the 2008 decision by Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, to curtail the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer program at just three ships—the original goal was 32—does not diminish the value of this warship. In addition to leading-edge off-the-shelf operational capabilities for today’s Fleet, it will be the primary technology bridge to the “Navy-after-next,” helping shape next-generation aircraft carriers, surface combatants, amphibious ships, and even auxiliaries and other craft.1 As Admiral Roughead explained to the House Armed Services Committee in February 2010, “The DDG-1000 Zumwalt guided-missile destroyer will be an optimally crewed, multi-mission surface combatant designed to fulfill long-range precision land-attack requirements.”2
Heralded as the most technologically advanced warship of its time, what is lesser known about the DDG-1000 is its reduction in manpower requirements compared with its predecessors—in any navy, anywhere. As the first major combatant to have an explicit key-performance parameter (KPP) for manpower, the 15,000-ton Zumwalt-class destroyer will set the stage for a future optimally manned Navy that can be recapitalized because crew requirements and costs have been dramatically reduced.
But that future looks increasingly uncertain these days. Just a year after the CNO’s ringing endorsement of the program, at the January 2011 Surface Navy Association (SNA) conference Vice CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert noted, “We’re going to effectively migrate, reconstitute in a way, the surface fleet afloat. . . . We’ve just taken too much risk in things like optimal manning and others, and that’s pretty well documented.”3 His reference to “pretty well documented” clearly referred to the report of the Fleet Review Panel of Surface Force Readiness. That was also known as the Balisle Report, after retired Vice Admiral Philip Balisle, former head of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), who led the broad-based assessment that yielded a list of 36 specific recommendations to Navy leaders. It had been chartered by the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2009.4
Among other findings, the report pointed to the “optimum manning strategy” as one important contributor to material readiness challenges that have hamstrung the surface forces. As the CNO noted at the same conference, “We corrected course on an optimal manning vision which had unintended consequences for Fleet readiness at a time of sustained, unusually high operational tempo.”5
In that regard, however, it is more likely that the Navy’s desire for reduced, if not minimal, manning—as opposed to optimal manning—is more to blame. And the implications of this distinction not being well appreciated could be dramatic.
It’s the People!
The largest component of life-cycle costs for a naval ship is acquiring, training, assigning, and supporting manpower for ship operations, maintenance, and support. Indeed, reducing manpower on Navy ships as a primary means to reduce total ownership costs has been an imperative for Navy leadership in recent years.
In March 2008 Admiral Roughead challenged the Navy to reduce manpower on its warships. “There is no question that crew sizes have got to come down,” he said.6 “The Navy is not aggressive enough in employing the technologies that allow us to take people off ships.” A year later, he reaffirmed the importance of reduced manning on Navy ships: “One of the areas I think about is: what are the total ownership costs to the Navy? We often don’t take into account the cost of people. We must have a fundamental change in the way we acquire ships and must take the cost of people into account at the outset.”7 And as Admiral Roughead explained at the 2011 SNA conference, “Manpower costs . . . should be foremost in our thinking. Developing systems and concepts without manpower as the primary factor will be a bankrupt approach.”
But while the benefits of optimized crewing—no more and no fewer people than needed to operate, maintain, and fight the ship safely and effectively—were seen as providing a significant reduction in ownership costs and improved total system performance, the Navy’s journey to optimized manpower in its warships has advanced only in fits and starts. And most of the efforts in the past decade or so have been simply to reduce manpower, to get as close to minimum manning as possible. For example, the Smart Ship program focused on reducing manning of in-service ships through the introduction of advanced technologies and revisions to shipboard policies. Minimal manning eliminated more than 4,000 sailors from surface ships, such that by 2009 the average DDG-51 destroyer had a crew of 254 officers and enlisted personnel, far fewer than the 317 crew members on board each destroyer in 1998.8
What has been lost in the noise of the material-readiness debates is that none of the in-service ships called out in the Balisle Report as undergoing optimum-manning reductions during the 1990s and into the 2000s were actually optimally manned. Rather, all incorporated reduced-manning or minimal-manning targets, working from existing and decidedly non-optimal manpower requirements. Many of these technology initiatives were neither funded nor realized, and some did not have the supporting structure to execute them and did not take a ‘blank-sheet-of-paper’ approach to the analysis. Instead, the question was: “If we incorporate this technology or we make this change to process and procedure, how many people can we get off the ship?” And rarely did this analysis encompass the Navy’s shore-side elements in an integrated system-of-systems approach.
