Thursday, January 18, 2007

Insider thoughts on the submarine safety standdown

Being on the crew of a sub, I got to take part in the safety standdown today (being in overhaul, ours was somewhat of a different agenda than the operational guys).

I can't delve into boat-specific issues, of course, but I got the impression that the VCNO (Subs) and the SubLant and SubPac commanders, as well as all in the upper chains, are really ready to listen to us in the blue shirts. At least I hope I'm right in that assessment.

One of the big issues my fellow PO1's and I brought up to our CO was how our time is so committed that we (and our CPO's, and our junior sailors) have somewhat less than 30% of our "workday" time to actually devote to our jobs. We have had an ever-increasing mandate of admin, training, and externally directed requirements that have eaten big chunks out of our day. I gave the example of a nuke in an overhaul situation, where the training requirements laid out by NavSea 08 put us in 6-10 hours of classroom training per week, with another 1-3 hours a week taking continuing training exams. That doesn't even count the time spend preparing the training and writing/grading exams. That is just 7-13 hours total per week in a chair getting either "death by PowerPoint" or a sore hand from multiple exams. I, for example, weekly attend 4 hours of Engineering Department training, 2 hours of Divisional training, and 2 hours of EOOW/EWS training, plus at least 2 hours of exam time. That's 10 hours per week. An ELT qualifies EWS gets 2 more hours a week (in addition to their Divisional training they are required to attend M-Division training) and one more divisional exam. That's nearly 25% of the theoretical "work week" just spent on your butt doing training. And it doesn't count GMT, training preparation, exam preparation/grading, and the myriad of reports and other admin that come with the job (especially for supervisors). The point we wanted to drive home is that as you move up the food chain to LPO, LCPO, Division Officer, Department Head, and up, there is more and more training and admin taking you away from deckplate supervision, on-the-job training, mentoring, and the things that were very likely missing that caused the 13 "tier I" events in the past 6 years.

I sat down and calculated up a typical inport (shipyard) schedule once, and discovered that I get somewhere around 30% or less of the work week with my division. Yes, about 70% of the time is "hardwired" such that my personnel aren't available to me as an LPO to do our jobs. And it wasn't just the nukes echoing this point...it was across the board, forward and aft (to varying degrees).

My opinion; many of the issues contributing to the problems the submarine force has faced in recent years is the decreased time we have to actually focus on the jobs we are put on the boat to do. Every incident adds more training, more admin, more time on inspections. There's less unencumbered "CO discretionary time" (time at sea not committed to some external requirement). There is less time for the sailor to actually work for his LPO. There is less time for the LPO/LCPO to actually be the LPO/LCPO. And the junior sailors don't just magically train, mentor, and perform without deckplate leadership.

The best thing the submarine force leadership could do...take a big knife and hack out about 30-40% or more of the admin, training, and inspection requirements. We on the boats know our jobs; LET US DO THEM. Let us go to sea in local op areas without some squadron rider that we have to show off for, mandate less on-your-ass "death by PowerPoint" training and let us at the LPO level train on what we see as our divisional needs, and TDU the non-essential admin and "check the box" paperwork. Give us back our time to do our jobs, and we'll keep the OOD's and EOOW's out of trouble out there.

I know I got long-winded, but this is an issue I have seen get worse and worse in my 16 years in submarines; the metric shows that throwing more training and checklists at the boats when there are incidents doesn't work. Following the 2001 incidents with Greeneville and subsequent major mishaps there was more admin and training mandated following each critique, yet each year (save 2004) since the number of major mishaps has actually risen. We've lost sight of the forest for killing all the trees for paper for the admin.

This problem seems, to my observation, plague the Navy as a whole to varying degrees. There was a time when the mission was the #1 priority, and if it didn't support the mission or the sailor accomplishing the mission it wasn't important...and was thus deep-sixed. Now we have the same missions, and the same number (or more) of them, and fewer ships/subs/sailors to do them with. If any time was the right time to trim the fat and get back to mission essentials, it is now.

