“Supply chain and spares and cannibalizations is a major problem.. “Shipyard throughput is a major problem – how do we fix that? How do we incentivize the private shipyards to fix things?”
The sub teams include undersea, carriers, surface ships, aviation, innovation and Marine ground forces with goal is to pinpoint the current state for each sub-group, name the problems each face and find solutions for the issues.
“How do we make sure that we are thinking about and elevating the sustainment needs early in the development and design phase, such that we’re not always playing catchup in the sustainment phase. We have got to figure out a way to do that better.
“That is also one of the areas of focus of the sustainment system working group, which having established their problem statements, that team is now embarking on the next phase, which is to develop the as-is states that kind of drives the problem, and then coming up with recommendations for how to improve all of those problems.
As the Navy pursues its ship maintenance logjam, the service has sought to replicate efforts its aviation enterprise pursued in trying to increase the mission-capable rates for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. emphasizing the Navy’s focus on managing its supply chain and materials through a closer working relationship with Naval Supply Systems Command.
The working groups provide a way for the Navy to form a more cohesive approach to both planning and performing ship maintenance. “They’re collecting a lot of good ideas on the end-to-to end — all the way from the initial planning process, through ship delivery, and the expenditure of funds,”
We ‘ve got fundamentally the right initiatives that we’re working on, but we really got to drive these down to the deck-plate level. That’s one of the challenges we haven’t gotten to that effort.”
Navy’s sustainment requirements only increase with time, adding more systems and the systems getting older. “We have done a not very good job of trying to figure out how to reduce our costs for sustainment.”
As part of the working group effort, the Navy is also looking at how it can pursue new technology and better integrate it into the sustainment process, which the Navy has not historically done well.
“We struggle with the transition of new technologies from development of those to deployment of them. We simply don’t do a good job of that, and the Navy has trouble integrating new technology in regards to both sustainment and warfighting.
While the working group effort is concentrating on the current problems and how to fix them, Navy should also do more preparation for the out years, like forecasting its long-term plans to both industry and the regions where it performs various sustainment work so there is an adequate workforce.
“We should be building that site picture five, ten, 15 years out and providing it to organizations like this one and then to regions and then to companies so that everybody understands the demand signal that’s going to be there, that exists today, and that it’s also going to be there in the future.”
Navy, despite delays is making progress on getting its ships out of the shipyards on time. Over the past three years, the Navy is on track to more than double the percentage of ships getting out of maintenance on time, key to the service’s efforts to make deployments more sustainable for its ships and sailors.
“On-time ship maintenance availability completion rates in private shipyards improved from 24% in FY18 to 37% in FY19. “Current performance trends in FY20 are projected to be 65%.”
It’s a sign that the Navy may be turning the corner on a fight to restore readiness from its nadir in the early part of the last decade, when the Navy was running ragged filling unsustainable requirements for forces around the globe.
Getting ships through their maintenance cycles on time is the linchpin of what the Navy calls its “optimized fleet response plan,” which is the system through which the Navy generates deployable ships that are maintained, manned and trained.
Delays in the shipyards are undermining the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan, and turning that around is vital. “We are getting 35 to 40 percent of our ships out of maintenance on time: that’s unacceptable. We can’t sustain the fleet I have with that kind of track record.”
Getting out of that hole has been difficult for a number of reasons: High operational demand for Navy forces makes planning maintenance difficult, and inevitably when the ships go into maintenance after years of hard use, workers discover more work that needs to be done, creating delays. And those delays make executing OFRP difficult.
“OFRP provides the construct to best assess and optimize readiness production — down to a unit level — taking into account all the various competing factors to produced Navy readiness.
Bottom line: OFRP helps mitigate fundamental points of friction, such as shipyard capacity and manning gaps at sea — but in itself doesn’t solve key degraders like depot level maintenance delays and extensions.”
But some key factors in the delays have been identified and the Navy is working to mitigate them. One area that has a tendency to drive delays is when workers discover things that need to be fixed, the fix may not cost much but the adjustment must go through an approval process that slows everything down. Those kinds of changes add up to about 70 percent of the so-called “growth work.”
