Too Many SWOs per Ship
(See B. Cordial, pp. 14–17, March 2017 Proceedings)
The solid solutions offered by Lieutenant Cordial to the human capital problem on surface ships deserve consideration. I agree that new surface warfare officer (SWO) division officers should report to a ship “at the seven-to-nine month point in the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) cycle.” Still, we should take that idea a bit further.
We had a solid division officer pipeline in the 1980s and 1990s. After three to six months in training at the Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS)—at either Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California, or the main school at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island—first-tour division officers spent three years on their first ships and 18 to 24 months on their second ships before heading off to their first shore tours. This was the case when I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1992. After spending six months in Coronado, I reported to the USS New Orleans (LPH-11), where I went on two six-month Western Pacific/Indian Ocean deployments. During that time, though, we saw the shuttering of SWOS at Coronado and the shortening of the first division officer tours. We should lengthen those first two tours again to give these young officers more underway experience.
We should not limit Lieutenant Cordial’s proposal to division officers. We also should tie to the OFRP cycle tours for department heads, executive officers, and commanding officers. Their rotation dates should be slightly staggered to minimize rotations en masse. The ultimate goal should be to provide one wardroom through the deployment cycle, with an eye on minimizing turnover and loss of corporate knowledge in the middle of a deployment. Granted, no one can predict unplanned losses for medical or professional reasons, and those aberrations need special attention.
It will take many years to reach President Donald Trump’s goal of a 350-ship Navy. Lieutenant Cordial wisely notes that we should have smaller wardrooms, but the service will need to implement some creative solutions to SWO accession paths. If we implement smaller wardrooms, how do we control the flow of young SWOs on the front end? Do we have smaller numbers of SWO accessions from the Naval Academy and the Reserve Officer Training Corps, relying more on Officer Candidate School to make up the shortfalls?
Today’s up-or-out Navy imposes an overly rigid restriction on Lieutenant Cordial’s proposal. SWOs have to hit certain wickets that are tied to their pay grades, which are further tied to time in grade. The Navy needs to step back and take a hard look at the overall timeline for progressing from division officer to commanding officer. There are a lot of good reasons to demand that our SWOs to have a healthy mix of operational experience, training, professional military education, and graduate education. Are we trying too hard to jam ten pounds into a five-pound bag?
The Oath Is a Sacred Covenant
(See F. R. White, pp. 30–34, February 2017 Proceedings)
I am impressed by Lieutenant White’s laying out the history of the oath we all swear (or affirm) and want to thank him for reminding us about the oath’s importance. At U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCom), we had the honor of seeing young men and women make individual and personal decisions to take this oath, and our team administered the enlisted oath more than 248,000 times during fiscal year 2016.
I am fascinated by this concept of taking an oath. Our doctors vow to uphold specific ethical standards. Others take an oath as part of an organization they have chosen to join, such as the Boy or Girl Scouts. To quote blogger Bryan Wendell, an oath is “More powerful than a promise, an oath is an unbreakable commitment about one’s future behavior.” And, as in each example given here, it’s stated aloud in front of witnesses—thereby further enhancing its power.
All readers should take a moment to think about the 248,000 men and women who, inside the 65 distinguished USMEPCom ceremony rooms across the country, vowed last year to faithfully serve in the U.S. armed forces. That oath is noble and could lead to the ultimate sacrifice. For those in our profession, it is why we are here. It is how we express our core values. And at USMEPCom, it is the most important thing we do.
Life or Death in 250 Milliseconds
(See M. Lippert, pp. 18–22, January 2017; R. F. Dunn, p. 9, February 2017 Proceedings)
I appreciate Vice Admiral Dunn taking the interest to respond and acknowledging my efforts in highlighting what I and several of my peers believe is a critical issue in naval aviation’s tactical aviation community. However, I take exception to the fact that Admiral Dunn virtually dismissed my position by stating that “what the Fleet—Navy and Marine Corps—really needs is increased flight hour funding.” While it is true that this would likely result in an overall decrease in mishap rates (the Naval Safety Center agrees that empirical data supports this position), the data specific to controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and midair events do not support the admiral’s assumption.
As an example, Naval Safety Center data for CFITs (and select physiological episodes [PHYSEPs]) and midairs of legacy model F/A-18 Hornets (A-D) was analyzed in terms of aircraft lost to CFIT/PHYSEPs per 100,000 flight hours versus the number of flight hours flown fleet-wide in Hornets for a given fiscal year.1 The mean of each sample (average number of aircraft lost per 100,000 flight hours for each case) and the standard deviation were determined. Sample data were considered outliers if they were outside three standard deviations from the mean. Removal of the outliers from further consideration eliminated incidents that biased the data because of unusually low fiscal year (FY) flight hours or unusually high rates of incidents. Using the updated data set, the average number of events per 100,000 flight hours was plotted against the FY hours flown, along with a first-order trend line.