'nuff said, I shall now step down from my soapbox

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Crossposted at The Online Magazine Formerly Known As Rob's Blog

10 Comments:

At 6:37 AM, Blogger Sirh0213 said...

I've been away from the boat for almost two years now. Just before I left (March, 2005) we were required to do FIFTEEN hours of training per week while in off crew... thankfully the Captain counted out command PT (M, W, F, @0700) as training time. Not only that, but the 0700 to 0900 (over half of which was going home to shower and shave time) he counted as training time.

I sincerely hope someone above our paygrade, with some authority, takes notice of the warning light you wrote and, hopefully, will remedy the situation fleet wide.

 
At 7:40 AM, Blogger Va Beach Herb said...

I spent 12 years each in the sub and surface Navy. On one Amphib ship I was on, we had some type of inspection, assist visit, or dog and pony show virtually every week inport for two years. The Surface Navy got in the same mode you guys are in now; An accident/incident would happen and they would knee-jerk a new inspection requirement. As an Engineer (Electrical Officer) I was involved in every one of the inspections for every department.
Around 1998-2001 things started to change and they cut way back on the inspections. The sub force would do well to look at what they did to reduce the number and scope of inspections and assists.

 
At 10:02 AM, Blogger lazlong said...

You have pretty much hit it on the head. My time on the San Francisco was always riddled with training, meetings, and other such time wasting things while in port that teaching the junior guys how to do maint. became an extra-curricular activity, even when we had incidents that involved normal in port operations and PMS. Of course, the problem was compounded by the fact that a lot of the 1st classes left directly after overhaul, to be replaced with junior dudes right out of prototype.
It was pretty much hell for M-div until my last year onboard, when the division was actually close to full manning, and there was experience there, but the extra training and admin really cut into everything we did...made us work 18 hour days every day in port just to get the boat out to sea, mainly becuase there was so much red tape that our work didn't start until 1300 at the earliest.
Only when the command discovered (near the end of my tour) that M-div works when left to their own devices, with the MMC and MM1 actually doing their supervision job, instead of going to wasteful meetings that did nothing for the material condition of the engineroom. Additionally, the fact that the COB was willing to work around our schedule was helpful, and he also made some of the foward guys qualify QAI, which helped M-div, because there have been times when I wasted hours doing QA work for Radio, instead of doing my job back aft.
I honestly believe that we were blessed there at CSS-15 (in the 2004 timeframe) because most of the squdron engineer guys were pretty laid back, they only bugged us when they were really required to, and that helped a lot, not having them there, or if they were, they were helping us learn, not pissed off because they had to go "to the boat" to look for deficiencies.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Vigilis said...

Well-said, Rob, and good points. Everyone should now realize that time outs for "the 13 'tier I' events in the past 6 years" (not to mention the recent standdown) could better have been spent on more traditional work, if those tier I events had been avoided in the first place. And that does not even begin to address the negative impacts to subsequent missions of such events.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger dbfcaye482 said...

Interesting viewpoint. It grieves me to think that things have gotten so far away from the deckplates. All we did was in prep for the mission,including the training. No make work because we had too much real work. I know that hasn't changed. Just seems that common sense is being driven to the back of the bus.

Won't bore you guys with how we did it on the "old boats", my fast attack was the SSN 575 - look it up. The boomer was the 640B. I retired in 1974. Qualified on Irex 482 boat in 1957, so this year I officially become and "old fart" in the Holland Club.

I can tell you that you will have to keep beating the drums to get change. There will be some bull Cdr. that will listen & pick up the ball. I worked for one, and he helped us move mountains.

Thanks for taking up the load now that we are too old to go to sea on one of the boats. It is nice to know that there are some that are willing to stand up and stir things up. Just so you know that I wasn't shy, I was pointed out by a chief in a classroom in Nimitz Hall, "There stands proof that a loud, ornary, SOB can make E-9."

My guide is from Thomas Jefferson: "On matters of principle, stand like a rock."

