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The Salty Millennial has 57 articles published.

GAO Report: Navy Routinely Buys Defective Ships

in Rants

Apparently, we’re OK with ships that suck.

Here are a few excerpts from yesterday’s article on Roll Call, a Congressional news website:

“Contrary to the Navy’s own policy, and despite spending nearly $16 billion on average in each of the last 30 years on new warships, most U.S. combat vessels are delivered from private shipbuilders with flaws significant enough to impair the vessels’ ability to perform missions or to keep crews safe, according to recent audits conducted for Congress.”

“Take the USS Coronado, one of a class of small shore-hugging vessels called Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy accepted the Coronado in 2013 even though its system for distinguishing enemy ships and aircraft from friendly ones wasn’t working, according to the Government Accountability Office. What’s more, a key radar was so flawed it could have fired missiles in the wrong direction. Both deficiencies were only fixed months after the Coronado was already in use.”

“In many cases, shipyards first get paid to build ships and then often get paid again to fix things on the ships that should not have been broken, analysts say.”

“Retired Rear Adm. Robert Wray, a former chief of the Navy’s ship inspections board, or INSURV, thinks the Navy has diminished the board’s power by reducing the rank of its director and making him report to a command often more interested in positive news than honest assessments.”

“Indeed, for at least the past 15 years, the Navy has only once declined to accept a ship because of defects, despite regularly having cause to do so, experts say.”

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  We’re gonna have to figure out a way to be better, more discerning customers, or they quality of ships we get will only get worse.  Eventually, someone is going to die because we accepted a ship with known deficiencies and still put it into service.

Salty Review: The Bad Day Scenario

in Navy Stuff

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

I’ve been called the intellectual equivalent of a kid squirting adults with a water gun. That’s not fair. I’m just as annoying to kids too. People have even said I couldn’t debate the merits of chunky versus smooth peanut butter. Ridiculous. Smooth is better. Chunky is just unfinished slop that the peanut butter manufacturers foisted on us to save on operating costs.

Luckily, I have more personalities than James McAvoy in Split. One of those personalities, Jimmy Drennan, has a fully loaded and primed super soaker of knowledge. He has been busy laying out his ideas for the Navy of the future over at the Center for International Maritime Security. His series, “The Bad Day Scenario,” looks at what the Navy might learn from a worst-case scenario that could happen tomorrow morning, and what it means for future force development, operational concepts, and cultural and personnel issues.

Today, he published “Part 3: Developing a Dynamic, Distributed, and Lethal Global Force,” in which he examines the convergence of two new concepts: Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) and Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO). The result is his proposal for a Navy of the future, Global Force 2020, which can operate efficiently on a daily basis, while remaining postured to respond to global crises and contingencies. Catch up on Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Highlights:

Operational Factor – “Global Force 2020 will not be able to rely on Composite Warfare Command (CWC) as an effective method of tactical maritime C2. DFE and DMO are bringing about a sea change in naval C2 that will require commanders to operate effectively both independently, and as part of a larger networked force.”

Salty Translation: If the WiFi’s down, keep calm and carry on.

Technological Factor – “Today’s weapons, sensors, and communication systems enable friendly forces to coordinate fires outside visual range of each other and the enemy. In the future, some key technologies will enable naval forces to engage targets when not even in the same theater. Global Force 2020 will utilize long range hypersonic missiles and aircraft, next-generation cruise and ballistic missiles, next-generation unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, and cyber to name a few.”

Salty Translation: Knock knock. Who’s there? U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy wh- <BOOM!>

Human Factor – “Global Force 2020 will give rise to a new level of complexity in the warfighting capabilities that Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) will be expected to employ, and missions they will be expected to execute. It is prudent to ask whether the surface force has maxed out the cognitive capacity of generalists, and whether it is time for SWOs to be trained as specialists to become experts in a single mission or warfare domain . . . The U.S. Navy needs surface tactical action officers who are as proficient with their ship’s combat systems as an aviator is with his or her aircraft . . . The time may come when the surface force is forced to consider contracting its maneuvering function, which will be increasingly irrelevant to combat, while naval officers specialize in areas that contribute directly to lethality.”

