Navy is focused on. first and foremost, delivery. We have got to get capability into the fleet, whether that’s new capability, new construction or sustaining the capability we have. So the big measure of success is through the fleet size. Reorganising our value proposition along that line is an important piece.
Second piece is focusing on agility. The world is changing faster and faster, threats are changing, we’re in a world competition. And so if we can’t change faster, we are not going to be relevant.
Third piece has been focusing on getting some fundamental costs out. And as we try and grow the fleet, they won’t do as much good if we can’t afford to build and operate that fleet. We want to take fundamental costs out of the system.
Congress has been vocal about the need to control the costs of the first-in-class ships. We’ve got Columbia coming up, as well as FFG(X), large surface combatant and a fleet of unmanned ships. How will Navy get their arms around that?
That’s certainly a fundamental thing to watch. First-in-class ships are tough. It comes down to a couple of different things. One is having a robust dialogue as we are building requirements with both industry and our technical experts, and moving away from transactional requirements. The frigate is an example where we’ve had a much more interactive dialogue. We've actually changed requirements based on cost and time, and so, that’s an important element. We’re doing a lot more of that.
We’re also looking hard at the contract vehicles. The contract strategy of the future is probably not one contract of one type to one supplier, but a number of contracts. A prime contractor build, a price challenge to look at new technology, a Digital Twin to evaluate it — all of those things will play into allowing us to get more credibility in our delivery programs out of the gate.
Industry seems excited about predictive analytics in the maintenance world: knowing what’s going to break before it breaks. Is there potential for significant cost savings? That’s where the commercial world’s gone. We have the data. We haven’t integrated the data and the analytics into our processes the way we need to.
In the future we will essentially have a Digital Twin of the ship in terms of how all the systems are working, what needs maintenance, what doesn’t and how are they operating, to better condition our maintenance planning.
The biggest thing we need to improve in our maintenance work is planning, and so that when we open up a ship, we have a better idea of what needs to be done. And then a little less focus on cost and more focus on schedule, because what the fleet really is sensitive to is ships coming in on time and ships coming out on time.
Sometimes we get a little too fixated on cost, and we incur a lot of cost because we control cost by having schedule move-out, and that just ripples its way all the way through the system.
We need to set the standards for shipbuilders in the ship repair world, and then let them go so that we are not unnecessarily holding up maintenance activities as they’re ongoing. That’s what we need to deliver for the fleet.
The private shipyards that do maintenance often complain the Navy is too unpredictable. How can the Navy regain the trust of industry?
Lack of either planning or adhering to plan has been one of the core issues. This is the first year we’ve ever produced a 30-year ship maintenance plan. Now, it’s not specific for every ship at every time, but it shows the amount of work we’ve got to do and how we’ve got to build so that industry can make smart investments seeing that.
Then what we’re trying to do for the ships returning from deployment is we’re moving away from executing a contract 30 days before we needed to start the maintenance. So now we’re back to a six-month goal, so we have a plan.
We’re never going to be able to control every variable. It’s not a commercial effort where you own every route and you can control every variable to hyper-optimise. We don’t want to hyper-optimise because then you lose some resiliency. But we’re trying to find that sweet space of enough predictability so that we can be efficient.
The other thing we’re doing is setting some controls. In new construction, we have a very disciplined way to add work in. We didn’t have quite that level of discipline in repair, and so we tended to add work in late in the game.
We’re adding some discipline into that, so if we advance plan a little bit sooner and add some more discipline, then we can make a better decision on the exact impact. Because while it may not seem that large for that individual ship, it could have a huge ripple effect, and we need to be cognizant of that when we make those decisions.
Navy has been especially challenged on the submarine maintenance front, particularly with the attack boats. Is there some light at the end of the tunnel? We have accelerated by about a year hiring all the DoD folks in the shipyard to get to full strength. So the good news is we’ve got the workforce. The challenges are that they’re fairly green.
There has been some great work, at some locations but all the shipyards are getting that experience to level up. That will give us the depth going forward in a couple of years to take care of our fleet as we build back up to a 66-submarine fleet.
To help some of the surge, we’ve been sending some to the private yard. And that’s another area we’ve got to get a skilled base of repair specialists. We’re challenged a little bit on the front end, We will work our way through that.
Then there is rebuilding the shipyards for the future. Navy has about a $21 billion investment over the next 20 years. That will allow us, as the workforce matures, to then gain efficiency, about 20 to 30 percent, which will then allow us to take that increased load once we come out of the dip in submarine numbers.
Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program is on deck as the Navy‘s #1 priority. There supplier issues. Does the Navy have a plan to stabilize the supplier base?
We have a submarine industrial base — both DoD, supplier, and at 2 private shipyards— that has done tremendous things rebuilding itself from a decade of hiatus in the ’90s. We’ve gotten up to two Virginias per year and done a very good job with that.