Ken Caye, STCM(SS), USN, Ret.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger matt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger Rohoid said...

You said it so smoothly and to the point. I'm currently on a boat in a shipyard. I'm the LPO of machinery division. I'm currently finishing a DMP and let me tell you what hell could actually be. DMP. So much training I think I pee it out every 3 or 4 hours. But all this training and checking isn't making the operators smarter. It's just helping to keep us out of trouble. When I went to my first boat in '98, I had 1 hour of divisional and 1 hour of engineering dept. training. Now I train at least 9 hours a week not counting the other misc. crap. None of this even comes close to the training we had before the yard period and then the "extra" beefing up we had during different evolutions. It makes me numb and doesn't allow me to interact with the guys in the division to help them qualify or god forbid help them with their personal lives. It seems "those" lives outside the Navy don't actually exist anymore. I average 10-12 hour days in the yards. This is considered "normal"! What has happened? Where have the leaders gone that want to operate the boat and have a life as well? Operating now is all about underway for 5 days, pick up Sqn. riders, have them tell you how screwed up you are, drop off Sqn, back out for 5 days, back in and wondering why the crew is so tired. How about doing a deployment that actually means something? Where have all the real submarine captains gone? Too worried about O-6 to care about the crew. I'll leave the Navy with 13 years. I find more and more guys just like me that are leaving with 13, 14, 15, 16 years of service. The Navy doesn't even blink an eye. Maybe because they know why but just brush it aside to train. We just had a 16 year Nuke ET leave the Navy. He wanted to retire from the Navy. But no one helped him with his circumstances. A week before he was trying to check out they said they help him re-enlist. Not for himself but because they needed him for power range testing. Big one finger salute to you! I'm fed up! Why can't the admirals see this and the erosion of the crews. Less training and let us show them what we can do! We're all mostly great operators. Release the hounds and let us grow!

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger kpoc said...

subject:
LPO DIRECTORY & LPO WATCH.
message:
KPO CONSULTANTS launches:

• India’s First Directory of “LPO Vendors in India” – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/ and download more information.

• Next edition of LPO Watch – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/lpowatch.htm and download.



Share the feedback.



With my kindest regards,

Pankaj Parnami

+91 - 98107 37210

KPO CONSULTANTS
CONSULTING. TRAINING. PLACEMENTS. WORKSHOPS. LPO WATCH.

pankaj@kpoconsultants.com I parnamipankaj@gmail.com
www.kpoconsultants.com l www.kpoworkshops.com l

"The compulsion always is to think big, do big, offer the best; and rest follows."

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger kpoc said...

subject:
LPO DIRECTORY & LPO WATCH.
message:
KPO CONSULTANTS launches:

• India’s First Directory of “LPO Vendors in India” – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/ and download more information.

• Next edition of LPO Watch – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/lpowatch.htm and download.



Share the feedback.



With my kindest regards,

Pankaj Parnami

+91 - 98107 37210

KPO CONSULTANTS
CONSULTING. TRAINING. PLACEMENTS. WORKSHOPS. LPO WATCH.

pankaj@kpoconsultants.com I parnamipankaj@gmail.com
www.kpoconsultants.com l www.kpoworkshops.com l

"The compulsion always is to think big, do big, offer the best; and rest follows."

 
At 6:46 AM, Blogger kpoc said...

subject:
LPO DIRECTORY & LPO WATCH.
message:
KPO CONSULTANTS launches:

• India’s First Directory of “LPO Vendors in India” – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/ and download more information.

• Next edition of LPO Watch – visit http://kpoconsultants.com/lpowatch.htm and download.



Share the feedback.



With my kindest regards,

Pankaj Parnami

+91 - 98107 37210

KPO CONSULTANTS
CONSULTING. TRAINING. PLACEMENTS. WORKSHOPS. LPO WATCH.

pankaj@kpoconsultants.com I parnamipankaj@gmail.com
www.kpoconsultants.com l www.kpoworkshops.com l

"The compulsion always is to think big, do big, offer the best; and rest follows."

 

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