Salty Translation: “jack of all trades, master of none” doesn’t work too well when you’re going toe-to-toe with another maritime superpower!

So, make yourself a smooth PB&J, sit back, and enjoy! If you don’t agree, fire away with your own water gun of wisdom at tsm@saltyherald.com!

Choosy naval warriors choose Jif…always smooth, never chunky!

Ugh, Generation Z is the Worst

in Haterade/Navy Stuff

Hey Midshipmen! You all need to CHILL. OUT.

Publishing articles about how we can do better in the Navy before you’re even commissioned? Seriously, not cool, bros and bro-ettes. You Gen-Z’ers need to get onboard and get in line. Expressing your views freely is NOT / NOT / NOT / NOT how we do things in the fleet!

Shipmates, come alongside and let me SWO-splain a few things to you. First, we millennials learned, through a revolutionary box set of computer training CD’s, the optimal way to conduct surface naval operations. We don’t need the “good idea fairy” coming in and shaking things up. Second, wait until you’ve been in the seat to offer your opinion. Ideally, you wait until you’ve left to tell your shipmates how messed up things are, and how you would fix things if you had the time, but you don’t anymore so it’s on them. The USNI Blog is full of great examples. 😉

Let’s take a look at some specific examples of why Generation Z is so annoying:

Recent Improvements to SWO Training Are Not Enough,” by Midshipman Paul Kenney. Ok, you were on board the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) when she collided with ACX Crystal in 2017, so you’ve seen us at our worst, and you apparently did some “research,” but that doesn’t mean we need your opinions. Your ideas, like focusing on fundamentals rather than technology and more extensive, hands-on seamanship training precommissioning, would never work. If giving midshipmen a baseline of navigation and seamanship fundamentals, and resourcing more at-sea stick time made sense, then why wouldn’t we have done it for the past 30 years? Hmm??? Yeah, I bet you didn’t think about that Mr. Smarty-Pants!

Talking About My Generation—and the LCS,” by Midshipman Connor Coleman. So, you’ve been following the controversy over the LCS? Well, I hope your parents read you bedtime stories by CDR Phibian Salamander, because the debate’s been raging for longer than you’ve been alive. Actually, past tense . . . it’s settled now. LCS is a minesweeper. End of story. We tried modularity, it didn’t work. Stop trying to act like the concept is sound because it works in submarines, airplanes, missiles, merchant ships, commercial transportation, combat systems, and nearly every computer in the world. More bridge time for JO’s? You know first-tour division officers aren’t even being assigned to LCS, right? Why would we want do that? We’re not that cruel. Convoy protection? Yes, ok, the Navy just conceded we don’t have enough warships to effectively escort shipping in a major conflict, but using LCS to protect convoys would force us to think outside the CSG box. Let’s not get crazy, okay!?

Social Media Today Will Affect the Armed Forces Tomorrow,” by Midshipman Kathleen Meeds. How did you even find the time to write this with your social media technology addiction? So, you want us to learn and adapt to ever-evolving social media communication trends. Listen, youngster, let me drop a #truthbomb on you. We’re all over this social media thing. Our Chief of Information is the best. He is very “influential.” You recommended we use our mission-focused mindset to improve communication with the American public. You say honesty and transparency are vital to our success. We’re way ahead of you. Check out the PAO Lethality Task Force! #lethalPAOlethality

Honor Cannot Be Divided,” by Midshipman First Class Noah Johnston, U.S. Navy. So, let me get this straight: you want us to live with honor in our professional AND personal lives? Sheesh! Take it down a notch, Eagle Scout. You reference the Fat Leonard scandal, but those were isolated ethical failures. Dozens of isolated ethical failures spanning several decades, ships, and fleet staffs. You write that midshipmen could improve their character development by researching the origins of the honor concept and critically analyzing its impact on their lives. That’s fine, as long as you keep that stuff in Annapolis.