Submarines are very sensitive to cadence and sequence, and so the arc will be, as we add in Columbia and some of the other mods we want to do to Virginia, not to mess up that cadence and sequencing. That would cause massive disruptions.
So we supremely focused on Columbia, making sure that design is solid. The biggest threat to Columbia is Virginia, and so if we don’t keep Virginia on track, then that can cause disruption to Columbia.
The biggest threat to Virginia is the supplier base not being able to keep up. We have an integrated enterprise that looks at all the suppliers for all of our nuclear construction — in total it is over 300 suppliers — and making sure they are up to the task. And then, where we see challenges either getting it right or having kind of single source, proactively addressing those challenges.
Congress has been a great help with us. They provided funding to go after those, and so we will continue to manage that, but it’s a big enterprise, and we have got to keep focused on it.
Years ago, we were told that the solution to the Navy's maintenance problems was the unpredictability of fleet schedules, and that putting stability back in the schedule would create more predictable maintenance schedules.
Removing the fluctuations and long deployments would make creating the work packages more effective, would make contracting in time easier and would help the private and public yards plan. This would drive down costs and increase operational availability.
Yes, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan was going to fix matters. Let’s trace the arc of the past five or six years of talking points to see how Big Navy has performed over five years and three Fleet Forces commanders since OFRP was rolled out.
"Our challenge right now is that we don't have any flexibility with our money, so the only thing that we can really do is go after it in the operating accounts. So for now, that money will need to come from a yet-to-be-identified "somewhere else.
"You can look at taking out some force structure and taking better care of the remainder of the fleet -- that was our intent with the seven cruisers and the two LSD dock landing ships. "That didn't go over too well.”
Well they didn't cash in ships for maintenance because leaders didn’t want to trade force structure. They often expressed, that if the Navy's missions were not going to go away, and they were just extending deployments for fewer and fewer ships, the only way to break the cycle was to grow the Navy.
Throughout the last six years since the talking points have ranged from optimistic predictions of a turn-around to repetitive promises of more predictable work schedules driving down work spans and costs.
What is the Optimized Fleet Response Plan and What Will It Accomplish? O-FRP is a full realignment of the Fleet’s maintenance, training and deployment cycles to fit in a standard 36-month rotation.
O-FRP has been developed to enhance the stability and predictability for our Sailors by aligning carrier strike group assets to a new 36-month training and deployment cycle. Beginning in fiscal year ’15, all required maintenance, training, evaluations and a single eight-month deployment will be efficiently scheduled throughout the cycle to drive down costs and increase overall fleet readiness.
Then the Navy started trying to create spreadsheets that would show the yards the expected workloads so they could plan better.
The Navy’s maintenance and operational communities have completed the first iterations of a surface ship master plan for maintenance and modernization work, in the hopes of balancing out peaks and valleys in shipyard workload without impacting operational needs.
Surface ship lifecycle maintenance organisation, began an availability duration analysis to understand the relationship between the work scope and how much time the yard would need. That data then fed into the workload forecasting effort at the regional maintenance centers .
Separate sand charts were created for each Regional Maintenance Center RMC, showing the workload expected for several years to come – up to 2023 in the most recent iteration. The charts show expected work, color-coded by ship class, and make clear where the peaks and valleys are.
Data is then taken to a Surface Ship Master Plan negotiation with the type commander and fleet commanders and discuss options that will help stabilize the shipyard workforce without disrupting operational needs.
By 2016, leaders were touting the inherent flexibility of OFRP to allow overruns in the yards. “As stakeholders continue to adjust the Master OFRP Production Plan, no single community in the Navy will be able to focus on optimising their own processes, but rather they will all have to work together to optimise force generation at a macro level.”
For example, the ideal situation for the maintenance community would be to have a steady flow of ships come through public and private yards for maintenance and modernisation. However, under OFRP all the ships of a carrier strike group must be through maintenance and basic training and ready to start integrated training by an exact date.
These opposing needs are being worked out in the OFRP Cross-Functional Team and have already led to some gives and takes: the ships may need to split up and go to different yards to avoid overloading a single shipyard. A ship that requires a longer maintenance period may need to cut into basic training and compress that schedule, while still being ready to start integrated training on schedule.
Leaders said this shows the flexibility of OFRP, and it also highlights the importance of cross-community collaboration: if the maintainers know in advance that a ship needs major repair work during its availability or will be stuck in dock longer to accommodate a system modernisation effort, they can tell the training community well in advance and work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Let's fast forward to today. Where are we now, and what is the Navy saying? If we started in 2013 with a $2 billion backlog, we rolled out OFRP in 2014, by 2016 we'd had it all mapped out and were giving the shipyards predictability, what's going on here in 2019?