Part of it is anticipating and building in ways to deal with growth work into every maintenance period, and the other part is making it easier to address small changes to the scope of the work.
“When we began this initiative, cycle time for the small value changes averaged about 30 days. “We’re now at six and aim to bring it down further to only two days.”
Other things that have helped the problem has been bundling maintenance periods for ships, meaning that contractors bid on multiple ships to fix, and can plan hiring further out. . Additionally, improving base access for contractors has helped, as well.
“For example, we have averaged 110 days delayed per ship in private avails, “maintenance availability.” Now We go from about one-third avails finishing on-time to two-thirds. That is great. But, again, each delay has real impact on our readiness, and we need to keep working together to do better.”
Because Navy is set up to meet standing presence requirements and missions around the world, it must cycle its ships through a system of tiered readiness.
That means ships go on deployment fully manned, trained and equipped. Then the ships come home, and after a period of sustained readiness where the ship can be redeployed, it goes into a reduced readiness status while undergoing maintenance. Following maintenance, the ship and crew goes into a training cycle for another deployment as an individual unit, then as a group, then returns to deployment.
The whole cycle takes 36 months: Rinse and repeat.
OFRP was designed in the 2013-2014 time-frame when the Navy was deploying well beyond its means, with carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups going out for nine-to-10 months at a time.
The excess use wore hard on the ships and sailors who manned them and put more wear on the hulls than they were designed to sustain. That meant that when ships went in for maintenance they were more broken than they were supposed to be, and funding to fix them was hampered by spending cuts.
For nuclear ships — submarines and aircraft carriers — the funding cuts were a double punch of work stoppages and furloughs that contributed to a wave of retirements in the yards, meaning the public yards were understaffed and had to hire and train new workers. Work took longer, throwing a wrench into an already complicated system of generating readiness.
All that added up to significant delays in getting ships through their maintenance cycles and contributed to astonishing delays in attack submarine maintenance especially.
What OFRP was meant to do was create a system whereby the Navy could meet combatant commander demands but not break the system. That meant that the Navy would generate as much readiness as it possibly could but that the demand would have to be limited to what the Navy could reasonably maintain, man, train and equip.
But getting to that system has been immensely difficult because of the deep hole the Navy dug meeting requirements that well outstripped funding and supply.
For example, there was a two year period when the service was forced to supply two carrier strike groups to a key region of interest at all times, a requirement only canceled when automatic across-the-board spending cuts in 2013 made it impossible for the Navy to fund the two-carrier requirement.
Adding to the difficulty: some of OFRP’s founding requirements were impossible to pull off. One was that the all the ships in group would go into and come out of their maintenance availabilities on time and together.
Another was that a group would go into the first phase of their training, the so-called basic phase right after coming out of maintenance, fully manned.
Both have been immensely difficult to pull off. But Fleet Forces was given ample warning that those assumptions would be difficult to achieve.
Getting ships to come out of the yards simultaneously is hard. “The challenge is, let’s say you want four destroyers in a battle group, all to come out at the same time in one port? That’s a real challenge.”
It’s also particularly challenging in places with less infrastructure. “Your big rub there is, the challenge of OFRP is … all those ships in a carrier strike group, they go through maintenance together, they go through training together and they deploy together.. "So, what our challenge is, is to be able to take all that work from all those ships and try to schedule it for roughly about the same time, and to get all that work done on time. So that’s our challenge.
“Now, in a port like Norfolk or San Diego, we have big shipyards, a lot of people, a lot of ships. You can kind of absorb that type of workload. When you go to Mayport, they’ve got like 10 ships down there and typically cannot work on more than one or two destroyers at a time.
Fleet Forces has to be responsive to the shipyards because at least that way they could plan for delays.
“They know if they give us all this work at one time, it’s going to go long anyway. “So they’d rather be able to plan that and at least know when they’re getting the ship back, as opposed to, ‘nope, we’re not going to talk to you, you’ve got to go do it,’ and then the ships go long because we don’t have enough people to do the work.”
Fleet Forces Command has been reviewing its assumptions and is preparing to release a revised OFRP instruction, but the core is likely to remain the same. In any case, it’s always going to take a long time to dig out of the hole the Navy found itself in when OFRP was implemented fully in 2015.
