As personnel costs rise and budget dollars fall, the Navy must look to design and acquire ships with integrated, reduced-manpower systems. Operational manning—such as for underway replenishment—is one area where more efficient designs could reap great savings.
The British Royal Artillery was giving a demonstration to some visiting Europeans on Salisbury Plain in the 1950s. The visitors were most impressed with the speed and precision of the light artillery crew, but one asked about the duty of the man who stood at attention throughout the demonstration.
“He's number six,” the adjutant explained.
“I, too, can count. But why is he there?”
“That’s his job. He stands at attention throughout.”
“But why then do you not have five?”
No one knew. It took a great deal of research through old training manuals, but finally they discovered his duty. He was the one who held the horses.1
People in large organizations such as the armed forces sometimes tend to do things a certain way because that is the way they always have done them. To be successful in implementing any long-term change, we must recognize this inertia and understand how to deal with it. This is the situation the Navy faces with regard to shipboard manning.
Many automated systems are at sea, and some have been tried, tested, and proved in foreign navies. For example, the Norwegians, the Dutch, and the Danes have used a highly mechanized bridge operation successfully; the Canadian Patrol Frigate and the Dutch M-class frigate include reduced manning design features in machinery control systems; and the Israeli Sa’ar V goes even further by integrating the combat system and hull, mechanical, and electrical (HM&E) systems.2 Technology is not the constraining factor in reducing shipboard manning.
The greatest obstacle to reducing manning on U.S. Navy ships is resistance to change. Outmoded technology paradigms and cultural resistance throughout the Navy organizational structure—from acquisition managers who find it difficult to increase acquisition costs to save lifecycle costs to Navy systems commands and laboratories that have little incentive to design systems with reduced manning to the fleet, where there is little incentive to operate and maintain ships with reduced manning—must be overcome.
We need to design and acquire our new ships with integrated, reduced-manning systems acceptable to the fleet. By designing systems before or very early in the ship design, we can eliminate part of the acquisition costs versus life-cycle costs argument. To reduce manning effectively, life-cycle costs must be the measure of effectiveness in system tradeoff analysis; a top-down systems approach to acquisition must be adopted, with the entire Navy structure organized to support systems engineering; and cultural impediments must be overcome, with senior management leading the way. The benefits are more-affordable ships and fewer sailors in harm’s way.
Shipboard manning levels have remained essentially the same for the past 50 years. Although capability has increased dramatically, any decreases in engine plant manning when gas turbines were introduced were offset by increases in combat systems manning. Today, personnel costs can represent up to 50% of the cost of ownership of a ship, and—with budgets decreasing—the U.S. Navy must find ways to reduce its manpower requirements.
U.S. Navy warship operational requirements generally have resulted in more manning than their foreign counterparts. Although it is difficult to find two ships with the same mission, the U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class and the British Duke (Type 23)-class frigates are comparable and were designed for complements of 180 and 170, respectively. The operational manning for the FFG-7 now tops 220; the Type 23 complement is about 185.
Substantial early design effort went into reducing manning on board the Type 23, including the use of work- study techniques. Every billet is justified by the work it entails, and the work is determined by the system/equipment/functions on board.3 With more efficient designs, fewer personnel are required to operate and maintain the ship and its systems.
The maximum crew size required for any given ship is the sum of all personnel needed to function simultaneously to meet the most demanding readiness condition over a sustained period. Tasks that must be performed simultaneously drive up the manpower requirement and must be minimized.