And now I hear the winners of the Midshipman Essay Contest will be published in the coming months. Ugh. Gen Z just, like, be cool. Now I know how Commander Darcie Cunningham felt about millennials.

Introducing Public Affairs Lethality

in Life Hacks/Navy Stuff

In today’s Navy, everything is lethal.  Our guns are lethal.  Our missiles are lethal.  Our base housing is lethal.  Now, even our public affairs are lethal.  Whenever we encounter a narrative that’s unflattering to the Navy, we kill it by suppressing negative commentary and boosting positive commentary.  #PAOlethality baby!!!

Our reputation as the world’s greatest Navy is under attack, and we are #semperfortis!  Actual reform and investment?  These things take time.  Our spokesmen and women are ready to #fighttonight!

But we need your help!  This is a #deckplateleadership issue!  Quite frankly, its disappointing that you’ve allowed so many negative stories to surface recently.  From base housing conditions, to collisions at sea, to Fat Leonard…your leadership failures have really let us down.  To fix your mistakes, we created the PAO Lethality Task Force, and we developed 1,396 initiatives, 1,391 of which have already been implemented (what have you done lately?). Here’s a sampling of what we’ve already accomplished:

  1. We directed flag officers to reduce communications with the press. #gagorder
  2. We restricted public access to aviation mishap data. #needtoknow
  3. We stopped publicly announcing the names of officials fired for misconduct. #looselipssinkships
  4. We stopped publicly announcing flag officer nominations. #OPSECIguess?
  5. Our Chief of Information personally boosted commentary supportive to “Big Navy.” #definitelyNOTunlawfulcommandinfluence
  6. We repeatedly quote MCPON verbatim whenever anyone posts a critical comment to the CNO Facebook Live All Hands Call. #overwhelmingforce

And here’s what we need from YOU:

  1. For God’s sake, get your family in line! Just don’t let them talk to anyone, especially not on social media. If they complain about something, just tell them to stop being entitled snowflakes and get #Navytough!
  2. Whatever you do, DO NOT communicate with ProPublica, so help me…
  3. When Grammy asks you what you do in the Navy, look her straight in the eye and tell her “You’ll get the Navy America needs, and that’s all you need to know!” #OPSECsaveslives
  4. Do not post anything online unless its an official navy.mil story. Commentary from Bryan McGrath is also okay. #BigNavyiswatching
  5. If something happens on your watch that might garner media attention, immediately classify the information in the interest of national security. #AmericaFirst!

Remember, shipmates, winning the battle of the narrative is up to you! To paraphrase one of our great leaders, if you can’t control the narrative and accomplish the mission with the resources you have, we’ll find someone who will!

#corevalues #hooyah #lethalPAOlethality!

“Doing More With Less” Goes High Speed, Low Drag

in Navy Stuff

Readiness and retention are always fun topics in the aviation community.  That is, if you like high blood pressure, bulging neck veins, and frothing at the mouth.  I’m a SWO, so sign me up!

On Wednesday, a couple local news outlets in Hampton Roads, VA published two different articles worth digging into.  One is clearly a puff piece written from PAO talking points, but the other one appeared to involve some actual journalism.  The first reporter, Todd Corrillo, only interviewed the Naval Air Force Atlantic PAO.  The second, Jaclyn Lee, interviewed at least seven current and former aviators, ranging from Lieutenant to Rear Admiral, and scoured publicly available information such as GAO reports and PERS-43 briefings.  Buckle up.

I found some tidbits that were an interesting contrast to some other recent statements made by senior navy leadership, and I have some questions for you steely-eyed heroes of the skies (aka Air-SWO’s).

“[Rear Admiral] Kelley made it clear that he does not feel the shortage impacts military readiness. 13News Now asked, “And you guys have never deployed an air wing that was not ready?” To which Kelley said:

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that we man, train and equip to the very best that we can to meet requirements. Now if you said, ‘Is there anybody that’s deployed that we felt was somewhat challenged for one reason or the other… they may have gotten personnel later in the training cycle so that they weren’t able to get the qualifications level that they wanted to have for deployment?’ Yeah, absolutely. Are we looking at operational risk by doing it? No.””

