The United States Navy has many activities, most of which are known to a certain extent by the civil population of the country and much more completely understood by the naval personnel. There are some activities, however, employing relatively few naval personnel which are almost unknown to civilians and only vaguely understood by most officers and men of the Navy. In the latter category may be placed the Naval Inspection Service.
Broadly speaking the Naval Inspection Service consists of two branches, inspection of workmanship and inspection of material. Under the first heading are the various inspectors of machinery, superintending constructors, inspectors of ordnance, and inspectors of naval aircraft, located in shipyards, aircraft factories, or other plants building important machinery or ordnance material. Such inspection offices are usually located within the plants of firms under contract to build ships, main propelling machinery (including boilers), or important ordnance material for the U. S. Navy in accordance with certain plans and specifications. The inspection, in general, is to see to it that the material and workmanship entering into these finished units do in fact conform to the requirements of the plans and specifications. As a rule the material used by naval contractors is inspected at the place of manufacture, so that the principal concern of the naval inspector at the shipyard or works of engine or ordnance builder in connection therewith is regarding its identity as the material which was inspected and authorized to be used on that particular job. And that is the reason that this branch of the Naval Inspection Service has been referred to as a service for the inspection of workmanship. In general, it does not have to conduct an inspection of the material used. This latter service is performed by the Naval Material Inspection Service.
The Navy Material Inspection Service inspects practically all material for direct or ultimate naval use at the place of manufacture and marks such material to facilitate identification by the proper naval authorities at the place of delivery. Incidentally, this same service is offered at cost to any other department of the federal government which cares to take advantage of it. To carry out the functions of the Navy Material Inspection Service, the United States is divided into twelve inspection districts, the size of each being, as a general rule, inversely proportional to its industrial importance, because this is a service at the place of manufacture. The destination of the material has no bearing on the inspection office assigned to the job. The headquarters of the various inspection districts are located at Atlanta, Ga., Bethlehem, Pa., Boston, Mass., Chicago, 111., Cincinnati, O., Hartford, Conn., Munhall, Pa. (Pittsburgh District), New York, N. Y., Philadelphia, Pa., San Francisco, Calif., Schenectady, N. Y., and Seattle, Wash., and serve the territory surrounding these headquarters. The head of an inspection district, a naval officer, is given the title Inspector of Naval Material, —District. Some of the districts which are both large geographically and important industrially have sub-offices in important industrial centers away from the main office. For example, the Philadelphia office has a sub-office in Baltimore, Md.; the Munhall office has a sub-office in Buffalo, and so on. The official in charge of a sub-office may be either an officer or civilian and in either case is designated Resident Inspector of Naval Material at—.
The inspectors of naval material for the following districts are nominated by the Bureau of Construction and Repair: Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Seattle, and these offices are under the administrative control of the Bureau of Construction and Repair. The inspector is usually a naval constructor of the rank of lieutenant commander or higher. The inspectors for the following districts are nominated by the Bureau of Engineering: Chicago, Cincinnati, Hartford, New York, San Francisco, and Schenectady, and these offices are under the administrative control of the Bureau of Engineering. The inspector is usually a line officer, frequently one designated for engineering duty only, of the rank of lieutenant commander or higher. The inspector of naval material, Bethlehem District, is nominated by the Bureau of Ordnance and this office is under the administrative control of the Bureau of Ordnance. The incumbent is usually a line officer, ordnance expert, rank of lieutenant commander or above.
All of the offices are similarly organized, as is to be expected from the similarity of their functions. In addition to the inspector, there may be one or more officers and warrant officers engaged in administrative or inspection duties. Most of the actual inspection is done by civilian employees who are of three grades, junior inspector, inspector, and senior inspector. In addition to the inspection force, there is the clerical force under a chief clerk to handle the paper work, of which there is a great deal. Certain districts also have permanent sub-offices as mentioned before.
Whenever any purchasing officer of the Navy lets a contract for material with any producer, he may (and nearly always does) have the material inspected (by a naval inspector) prior to shipment. He requests this service by the simple act of sending to the inspection district headquarters two copies of the contract, requisition, or order with a notation that inspection is to be made at the place of manufacture or storage before shipment. Similarly, if the purchasing agent of a ship, engine, or ordnance builder desires navy inspected material for use on a naval contract, he furnishes copies of his order to the inspector at his plant, who satisfies himself that the material specified is required and conforms to the requirements of the contract on which it is to be used and forwards the order to the inspector of naval material in the inspection district from which the material is to be furnished. Such order must also have a notation that material is to be inspected before delivery.
The inspection office then sends a form letter to the supplier advising him that inspection will be made, giving the office reference number, and requesting that all further correspondence be conducted with that office, also requesting copies of shop orders covering the fabrication of the material, copies of any sub-orders for material placed by the supplier, and requesting notification in advance when the material is ready for inspection. In cases where the supplier is acquiring material from another inspection district, his order is scrutinized to insure conformance with the original order for details and is then forwarded to the proper inspection office, where it becomes an order for inspection in that office.