If the same ship is outfitted with more efficient, integrated systems, it will require fewer people. Integrating systems during design eliminates the duplication inherent in individual systems that are grouped together as an entity, such as those in a warfare area. Figure 1 presents a breakdown of ship workload functions for a representative surface combatant. For this notional combatant, operational manning and own-unit support are the most manpower-intensive functions.4 Operational manning and the evolutions—e.g., underway replenishment—and utility tasks (9%) account for more than half of the total manpower workload. These are areas where more efficient designs can produce the greatest manpower savings.5
The effect of changing technology on manning levels always has been significant—although it seldom is justified by or introduced into the fleet for reasons of manning reduction alone. Nevertheless, after successful implementation, new technology often offers significant potential for reducing manning. The greatly reduced engine room crews of gas turbine warships is a modern example. In today’s financially constrained climate, we need to reexamine technological concepts that have not reduced manning previously, to determine whether the assumptions and impediments are still valid. Some of today’s technology paradigm roadblocks are notions that:
- Automated systems need manual backup. One of the lessons learned from the LHA (amphibious assault ship) experience was that all essential ship systems must have full manual backup capability. In the weapons area, however, the multiple combat situation has become so complex that manual backup is almost impossible, as well as ineffective. Hence, the need for full manual capability is not included in the Aegis system. The perception that the hull, mechanical, and electrical (HM&E) area is different imposes crippling penalties on any attempt to automate those systems.
- Automated systems need increased maintenance. This is certainly true of complex first-generation systems involving manual backup. Second-generation HM&E automation systems are predominantly computer based and as such make extensive use of common modules, common consoles, common circuit boards, and common modular software. In fact, maintenance man-hours may be reduced with condition- based maintenance and built-in test procedures, although the skill level of the maintainer will change. There is even a perception that equipment must be manually monitored—even if it is fully automated—and coupled to a continuous monitoring system. In the future, we must overcome this paradigm with highly reliable systems with fleet involvement in requirements and design.
- Automated systems should be avoided because operator tasks become tedious. If equipment is automated and operators are told to monitor the console, their tasks can become tedious and unsatisfying. To overcome these potential problems, the needs of the human operator have to be considered in the overall design. Embedded training, job design, and human engineering analysis techniques are methods to make jobs more interesting.
- Digital automation technology is unsuited for a naval environment. Some have argued that ships should not be designed to be totally dependent upon computer systems. The sheer volume of information, plus the availability of distributed computing, will mitigate this paradigm. Similarly, many would argue that computer software cannot be made safe enough for total ship control, yet the aircraft industry is committed to digital automation technology.
► Fewer people will lead to a reduced damage-control capability. This is one technology paradigm that requires advanced technology, such an intelligent sensors, to overcome. Having plenty of people on board does provide greatly increased flexibility for damage control and repair. If a ship has a small crew, fewer people will be available to plug holes and put out fires. Some of this loss can be offset by technology—such as closed-circuit television, better smart sensors, and more widespread fire-suppression systems—but, ultimately, operators find it difficult to accept a reduced level of active damage control. In addition, there may be legal aspects of reduced manning for the commanding officer; if a ship is damaged or lost at sea, the commanding officer is always responsible.
► Ship automation technology is too expensive. This is undoubtedly true for first-generation “islands of automation," but it is not necessarily true for later integrated systems. Integrated platform management systems are lighter, cheaper, and more operationally effective than existing systems. Further work will confirm this premise.
Two initiatives that will enhance our ability to reduce manning intelligently are the autonomic ship and the Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (ARPA’s) ship systems automation program. Unification of the HM&E and warfare area systems will lead to a totally integrated ship.6 Computer-based open architecture technology will allow us not only to integrate existing ship systems but also to update shipboard functions as new technologies emerge. Its design will look top-down at requirements, viable policy, and culture and bottom-up with the technologies of opportunity.7 It will require universal acceptance of a new
systems design paradigm, the like of which we have not seen since the height of the Industrial Revolution.
The totally integrated autonomic ship will enable a fundamental change in the way we man and fight warships, reducing manpower requirements without decreasing operational effectiveness. Instead of manning according to the needs of the equipment on board, we will be able to build the ship’s complement to meet specific operational needs. The technology long has been available to allow us to design a ship for the crew size we can afford. If the mission requires dramatically reduced crew size, satellite link-ups can be used; if it requires considerable diplomatic capability, as in the case of ceremonial duties, the ship can be designed for that. As crew size changes, the responsiveness, complexity, and flexibility of the ship system change, as well. With a large crew, there is a relatively low technical-system complexity but a high “people system” complexity (human interactions). As crew size is reduced, technical sophistication rises and human interaction falls.