Thus, the goal of the optimal, as opposed to minimal and even reduced, manning initiatives is to have no fewer or no more crew than needed to operate, maintain, and fight the ship safely and reap significant reductions in ownership costs.
DDG-1000 Human Systems Integration
The DDG-1000 is the first major surface combatant to be designed and engineered with optimal manpower as a top-level requirement. In this, the Navy enthusiastically embraced Human Systems Integration (HSI) principles more often honored in their breach than observance. “Good HSI” ensures systems are designed, engineered, produced, supported, fielded, and modernized through a complete and careful integration of the human component as an integral part of the overall system design––with manpower being the “primary factor,” according to the CNO. And this focus on HSI and optimal manning cannot be solely on the Navy’s ships (or aircraft and other force elements); it needs to be addressed throughout the shore establishment, as well.
In the DDG-1000, the Navy-industry team started with “zero manning” and conducted detailed, comprehensive, and exhaustive top-down functional analyses of required shipboard manning, personnel skills, and end-strengths. The original DD-21 (the previous designation of the DDG-1000 program) manpower KPP called for 95 people for the crew and air detachment. Although this proved to be overzealous, it forced a more critical look all software and hardware functions that had anything to do with manpower. From the start, the DD-21/DDX/DDG-1000 program took the human into complete account, equal to hardware and software design, engineering, and acquisition.
Most important, for the first time the Navy had embraced “shall” requirements for the total crew and each sailor. As the program evolved and analysis was conducted, the team determined that even an expanded crew of 114 could not accomplish all necessary tasks. Today’s crew complement objective of 148 for the DDG-1000 represents the culmination of years of due diligence and extensive analysis. And because it represents a reasoned manpower level based on sound analysis, it represents optimized manning at its best.
A wide array of examples demonstrate the way the DDG-1000 program embraced HSI principles:
• Explicitly establishing HSI requirements in the acquisition documentation and Tier-1 specifications
• Early review of systems designs by HSI and fleet subject matter experts within the context of operationally relevant scenarios
• Evaluating design concepts/solutions throughout the design process under realistic conditions with representative end users
• “Usability testing” the concepts, requirements, and eventual solutions.9
HSI Best Practices
Implementing the Navy’s approach in the acquisition program for the DDG-1000 is a best-practice example of effectively improving reliability, maintainability, and safety in design while significantly reducing manpower levels. HSI enabled the design team to identify requirements associated with human roles and automation. Through an emphasis on improving human reliability and reducing human errors, innovative design approaches for equipment, software, procedures, information, environment, communications, and organizations could be shown to satisfy operational requirements.10 A 2008 Defense Daily article captured the essence of this process:
The crew size of 148 was not pulled out of thin air. This has been from the ground up. Every minute of every sailor in every billet has been accounted for in either workload or in some sort of automation that takes that workload away. It’s not magic. Usability testing done with the technologies and engineering design models (EDMs) have validated the crew size of 148. All of that has been modeled, and tested, through each software release with actual sailors and other personnel, in what the Navy calls software usability testing.11
Simply put, what made desired manpower reductions on the DDG-1000 work was that NAVSEA ensured manpower KPPs were integrated into ship design decisions at the earliest stages of the process. This change placed emphasis on manpower for the way the ship was designed. And it addressed what functions could be taken off the ship and accomplished affordably on shore.
Crew-member workload was addressed in detail from the outset and the knowledge, skills, and abilities for crew members to perform more than 18,000 distinct tasks––training, maintenance, non-combat underway operations, combat ops, damage control––were addressed and analyzed regarding the ability of crew members to complete each task. Not surprisingly, watch standing was the largest consumer of crew hours. The NAVSEA and industry design team addressed crew workload and functions in a 60-hour combat scenario, as well as in a 60-day operational scenario, validating manpower requirements against typical, most-likely, and extreme operational environments the DDG-1000 would face.
