One thing Rushton has sought to reduce is the fatigue that accrues during deployment. "You can see the personality of the crew change at the six to seven day point," he notes, "because fatigue takes over." Under Smart Ship, Rushton has cut the number of watches by assigning men to "flex teams" that are called up only when needed. "We don't burn the men up by standing unnecessary numbers of sailors on a watch. One fresh sailor is worth several exhausted ones. When they are on duty, we use them smartly; and we stand them down when we don't need them. We don't keep them on watch just because it always has been done that way."
But neither is Rushton interested in change for its own sake. Before implementing a change, he asks, "Why did we come to do it this way? It is important to know, because we learned many of these lessons that set policies by the blood of our forefathers."
The Yorktown 's first task was to determine the maximum efficiency attainable with existing technology. "If you don't know how existing policies, procedures, and techniques may hamper the use of existing technology, you cannot measure the benefits of new technology or procedures effectively." Rushton estimates that he and his crew reached the most efficient way to run their ship in June 1996. "If we hadn't done that up front, we wouldn't know whether to attribute new improvements to changes in technique or to new technology."
One simple change in procedure that has improved efficiency is the use of 16 hands to moor the ship, rather than the traditional 48. By using the fore and aft capstans to haul the lines, the ship now ties up with one 8-person team forward and one aft (and a 6-person flex team standing by if required), with no perceptible loss of time.
Other changes have occurred in maintenance. The Yorktown has shifted some maintenance practices from the time-based planned maintenance system to an on-line system that monitors running machinery for performance trends. This new system allows equipment to be refurbished before it fails. Equipment that is not monitored is checked more frequently, based on historical failure records. These two changes together have reduced man-hour workloads for routine maintenance by about 40%.
Rushton's skillful management and concern for the sailors who will inherit the new procedures contribute to his success. Those who serve with him trust his leadership and judgment and his ability to cut costs without putting a single sailor at additional risk.
Kim Orr is Secretary, U.S. Navy League Baton Rouge Council. She spent a week on board the Yorktown as a guest of the Navy.