Surface warfare officers (SWOs) tasked with safely and effectively operating U.S. Navy ships are no longer expert mariners. A lack of standardized, practical training prior to commissioning, changes to post-commissioning instructional courses, and a lack of focus on classic deck officer skills account for SWO shiphandling atrophy.
Following the 2017 ship collisions in the Pacific, the October 2017 “Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents” highlighted a multitude of deficiencies at the ship and fleet level. It recommended corrective action to many facets of early SWO training, but failed to call for a large-scale transformation in training. As a result, action beyond a slight increase to the rigor of Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) has not been taken. It is time expansive change to SWO development programs be made. Anything less is setting our SWOs up for failure.