However, perhaps the most important change of philosophy in the design of the Zumwalt-class destroyer was the addition of HSI subject matter experts into the process at the outset. Dubbed “human systems shipboard interaction,” it embedded HSI professionals with engineers and ship designers at all stages of the project, which ensured integration initiatives were factored in prior to design completion, thereby avoiding additional—and often prohibitive—costs associated with a formal change process.
Fleet Sailors Are Key
Another critical factor in determining the optimal manpower profile for the DDG-1000 was the extensive involvement of Fleet sailors in all design, testing, and evaluation activities. More than 1,200 operators were included in the design review and evaluation process during a three-year period, providing the NAVSEA and industry team with strong validation for every manpower design decision. Including the Fleet early on helped identify design hazards, so that design modifications for human performance could be made immediately and at the lowest design and cost impact. Designers employed human-performance modeling at the outset to explore the impact of manpower concepts, automation technologies, and other system-design concepts on the crew’s ability to perform the mission.
The results of this disciplined, iterative process were dramatic. While the Ship’s Manpower Document for the DDG-51 Flight IIA had a crew complement of 314, the Preliminary Ship’s Manpower Document for DDG-1000 has a crew complement of just 148: 14 officers, 19 chief petty officers, 87 sailors, and 28 members of the air department. This document has been validated during all ship-design phases, and HSI has been interlinked in a repetitive process that has spiraled toward the DDG-1000’s performance-centered design.
One other reason for the success of such integration in the DDG-1000 was the commitment of Navy leadership, particularly the Surface Warfare Directorate (N86) on the CNO’s staff. The office of the CNO established the original 95-sailor KPP and only reluctantly changed that number to the current objective––manning a 15,000-ton warship with only 95 sailors was simply too difficult and unrealistic. As part of this process, N86 assembled a design advisory board that included active-duty uniformed people and waterfront civilians.
Crew-member workload drivers were constantly addressed and analyzed. The design team conducted top-down functional analyses to address crew tasks, skills, knowledge, abilities, and workload. Throughout the design and development process, the total team––NAVSEA and industry professionals as well as Fleet sailors––worked to insert simultaneity in the crew’s workload: What is possible? Are the skilled people available to accomplish various tasks? What can we do with more training, more automation? Do we need more people? What is the most cost-effective and safe manner to solve the problem/task at hand?
A specific example of balancing the desire to reduce manpower against required tasks was in the area of magazine monitoring. There are 37 magazines throughout the DDG-1000. Policy called for daily inspections of these spaces by a crew member. Designers looked at this function as a non-value-added task that simply wasted people’s time. They asked the hard questions: Is there a “virtual presence” that can be affected through cameras and sensors? Can the mission/task be performed safely and effectively in some other way that reduces manpower or allows for reallocation of manpower to other more critical needs? What makes best sense? Virtual presence won out.
The DDG-1000 program also made it a priority to improve the quality of shipboard life and quality of work for the sailor by considering habitability factors such as lighting, exercise, temperature, noise, vibration, and ship motion to provide an environment conducive to physical and mental well-being, reduced fatigue, and overall improved morale. This shows in the design of workspaces, such as the Ship Mission Center and the food service areas, as well as berthing, lounge, and exercise areas, and a designed-in ability to communicate with friends and relatives back home—intangibles that also contribute to retention of highly skilled and dedicated people.
The ‘Manpower Bridge’ to the Future?
While the manpower-optimization initiatives in the DDG-1000 have already been extrapolated to other Navy ships––most notably the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier––there is no guarantee these best practices will percolate to yet other ships, particularly given the apparent cooling in 2011 of the Navy’s optimum-manning ardor. Each ship-construction program establishes its own key performance parameters, and without an explicit KPP for manpower (and the underlying HSI analysis) tomorrow’s Fleet could be as heavily manned as today’s Navy, with potentially dire consequences for total ownership costs and recapitalization initiatives.
