Armed Services committee that they are seeing this kind of feedback culture directly.
“Once a week I talk to every one of my commanders, we talk about the longer-term view of the readiness of the force as well as upcoming deployers to make sure they’re on track. And then once a week in an additional meeting I talk about those ships in maintenance to make sure that the ones getting ready to go in and the ones that are in are progressing as we need them to progress,” Aquilino said.
If there is any indication of a problem coming up or they have found one unknown before, “I have a voice to the combatant commander, and when I determine that ships is either not manned, trained, equipped, not safe, uncertified, number one I would terminate their ops.”
Aquilino added he then would talk to the combatant commander about the issue.
Grady said he follows a similar process.
“We take a look at each ship in every strike group before they transition [from the basic pre-deployment training phase to integrated phase to advanced phase] to make sure that they are ready to do that.”
Grady added he believes the 90-day letter to type commanders will help institutionalize this process beyond Aquilino and Grady.
“This is a direct feedback to their type commander on the condition of their ship, the man, the train, the equip, all the way across all the pillars of readiness, and that has been a very powerful voice for the commanding officer,” Grady said.
Grady noted that adding these kinds of new “touch points” with lower-level commanders increased his awareness of fleet readiness and that in turn increased trust between fleet commanders and combatant commanders. Then, if Grady or Aquilino say then cannot deploy a ship, the combatant commander trusts that is in the Navy’s best interest, he said.
Going forward, the RROC said it still seeks to empower “transparent, data-driver decision-making at every echelon of command” while continuing to improve and modernize naval talent management, maintenance, and training systems.
The report admitted after one year “it would be naïve to believe we came close to completing RROC’s work. However, due to the efforts of many professionals around the fleet, we are currently safe to operate and a more effective Navy than we were a year ago.”