Both charts clearly show a trend of increased aircraft lost per 100,000 flight hours because of CFIT/PHYSEP and midair collisions with an increase in FY hours flown. Similar trends exist for FA/18 E/F Super Hornets. Assuming that an increase in FY hours flown fleet-wide meant a general increase in the average hours flown per pilot in a given FY, the argument does not hold up that increasing flight time will decrease the rate of losses to these events.
Another point raised by Admiral Dunn is a question I’ve fielded more than a few times: “What if we spent the money we’d spend on collision avoidance systems on more flight hours?” In 2006, the forecast cost of fielding an automated ground collision avoidance system (GCAS) equivalent was approximately $100 million.2 The Air Force was able to successfully field this system in the F-16 for under half this price.3 Let’s assume, however, that it takes the full $100 million. In 2015 the DOD comptroller’s office published the FY2014 hourly cost of operating each of the aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. Legacy model F/A-18s averaged to about $11,500 per hour, while Super Hornet variants were closer to $11,000.4 From practical experience, these numbers likely are lower than the actual current figure but will contribute to a “best case” estimate. Considering legacy F/A-18 models only, for 20 fleet squadrons and assuming 15 pilots per squadron, this buys roughly 2.4 hours (close to two sorties) per month for each pilot, for one year only. Applying the same number to the Super Hornet fleet buys only 1.5 hours per month for each pilot or one additional flight.
Assuming the F-16’s $500 million estimate for an integrated collision avoidance system (ICAS)5 incorporating GCAS and an aerial collision avoidance system (ACAS) is applied to the entire U.S. F/A-18 fleet—both legacy and Super Hornets—an additional 45,454 flight hours could be bought, giving each pilot a little more than 4.5 hours (about three sorties) of additional flight time per month for one year. Again, this is a best-case scenario.
Speaking as an experienced weapons and tactics instructor who has had periods on board ships where I flew less than three hours in 30 days, one or two added sorties per month will not yield a significant reduction in CFIT or midair mishaps. Three sorties may begin to show results, but the use of these funds for this investment is for one year only and will have no real long-term impact. Spending that money on the development and fielding of a system like Auto GCAS or Auto ACAS has permanent results. A pilot with 1 flight hour in the past month and another pilot with 20 hours will both be saved. The cost of losing a legacy F/A-18 is approximately $75 million, and the cost of a Super Hornet is roughly $85 million.6 Saving one aircraft will virtually pay for the system.
Returning to Admiral Dunn’s discussion of maintenance concerns, why would we continue to risk the few aircraft we have on an up-status if we don’t have to? Politics and budgeting aside, CFIT and midair events are the leading causes of loss of life and aircraft, and both are the result of human limitations—something no amount of flight hours can remove. The old adage of increasing hours was the means to mitigate risk with non-material solutions in the past, but a material solution with a higher success rate now exists. There is a path forward with mature technology to combat the loss of manpower and materiel with a clear return on investment. This isn’t something we’re guessing—this is an achievable, effective solution to the leading causes of lost highly trained personnel and increasingly valuable equipment. The Air Force already has conducted the proof of concept and case study for us, showing a four-to-one return on investment in the few years Auto-GCAS has been fielded.7
I agree wholeheartedly with Admiral Dunn that we need to increase funding and flight hours. But that solution to the multitude of risks facing naval aviators and the fielding of an automated collision avoidance system are not mutually exclusive. Let’s make this deliberate effort to stop losing our aircraft and killing our pilots
1. Physiological episodes (PHYSEPs) considered in the analysis were limited to two cases where G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) was clearly causal to the mishap.
2. Defense Safety Oversight Council Aviation Safety Improvements Task Force Safety Technology Working Group, Fighter/Attack Automatic Collision Avoidance Systems Business Case, 2006.
3. United States Air Force Research Labs.
4. Office of the Comptroller of the Department of Defense, Fiscal year 2014, Department of Defense Fixed Wing and Helicopter Reimbursement Rates, http://comptroller.defense.gov/portals/45/documents/fy2014/2014_f_h.pdf.
5. Defense Safety Oversight Council.
6. United States Naval Safety Center Data, released 28 September 2016.
7. United States Air Force Research Labs.
To the New Administration: Deliver Real Changes
(See W. Toti, p. 11, February 2017; J. Shannon, p. 8, March 2017 Proceedings)
The first of the six changes that Captain Toti proposes calls for making it easier to fire non-performers in the federal government. But far more urgent issues need to be addressed if our nation is to have a properly managed and staffed government that can execute its basic functions.