What is crucial for success is for optimized shipboard manpower and HSI, generally, to become part of the DNA of the requirements, science and technology, research and development, and acquisition communities that support the warfighter. If the user-system interface becomes the foundational consideration for everything the services buy in their Title 10 role, and if manpower optimization is a key driver in a “build-a-little, test-a-little, learn-a-lot” environment, then future platforms will not only be fielded with reduced manpower, but with warfighters who are no longer data integrators but rather decision makers.
The lessons learned in designing the DDG-1000 should be a bridge to the optimally manned U.S. military of the 21st century. NAVSEA’s leadership made an early commitment to design the ship around the sailor. The team established key performance parameters for manpower early in the program, designed the ship through an HSI/engineering systems-integration approach, brought in Fleet operators early and often as part of the total team, and kept the sailor and the sailor’s shipboard quality of life in the forefront of all decisions. It is not at all surprising that several government agencies (the Government Accountability Office in particular), industry, and academia herald the DDG-1000 as a best-practices example of how to design and field an optimally manned complex system.
Congressional interest also remains high. For example, the Fiscal Year 2010 DOD Authorization Act called for the Navy to develop several plans and roadmaps, particularly a technology roadmap for future surface combatants and Fleet modernization: “a plan to incorporate into surface combatants constructed after 2011, and into fleet modernization programs, the technologies developed for the DDG-1000 destroyer and the DDG-51 and CG-47 Aegis ships, including technologies and systems designed to achieve significant manpower savings.” (Emphasis added.) The DDG-1000 thus provides important capabilities and lessons-learned for these and other future needs.
The single major root cause of human error and system breakdown is the failure to design the system in terms of the capabilities and limitations of the human. The DDG-1000 points the way ahead and will demonstrate how well-conceived and -justified manpower reductions can be made in the context of generating significant total ownership cost savings and dramatically increased warfighting capabilities and readiness. This is a game-changing breakthrough for tomorrow’s Fleet and the Navy-after-next—as well as DOD generally. The Zumwalt destroyer will be the harbinger of a U.S. military populated by warfighters truly able to make better decisions, faster, with fewer people, and at a cost we can afford.
2. Statement of Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, before the House Armed Services Committee, 24 February 2010, p. 12.
3. Sam Fellman and David Larter, “Navy Leaders Discuss Life after Optimal Manning,” Navy Times, 24 January 2011.
4. “Fleet Review Panel of Surface Force Readiness,” prepared for the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 26 February 2010 (also known as “The Balisle Report.”
5. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, Remarks as delivered at the SNA National Symposium Banquet, 13 January 2011, p. 2.
6. Phillip Ewing, “CNO: Reducing Crew Sizes a Top Priority,” Navy Times, 27 March 2008.
7. Roughead, Remarks at the Navy League of the United States Annual Symposium, 4 May 2009.
8. Balisle Report, op.cit., p. 11.
9. Daniel Wallace and Jennifer McKneely, “Return on Investment: Lessons Learned in Application of HSI to DD(X) Acquisition Program,” Leading Edge (Washington, DC: Naval Sea Systems Command, 2006), pp. 9–11.
10. Alexander Landsburg, et al, “The Art of Successfully Applying Human Systems Integration,” Naval Engineers Journal, vol. 120, no. 1, (2008), pp. 77–107.
11. Geoff Fein, “DDG-1000: Bigger Ship, Smaller Crew,” Defense Daily, 8 April 2008.
Dr. Truver is Director, National Security Programs, Gryphon Technologies, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Human Systems Integration Defined...
Human systems integration (HSI) is the technical process that integrates the disciplines of human factors engineering, manpower (number of people/workload on people), personnel (knowledge and skill requirements), training, habitability, personnel survivability, safety and occupational health hazards concerns into the systems engineering of a material system to ensure safe, effective performance and maintainability. For the Navy, this translates into a systems-engineering process dedicated to proving Navy systems with the best total system performance at the lowest Total Ownership Cost. HSI ensures systems are designed, produced, supported, fielded, and modernized through a complete and careful inegration of the human component as an integral part of the system design.
— Virtual SYSCOM