Now, first of all, people tell me Rear Admiral Kelley is, in the highest form of compliment a naval aviator can give, a “solid dude.”  That’s not for me to comment on, but I appreciate his candor.  I suppose it’s a good thing he’s being forthright that air wings are deploying without meeting readiness standards, right? Don’t get me wrong. We’ve been there before in the surface community, but we learned our lessons the hard way. In fact, the two admirals in charge of certifying every ship in the Navy for deployment just testified this week to congress they hold an unwavering standard. Admiral Christopher Grady said “We do not ask a ship nor direct a ship to go on mission if they are not certified to do the job. Indeed there have been several occasions where I have said: ‘That ship is not ready. We will need more time.’ We know what the requirement is and if they’re not ready, they’re not going.” What’s interesting to me is these two admirals are also responsible for certifying every air wing for deployment. Does the unwavering standard only apply to surface ships?

“According to data from Tailhook 2017 and 2018 Symposium PERS-43 briefings, FY 2015 shows approximately 36 percent of junior officers declined the department head promotion. In FY 2019, approximately 63 percent of junior officers declined.”

“Entering the second year of the new AvB, Command Bonus take rates have already increased by 30% over 5-year averages.  DH Bonus initial take rates and fleet feedback have also been positive.  These trends mean more top-performing O-4/O-5 Aviators are choosing to stay Navy.”

“In the 2018 fiscal year, Naval Air Force Atlantic says six aviation communities saw an increase in the number of pilots taking a new Department Head bonus.”

These statistics appear to be inconsistent.  What is the overall trend of aviation JO retention over a meaningful timeframe?  A one-year spike amid a five-year downturn in DH bonus take rates is not meaningful.  DOUBLING the rate of JO’s turning down the bonus over five years…is.

“The biggest increase comes from Airborne Electronic Attack and Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance communities, where there was a 250% increase in EA-18G pilots and a 256% increase in P-3/8 aviators taking the bonus over the year before.”

I would like to know the overall percentage increase, vice individual communities with particularly high increases.  These statistics have the potential to be misleading.  Yes, the VAQ and VP communities are healthy.  What about the VFA community?  What about the overall aviation community?  Lets not talk in generalities or anecdotes.  Lets just look at the numbers.  In fact, why are even relying on bonus take rate as a proxy for retention?  It seems like we should be able to examine actual data of aviators leaving the Navy.  Then again, the Navy is trending toward making less information available to the public (e.g. aviation mishap data, firings for misconduct, flag officer nominations, etc.), so maybe its an operational security concern?

“We do a little bit more with less,” said Lieutenant Julius Bratton, an Instructor Pilot at VFA-106. “We run the squadron with fewer JO’s and the same amount of jobs so it’s inevitable that we’re going to work hard and feel overworked.”

This should be a red flag for the Commanding Officer of VFA-106.  In 2017, the CNO explicitly warned the Navy to “fight against this do more with less mindset.”  Admiral Richardson cautioned “if you let this do more with less mindset eat into our way of doing business, you start to see this slow decline in readiness.”  We should take Lieutenant Bratton’s words as a barometer reading, but also not overreact to them.  I trust he’s being sincere, but he also may lack the broader context that Rear Admiral Kelley has.  It may be a stretch to say aviators are doing more with less, but certainly when you billet three department heads to VFA squadrons instead of four, you are doing the same with less.

So, aviators, when you look into the mirror, do you see yourself on the readiness incline or decline?

I could understand if our first reaction is to target the individuals who said these things, but let’s not, please.  That would squander the opportunity to improve.  These folks are being candid and honest. The (possible) inconsistencies just indicate we have more work to do.

As always, if you feel the need to tell me to stay in my lane, please email me at tsm@saltyherald.com!

Stay in your lane, bro!
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