If the Navy ever hopes to reach its goal of a 355-ship fleet, it won’t be by simply building new hulls and launching them. Instead, the admirals have long recognised they’ll have to extend the lives of dozens of ships already long in the tooth — and do so at a time when shipyard space is already stretched and less than half of its ships are able to complete scheduled maintenance on time.
“We’ve really got to get better than what we’re doing today. We’re digging out of a little bit of a maintenance backlog.” They insisted Navy was getting better at getting ships in and out of maintenance availabilities, but currently only about 30 percent of destroyers are able to leave the docks on time.
So the private yards need to build capacity if they are going to be able to dig out of the hole. Sure enough, predictability is still the watch word, but we've thrown in a new buzzy term: Dynamic Force Employment, which is all about being upredictable.
Shipyards and companies in the private sector hire workers for specific projects, but the Navy usually issues a contract just a few months before a ship pulls in for work on a one-off contract, it doesn’t provide the shipyards an incentive to think long-term.
“Industry has got to hire more. We got to build a system that incentivises industry to have the right people there, so I think you’re going to see a real sea change in the way we’re working to acquire repair work that will give industry a longer view of the maintenance schedule.
Won’t the Dynamic Force Employment concept, which will see ships leave port, only to return early from a deployment, and then head out again at an unpredictable time cause havoc in the push for more predictability leaders had been talking about?
“Operations come first. “There are ways we can incorporate the thought process of dynamic force employment and still give industry enough predictability. But the model of predictable unpredictability may be tough to square with the push on the back end for more predictability.
“It’s something that the maintenance community is going to have to wrestle with. We’re going to have to think our way carefully though this.”
Now we have the new "Long-Range Plan for the Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels." Now it's unclear what the difference is between NAVSEA's 2014/2015 master plan for ship maintenance and modernization and today's 30-year ship maintenance plan except an extra 20 years of projections. It's also unclear if NAVSEA is still using their 2014 master plan. But the branding is a very similar.
"This plan complements the 30-year Shipbuilding Plan and Shipyard Optimization Plan and establishes the framework to effectively sustain our investments in today’s fleet. It highlights the requisite development initiatives that will facilitate a more adaptable and reliable industrial base, while providing a foundation to support the workload forecasts of our industry partners.”
"Tools like this are critical to the success of the Navy and will help us build a culture of continuous evaluation of the industrial base capacity and capability; enabling us to meet the requirements of well-laid plans and adapt to any surge demand if the situation arose."
The new strategy is to get more predictability into the system by grouping maintenance availability contracts together in block buys.
"We did a re-look at our acquisition strategy. We had kind of gone into a 'compete every availability just in time' strategy, and while that was ok on an individual basis it didn't allow us to look at it as a system and didn't afford industry the opportunity to improve productivity and efficiency.
“So we are looking at grouping availabilities together either geographically or by type of work, which would then incentivise investment and productivity improvements. Our on-time rate is improving out of both the public and the private yards"
The 30-year ship maintenance plan is promoted as being critical to getting private shipyards to invest in workers and infrastructure to meet the Navy's needs.
"When we've looked at it, industry responds to the demand signal that we put out there. We were not clear in showing that composite demand signal, so a key element of that 30-year ship maintenance plan was so we could show the entire demand signal. When we clearly articulate the demand, industry makes really good decisions on how to invest to help us deliver on that."
Navy needs to move away from awarding work packages such a short time prior to the start of work. Navy needs to award the Surface Force work packages much earlier and not wait until such a short timeprior to the start of the maintenance availability to award the work package. Both the private shipyards and Navy need time to plan the work.
Why hasn't OFRP and the promised stability produced the improved maintenance availability performance that it aimed for since it appears the surface fleet is working through the same backlog it had six years ago?
What happened to NAVSEA's 2014/15 master plan and why did it not produce the results it intended?
What is different about the 30-year ship maintenance plan the Navy is now touting?
Is it reasonable to expect that private yards will invest in workers and infrastructure based on the latest maintenance plan for a fleet that has routinely under-performed and under-delivered on previous plans? The Navy is still putting depot maintenance items on its "unfunded priorities" list, so what message is that sending to industry?
If we are straining our maintenance industrial base beyond its capacity how are we supposed to hit the 355 plan?
How do you square "Dynamic Force Employment" and the operational drive for "unpredictability" with the need to get your ships in and out
1. Exhaust all available means of resolution prior to submitting an Action Report
2. Inform expeditor or aircraft crew chief of Action Report requirement
3. Ensure detail is added to Action Report to alleviate interpretation issues
4. Include tail number of aircraft if Action Report is related to an aircraft
5. Ensure correct Action Report categorisation, severity and classification
6. Review all Action Report submissions to ensure correct priority has been assigned
7. Ensure all info/attachments provided on Action Report are technically accurate/complete
8. Ensure Action Report details provided by initiator explain problem completely
9. Approve Action Reports with record of submittal notification
10. Monitor Action status via customer relations management