Figure 2 shows the cost of automation and manning. Varying crew size is shown along the horizontal axis; cost to meet the mission is shown on the vertical axis. The total cost line is made up of two components: automation technology and crew manning. The chart is a traditional systems optimization chart, and although it is applicable to a single ship, it is more meaningful when applied to a fleet.
The cost of current ships consists predominantly of crew costs, with a small cost of automation. As crew size is reduced, ship operating costs fall, and the cost of automating their functions rises. The cost rise is not linear; it rises more steeply as crew size is further reduced, so there is an ideal balance between human systems and automation. Figure 2 shows an optimum financial point, which should be the goal toward which new ships and systems are designed.
The cost of automation is predominantly invested in software. This is generally a nonrecurring cost, but there will be a software-maintenance burden. Because many software objects will be common across many ship platforms, as more ships use the autonomic software, the real cost per ship of the automation technology will fall. This means that the optimal point eventually will drift over to the left.
This commonality across platforms to reduce the cost of automation and a top-down systems approach are principles of the ship systems automation program being developed by ARPA. The objective of the program is to demonstrate automation technologies that will reduce manning and acquisition costs dramatically. Major components are the intelligent systems interface, which will provide effective operator/system interaction, manage operator workload, and provide advanced user interface; manpower assessment tool, which optimizes the shipboard manpower component; and shipboard sensor networks, which are inexpensive, power-scavenging, wireless intelligent sensors that will help in damage control and other areas. Demonstrations are planned in 1996 and 1997.
Conventional, bottom-up approaches are limited to areas that fall within a single functional area. The ship system automation program and autonomic concepts reach across functional areas to bring together computer and communication technologies in an integrated system. Such technology-related manning-reduction initiatives will succeed only if there is a high-level, across-the-board examination of how organizational culture affects total manpower requirements.
The following engineering process will reduce manning effectively on systems and ships: combat and ship systems have to be designed for reduced manning within the context of top-down requirements, e.g., common hardware, modular software, and common architecture operating on a common fiber-optic data spine. DoD Instruction 5000.2 provides the concept of human systems integration as the method for designing manpower, personnel, training, human factors engineering, and system safety/health hazard requirements. Reliability and maintainability are essential also. The tradeoff among these elements allows ship functions to be decomposed and then allocated among people, hardware, and software. Approaches and tools to perform the analyses are available. The Royal Netherlands Navy is using a similar approach successfully in the design of its new ships. The resulting system can then be modeled and simulation techniques used to optimize the design. If the manning is not within the goals set, the analysis can be run again, allocating more workload to the hardware or software.
Fleet users must be part of the design team and demonstrations, to ensure their input and acceptance of the system. A vital part of the process is that any facility necessary to reduce shipboard manning—because work that previously was done on board now must be performed off the ship—will be planned, built, and budgeted throughout the life of the ship. As the shore infrastructure downsizes, we have to be aware of certain requirements such as training being added to the ship’s workload. This process is how we are approaching the manpower requirements for the 21st century surface combatant (SC-21).
At this point, manning issues are organizational orphans. There is no single person or organization that handles manning strategy. The Navy will need a senior, multidisciplinary management team to lead the way. The benefits of reduced manning must be made clear to everyone involved. A comprehensive evaluation of the Navy’s needs and what it is prepared to invest in personnel and money is paramount in meeting future threats and using advanced technology.
Fortunately, the Navy’s senior management is lending support to changing the way we view manning ships. For example, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral J. M. Boorda recently stated:
I want to take a different approach to the way we work in putting things together with people to produce combat readiness. We always talked about buying ships and manning them with people. I think we need to think about things differently now. We need to figure out how to have the fewest number of people possible and then build things to make them as effective as they need to be. [P]eople are the big expense in all of this.8
Admiral Boorda also has a CNO Executive Panel, chaired by Dr. Reuven Leopold, investigating future ship design. It is advocating reduced manning. The Navy Research Advisory Committee also has set up a group to look at reduced shipboard manning.