In the vast majority of cases, after the receipt of shop and material orders from the supplier, in accordance with the request contained in the original form letter, the next thing heard on the order is a request for inspection. Some orders entail correspondence between the supplier and various naval activities to clear up points in the specifications and approval of plans. All such correspondence comes to the headquarters of the inspection district and if possible is disposed of there. In the case of approval of plans and major matters beyond the information available in the inspection office or the discretionary authority of the inspector, further correspondence is necessary between the inspector and the naval activity having authority to take action on the supplier’s correspondence or plans. Such functions are important duties of an inspection office but apply only to a small percentage of the inspection orders received.
As requests for inspection are received, they are assigned to the various inspectors, taking into account the experience and ability of the inspectors and the necessity of conserving their time and traveling expenses by eliminating unnecessary travel. The inspector assigned familiarizes himself with the requirements of the order, studies the plans and specifications involved, and proceeds to the place specified by the supplier. Where it is necessary to condition material prior to inspection, as in the case of certain textiles and electric cable (immersion in water for 24 hours), the supplier is apprised of the inspector’s visit sufficiently in advance to give him opportunity to do what is necessary before the arrival of the inspector.
Inspection methods are extremely varied. Some materials can be completely inspected at the place of manufacture; others require reports of tests on samples or test specimens, which are sent to various laboratories or testing stations for that purpose. In the case of articles coming under the first heading, the material is either accepted or rejected by the inspector. If accepted, the material or its container or both are stamped with the anchor, which is the official Navy acceptance stamp, by or in the presence of the inspector. The supplier is given a “release slip” by the inspector, authorized to ship the goods and directed to send to the headquarters of the inspection district a form known as the “Report of Material Shipped” as soon as possible after shipment. The purpose of this form is to advise the inspection office and the receiving activity or naval inspector from whom the order for inspection was received, that the material has been shipped, when, routing, descriptive markings, weight, etc. The inspector mails or brings to headquarters copies of his release slip giving description of material released, destination, date of inspection, and place and kind of inspection stamp used to mark the material. This information is entered on the Report of Material Shipped at headquarters before it is forwarded to naval activities concerned. These data are of importance, not only in facilitating the identification of the material when received, but in adjudicating penalties in liquidated damages contracts and securing payment for the material. Supply officers of the Navy will not certify an invoice for payment without the Report of Material Shipped. In general shipbuilders and other naval contractors will not pay their supplier’s invoices until the Report of Material Shipped is received, because the naval inspector will not permit the material to go into their storehouses or be used on the job until he gets this report and therefore is able to identify the material positively. In spite of these facts, however, inspectors of naval material occasionally have difficulty getting suppliers to send in Reports of Material Shipped.
In the case of material which cannot be completely inspected at the place of manufacture, the tests which can be made there are performed, and if the material passes these tests, it is stamped by or in the presence of the inspector with the U.S.N. stamp. The primary purpose of the U.S.N. stamp is to identify material under inspection and does not indicate either conformance or non-conformance with the specifications. Samples or material for further test are then selected by the inspector for transmittal to the testing laboratory designated in the specifications or contract or order. For example, most metals and metal products require, in addition to certain dimensional characteristics, physical tests and chemical analyses. If the manufacturer has a physical testing machine, he may make these tests in the presence of the inspector. If not, the inspector takes or sends physical test specimens to a laboratory equipped to perform this function, and if he sends them he affixes the Navy identification stamp, U.S.N. At the same time, the inspector takes some drillings or filings, seals them in an envelope marked with the Navy identification stamp U.S.N., and sends them to a Navy chemical laboratory, or in some cases to a private accredited chemical laboratory, with request for the chemical determinations called for by the specifications. Textiles and paper products frequently require similar handling, as also does electric cable. Important units like safety valves, meters, and forced draft blowers may require the shipment of an entire unit to a testing laboratory for performance tests.
None of this material may therefore be released by the inspector on his first visit. When the report of additional tests is received, if satisfactory compliance with the specifications is indicated, the inspector may revisit the works of the supplier and affix the official acceptance stamp, the anchor. Frequently, however, in the interest of economy, the supplier is authorized by letter to ship the material with the U.S.N. stamp. In such cases a notation is made on the Report of Material Shipped to the effect that shipment under U.S.N. stamp was authorized for the benefit of the government and that the material is satisfactory for naval use.
When material is rejected, the supplier may protest such action to the inspector. The inspector may feel that the deficiencies upon which rejection was based are not material and authorize acceptance of the material. Or he may feel that his acceptance of the material is not justified because of insufficient information or authority and refer the matter to the proper naval activity for decision. Or he may confirm the rejection, in which case no further action is taken unless the supplier appeals to higher authority. In such case the inspector makes a full report to such higher authority.
In addition to its inspection activities the Material Inspection Service performs a valuable function to the Navy in following up material on purchase and keeping naval activities advised of the status of urgently needed material on order. It is also used to a certain extent in obtaining information relative to the productive capacity of manufacturers of naval material in event of national emergency and safeguarding the secret and confidential nature of certain naval material.
During the fiscal year 1935, the Material Inspection Service inspected 539,956 tons of material having a value of $103,764,596. The high regard in which this service is held by the other departments of the federal government may be judged from the fact that of the total given above 221,487 tons of material valued at $15,556,442 was for other government departments. The total cost of inspecting all of this material was $891,252.88, or an average cost of $8,589 per thousand dollars worth of goods inspected. These figures speak for the efficiency of this service.