For years the U.S. government has been the subject of constant lampooning on the part of politicians running for office. They demean “Washington” as bloated, mismanaged, unnecessary, non-transparent, and the reason for our escalating national debt—as if Congress had nothing to do with it. As a soft target for mindless cuts, the attack has been relentlessly fueled by those who believe the majority of government functions should be run by the states, including the building of highways, airports, rail systems, and utilities infrastructure.
At the same time, the continuing sequester has had a devastating impact on both recruiting and retention at all levels. Morale couldn’t be worse, based on the uncertainty created by the current freeze on the hiring of “non-essential” workers—as if that term could accurately be defined in reality. Threats of government shutdowns add to this pervasive uncertainty about job security in the public sector. We are fast approaching the point when recruiting bonuses will be necessary to attract the high-caliber personnel we used to have in our government.
It’s hardly inspiring to those in government service to have new administrations nominate heads of agencies who haven’t the slightest background or knowledge of the mission for which they’re responsible, or worse, arrive with an agenda of gutting their own agencies.
We need to decide once and for all what should be the mission and staffing of the U.S. government, fund it properly, eliminate the derision, be proud of the mission and government workers, and restore the respect they deserve. Uniting our country starts here.
Admiral Shannon’s obviously heartfelt rebuttal to my article is a welcome addition to the debate. Unfortunately, as my grandfather used to say, “Just because you say it’s so doesn’t make it so.” In any debate, there are matters of opinion and then there are matters of fact. The admiral offered his opinion that because less than 1 percent of the workforce he supervised while on active duty “needed to be let go,” my recommendation regarding the need to make room for a talent infusion is not valid. In other words, because it wasn’t a problem for him, it’s not a problem for anybody. This opinion conflicts with that of the dozens of senior government acquisition leaders with whom I have spoken over the past few years, who have made it clear that their “talent and skills mismatch” is second only to budget instability as their most intractable problem.
His second point happens to conflict with a clearly demonstrable fact. His assertion that “best value criteria determine selection in government contract competition” is not true. In fact, the use of the “low priced technically acceptable” selection methodology is so pervasive, with billions of dollars of contracts being awarded using this criterion and resulting in a situation I have characterized as the placement of “low-priced brains” into critically important knowledge and planning positions, that both former Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall’s “Better Buying Power” and the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have provided language intended to substantially reduce or eliminate its use. Since all prior efforts have failed, I suggested this might be an item worthy of the new administration’s attention.
In response to my recommendation that multiple government agencies be allowed to share investment in an innovation across agency budget lines, the admiral rebuts my recommendation by pointing to a DOD memorandum that deals with a single matter (open system architecture) within a single agency (DOD). So again, his recommendation does nothing to address the matter I raised.
That Dog Just Won’t Hunt
(See N. Friedman, p. 90, February 2017 Proceedings)
Dr. Friedman’s article on the cancellation of the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP) is an indictment of the Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class’s “land attack” mission and the ships of the class. But Dr. Friedman left out a few things and ignored at least one important consideration.
First, one has to wonder how the cost of LRLAP rounds would have fared by comparison to Excalibur had the DDG-1000 program not been gutted by a pliant Navy leadership and the Democrat-led Congress in 1996. Second, while implicitly deprecating the LRLAP’s advantage in effective range, we can surmise that a premium in cost per round might have been warranted by a three-times advantage in range, which would have brought so much more real estate and so many more targets into play.
As to the platform itself, Dr. Friedman dismisses the enormous advantage in the stealthy features that the ship incorporates. Owing to electric drive, the ship is quieter by factors when compared with other conventionally powered combatants, and this makes it a superior ASW platform. Second, while conceding that an enemy’s high-frequency radars may eventually detect a Zumwalt, exploiting detection to a radar-guided kill would be extremely problematic. As to other homing sensors, if a Zumwalt is arguably vulnerable to infrared or optically guided weapons, other surface platforms are doubly so.
While he acknowledges advantages in a Zumwalt’s propulsion system, Dr. Friedman discounts one of its most important advantages—i.e., the ability to host a variety of future high-energy weapons, in addition to rail guns. I am not aware of any engineering modifications planned for the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) Flight IIIs that will make those ships remotely comparable to DDG-1000 in that regard.
It is not clear why the author concludes that stealth factors alone drove the size of the ship. Rather, I argue that in addition to the stealthy tumble home hull form, the planned weapons suite, including the gun magazines, the number of vertical-launch missile tubes, the flight facilities, and a deckhouse designed to host a power dense dual-band radar, and embedded communications and electromagnetic warfare support measures arrays also figured prominently in driving the size of the ship.