Rear Admiral Thomas Marfiak (until recently director of the Surface Warfare Plans/Programs/Requirements Division) set up a Smart Manning Group, a multidisciplinary team with manpower, personnel, and training representatives, as well as Fleet, Systems Command, and laboratory representatives, to determine how we can “employ technology to intelligently reduce our manpower requirements and operating costs. There are implications for the structure of our officer and enlisted communities, and there may be insights into the nature of our future training and education requirements.” Vice Admiral George Sterner, Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, agrees with Admiral Marfiak’s initiative: “That opportunity requires us to integrate the human systems, in a top-down systems engineering approach, with the design of combat, HM&E, and logistic systems needed for a reduced manned ship. ... the culture and tradition in the entire Navy structure has to be addressed.”
Finally, Rear Admiral George Huchting, Direct Reporting Program Manager for Aegis, supported an autonomic technologies Advanced Technology Demonstration to show how we can implement open systems architecture, fault-tolerant systems, and distributed computing in a totally integrated ship with reduced manpower requirements. An autonomies workshop was held in August 1995 to develop a vision and plan to implement autonomic principles in a ship design.
On SC-21, we are coordinating the activities of the Smart Manning Group, autonomic technologies, ship systems automation, fleet input, and initiatives from foreign navies to meet the requirement of reducing manning. SC-21 is the first U.S. Navy ship program with a dedicated person focusing on reducing shipboard manning this early in the design. (SC-21 is scheduled for a shipbuilding contract in 2003.)
With these initiatives and senior management leading the way, we have an opportunity to overcome the technology paradigms and cultural impediments of the past. Reducing shipboard manning effectively will require this total organizational effort. The Navy cannot afford, in terms of fiscal or personnel resources, to allow this issue to find its own course.
1 While you are chuckling over this British tradition, consider that it took the U.S. Army several more years before they got rid of “number six.”
2 S. Zimmerman, “Canadian Navy Plugs 17-Year Void with State-of-the-Art Frigate Halifax,” Armed Forces Journal International, November 1991.
3 Artis Plato and Frank Pearce, “Quo Vadis Naval Ship Manpower?” SNAME Marine Engineering Proceedings, May 1990.
4 The functions for which ship manpower requirements are derived are defined in the Navy's Ship Manpower Document (SMD) Methodology.
5 Ship Automation for Manpower Savings and Improved Operational Capability,” Naval Sea Systems Command report, September 1987.
6 This autonomic ship concept is based on an Innovation Center project at the Naval Surface Weapons Center, Carderock. Autonomic principles rely on the synergistic effect of linking sensors and effectors to human decision aids through a data highway.
7 This approach is similar to the concept in the Ship Operational Characteristics Study and will require high-level Navy focus in setting policy and requirements that allow the use technologies of opportunity. “Ship Operational Characteristics Study (SOCS) On The Operational Characteristics Of The Surface Combatant Of The Year 2010,” Operational Report, Chief of Naval Operations (OP-03K), 26 April 1988.
8 Adm. J. M. Boorda, USN, Keynote address, Interservice/Industry Training Systems and Education Conference, 1 December 1994.
Mr. Bost is Director, Human Systems Integration Division, responsible for ship manning, system safety, and human engineering in the Naval Sea Systems Command. Recently, he has been assigned full time to work on advanced manning on SC-21.
A registered professional engineer, Mr. Mellis is a Senior Human Systems Integration Manager in the Human Systems Integration Division in the Surface Ship Systems Engineering Group at the Naval Sea Systems Command.
Mr. Dent is currently working in the U.K. Naval Support Command, where he is responsible for all naval architecture aspects of in-service support for U.K. Minor Warships and Auxiliaries. He was a member of the autonomic ship design team at Naval Surface Weapons Center’s Innovation Center while on exchange assignment in the United States.