As economies across the globe continue to contract, navies, armies, and air forces are being told, if not, “do more with less” to at least “do the same with less.” Proceedings thus asked sea-service commanders around the world: What innovative efficiencies and economies are you implementing, or considering implementing, to improve force readiness?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
In an age of austerity, finding efficiencies is driving more and more of, if not what we do, then certainly how we do it. Consequently, change across the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is already well-advanced to ensure that outputs are sustainable in the longer term. Such essential change includes: wide-ranging organizational reform; capability rebalancing for the future; redirecting resources to the front line; as well as deepening and expanding the pool of collaboration with the United States, France, and our many other allies.
When it comes to improving force readiness, the Royal Navy is, like other navies, continuously seeking further efficiencies. Take our four minehunters based out of Bahrain. The warships are permanently on station while the crews rotate from the United Kingdom every six months. By detaching the people from the platform, time on a vital task can be maintained with the greatest efficiency. In this particular case, it is a model that works extremely well.
Efficiency is also about getting the most “available sea days” throughout the life of our platforms. So, for example, by working with industry, recent analysis indicates that further optimization of maintenance and operating cycles of platforms and onboard systems could potentially yield a 20 percent improvement in Astute-class submarine availability.
Improvements to force readiness also are being made by passing the responsibility for force generation from Navy Command Headquarters directly down to the naval bases. With the planning and execution of maintenance and operating cycles nearer the waterfront, platform availability is already on an upward trajectory. Such improvements have been assisted by bringing equipment support areas of the MOD closer together with industry. Under recently created “class output management organizations,” where the focus is exclusively on individual classes of ship and submarine, the benefits to force readiness are considerable.
Of course, in an age of austerity, it is not unreasonable that defence departments and their navies are thinking in terms of efficiency. But efficiency is only one side of the coin for value. Effectiveness is the other, and those of us with responsibilities for providing security and defense will only truly deliver value for money if effectiveness is considered in equal measure.
As the United Kingdom moves from, as our Secretary of State for Defence put it, “campaigns to contingency,” so a premium is placed on highly capable, high-readiness forces. In my view the small marginal cost of operating warships with their organic aircraft and submarines at sea, rather than being garrisoned in naval bases, is an attractive benefit of maritime forces. Perhaps therefore, especially in these straitened times, the best way to improve force readiness is to have contingent maritime forces where they deliver effect best. At sea.