The latter point deserves special emphasis as the volume in the hull and the size of the deckhouse make this platform a superior candidate for the proposed guided-missile cruiser replacement. Imagine the number of missile tubes that might populate the forecastle were the controversial 6-inch guns removed. Imagine further the comparative power of the air-and-missile defense radar suite that might be housed in the deckhouse. Like the transition from the Spruance (DD-963) hull form and propulsion to the Ticonderoga (CG-47) class, these features alone commend the DDG-1000 design as the candidate cruiser platform to replace the CG-47s.
Sharp pencils in ship design computations and weapons fit decisions should never trump mission accomplishment and survivability.
Shift the Coast Guard to DOD
See J. Dolbow and J. Howe, pp. 16–19, February 2017; S. Vanderplas, p. 87, March 2017 Proceedings)
Moving the U.S. Coast Guard from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense is a timely suggestion. Over the past 30 years, the Coast Guard’s traditional wartime role of supporting the U.S. Navy has become a less important mission, judging by the weaponry and capabilities of its high-endurance offshore cutters. The threats posed by China and a resurgent Russia warrant a reexamination of the form and function of our maritime assets, including the Coast Guard’s cutters.
For many years after World War II, the service’s high-endurance offshore cutters had 5-inch/38-caliber cannon and antisubmarine (ASW) capabilities, including torpedoes. Readiness training occurred roughly every 18 months. Today there are two active classes of high-endurance cutters. The overaged Hamilton-class vessels are gradually being replaced with the Legend national security cutters. Neither class has ASW capabilities. The largest gun on the national security cutter is a Bofors 57-mm cannon, and the Hamilton class has an Otobreda 76-mm cannon. Both have 20-mm close-in gun systems. Both lack offensive weapons.
The most likely wartime roles of small ships such as the Coast Guard’s cutters are to protect merchant shipping, defend against surface vessels and submarines, and deliver weapons on land targets. At a minimum they all should have 5-inch/62-caliber guns and ASW sensors and weapons.
The Coast Guard’s mission also should be modified to eliminate its regulation of the U.S. flag merchant marine. Most of the world’s merchant ships operate under flags of convenience to avoid national taxes and regulations. But insurance classification societies survey and inspect these ships to ensure they meet international standards. In the United States, the Coast Guard conducts port state control boardings of foreign-flag vessels for that purpose. If U.S.-flag merchant vessels were not inspected by the Coast Guard under its current regulatory authority, they would still be required to meet international regulatory standards and would be subject to port state control boardings by the Coast Guard when calling in U.S. ports, along with foreign-flag merchant ships.
The Coast Guard’s regulation of the U.S.- flag merchant marine was inherited from the old Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (BMIN) during World War II. The BMIN inherited it from the Steamboat Inspection Service, formed in the 1800s in response to frequent steam boiler explosions. These explosions resulted from the design of early fire-tube boilers and were eliminated with the advent of modern water-tube boilers.
Freeing the Coast Guard from its regulatory mission would free manpower and budgetary funds to help arm the high-endurance cutters for true readiness. One hopes that readiness would be a higher priority for the Department of Defense than it has been for the Departments of Transportation or Homeland Security.
—Captain James A. Atkinson, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)
The Commanders Respond
(See N. Tsounis, p. 32, March 2017 Proceedings)
In THE HELLENIC NAVY’S contribution to the International Navies Issue, my staff and I believe something was lost in the editing or translating of the final two paragraphs. The following is what I intended to convey:
At this time, the Hellenic Navy could use and man additional material resources as we have the naval psyche. By doing so the U.S. Navy would strengthen an ally. A historical, steady dependable ally, whose interests and world view in terms of freedom, progress, and democracy have similar ingredients with the United States as far as the Eastern Mediterranean is concerned. As all strong alliances have mutual benefit as a connective tissue, I emphasize on the fact that this would enable the U.S. Navy to free resources for other critical theaters, making such cooperation a strategic investment with very apt fiscal benefits.
Finally, I would like to support the notion that the U.S. Navy and the Hellenic Navy can mutually benefit by training together as each has a unique added value, analogies considered of course. As I mentioned above, we live in such an area that we need to maintain a Navy capable to counter diverse threats, old and new, classic, and asymmetric, high and low end. The fact that we were always treasuring our freedom, facing stronger opponents, stronger at least in numbers, while our resources were always, more or less, restricted, made us resourceful, adaptive, perseverant, focused, and fierce. Having said that, to work and train with the formidable U.S. Navy can only make us better, to say the least.