“It was clear at the inception of OFRP, and remains clear today, that it will take the entire 2015-2025 period to recover readiness and establish stable readiness production.That makes sense when readiness production is planned over 9-years and large blocks of time have already been scheduled for depot maintenance periods.”
Ultimately, if the process of OFRP is funded correctly and ships can get out of maintenance on time, it’s a sound way of moving forward.
The bottom line here is that, as a process, OFRP works. “If we are looking where to improve upon it, each of these studies came to the same conclusion: the biggest inhibitor to fleet readiness is maintenance and modernization performance in the shipyards. We simply must get better.
Working groups have been particularly effective at laying out a good training program, but, more work remains to be done on overseas maintenance, as well as addressing some lingering design reliability issues.
“Number one, we still continue to have some design problems on some of the engineering components on those ships.”
On the maintenance side there’s some more work to be done. We’ve now successfully had deployments and we got some good lessons learned, and we need to kind of figure out, okay, what is our global maintenance concept of operations?
We need to figure out how are we going to repair these things forward. … And what does that maintenance team look like?” Past working groups half tried to come up with “sort of set up for what we thought it looked like, but based on what we now know and what we’ve done, it might be a little bit different than that. So there’s some work we need to put into that as well.”
The working group identified several areas for future exploration, including command and control, training, global expeditionary maintenance and logistics. Now that we’ve executed more rotational deployments, we have an experience base from which to draw.”
“It’s important to note that this is it is logical follow-on work to the previous working group – work that we can now do based on what we now know. Changes implemented as a result of the working group helped stabilize the program and were incorporated into the rotational deployments that began in earnest last year.
We’ve learned a lot from those deployments, but we still have more work to do, and the Navy wants to take a close look at how we’re employing the ships to make sure they meet the specific mission needs of our Fleet Commanders.”
Specifically, the study has four main lines of effort: operations, training, organization, and maintenance.
“The ships have been successful in accomplishing their missions in support of our fleets and combatant commands, but the reliability must improve. We are gathering lessons learned in material issues and maintenance and support methods. Our focus on reliability is in key ship systems, such as propulsion and controls, deck and handling systems, and radars.”
“We have stood up a strike team, a cross-functional team of our shipbuilders and sustainers and engineers and logisticians who, in cooperation with the fleet, are using a metrics-based approach focused on availability drivers to generate and execute action plans.
The action plans include material fixes to be installed on in-service ships, although many have already been done so in construction. The team is also focused on maintainability, working with our Regional Maintenance Centers, in-service engineering agents, and original equipment manufacturers to make the support process more efficient.”
“And, although OEMs are a key part of sustainment, we want to ensure the Navy has the ability to better organically support the ships, including in improvements in Navy ability to troubleshoot, to source spare parts, and to perform appropriate levels of maintenance ourselves.
“We are working with OEMs, showing them the metrics for how their systems are doing, and working to get the data and tools we need to be self-sufficient at the right level. I’m committed that our team is going to make a difference here, relying on the lessons learned, and the metrics and the drivers, and drive up availability for the fleet commanders.”
“We’re doing really good at fixing the problems we have with them right now, but … we need to do better than that. They need to not be breaking the way they are. And we’ll get to some resolution there. We’ve been encouraged by the work Naval Sea Systems Command has been doing, but we cannot let off on that. So that’s number one, getting that design reliability built back into some of those systems.
- Coordination of field, depot, intermediate-level maintenance workloads
- Sustain operating forces with responsive depot-level maintenance, repair, and technical support
- Depot maintenance capabilities fully integrated into a warfighter-focused sustainment enterprise to support full spectrum of operations
- Sustaining production, maintenance, repair, and logistics for military operations of various durations and intensity.
- Maintaining advanced research and development activities capable of ensuring technological superiority
- Providing for the development, manufacture, and supply of items and technologies critical to production and sustainment of weapon systems.
- Aligning Maintenance Operations Metrics with Warfighter Outcomes
- Identifying and Sustaining Requisite Core Maintenance Capability
- Sustaining a Highly Capable, Mission-Ready Maintenance Workforce
- Ensuring an Adequate Infrastructure to Execute Assigned Maintenance Workload