February 2011 Navy
By VADM Kevin M. McCoy, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command
The Navy cannot reach its force structure and Fleet readiness goals simply by building new surface ships. With nearly 70 percent of the Navy's desired 313-ship fleet already in service, it is critical that we maintain these ships in top condition throughout their projected service lives––ready to respond to any missions that arise.
With close to a 60,000-person work- force of military personnel and civilians employed in 33 activities across 16 states, we at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) are working efficiently and effectively to maintain the material readiness of the existing surface force––from surface combatants and amphibious ships to mine warfare and patrol craft.
The increasing challenges of maintaining surface ship readiness in the complex budget environment we face has forced the Navy to make significant changes to the way the surface force is maintained. In 2009, NAVSEA, in close partnership with fleet commanders, launched a series of long-term surface ship readiness initiatives to increase waterfront support and improve maintenance and modernization efforts across surface ship classes to keep pace with mission requirements.
Most critical to meeting Navy long-term readiness goals was the completion of a near-total realignment of NAVSEA’s surface ship readiness organization. This reorganization will better enable NAVSEA to maintain surface ships throughout their service lives by integrating the fleet’s existing readiness strategies directly with the organization charged with equipping today’s surface ships with tomorrow’s technology.
As part of that reorganization, NAVSEA stood-up a surface fleet readiness division specifically to address both near-term material readiness challenges and manage long-term life- cycle management efforts. This has given NAVSEA a wholeness approach in matching technical expertise and programs to resources. Budget-wise, this directly identifies material readiness issues with management competencies, which translates to better efficiencies in managing our fiscal resources.
Just two years after being established as a four-person field activity, the Surface Ship Lifecycle Management Activity (SSLCM) was established as a full shore command – the Surface Maintenance Engineering and Planning Program (SURFMEPP) – with a comprehensive mission to provide centralized surface ship life cycle management for the fleet. SURFMEPP has expanded, with detachments in all major fleet concentration areas. This command will mirror the existing maintenance and readiness organizations for the submarine and carrier forces and will develop and issue several core lifecycle planning, budgeting, and work pack- age execution documents with the specific goal of achieving the expected service life for non-nuclear surface ships. The rigorous analysis of maintenance needed to ensure our surface ships achieve their full design life has already justified an increase in surface ship maintenance budgets. Beginning in FY 11, surface ship maintenance national budgets have been adjusted up to ensure the key maintenance of hull, structure, and distributed systems support full ship’s service life.
These new organizations will be assisted by reconstituted Regional Maintenance Centers in fleet concentration areas. This initiative will fully staff the Regional Maintenance Centers with the appropriate skill-sets to increase their intermediate-level maintenance capability.
The centers will also be staffed to train further Sailors to be journeymen engineers, expanding opportunities for our Sailors to become technical experts and increasing the versatility of maintenance personnel.
Beyond this reorganization, NAVSEA has begun implementing comprehensive inspections of surface ships. Unlike the established INSURV process, these assessments will provide a solid analytical basis for making crucial maintenance and repair deci- sions, while establishing risk-based measures for deficiencies that may arise in the future. The assessments will provide a realistic framework and schedule to plan and execute a comprehensive review of ships’ hull, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and support equipment. Information gathered during these assessments will be incorporated Class Maintenance Plans, new maintenance procedures and potential changes in our maintenance processes.
NAVSEA has also started to address distance support to deployed vessels through a dedicated integrated sustainment program. As it can be cumbersome to get stuck with technical issues while deployed, we have created direct access to technical experts while underway or between major availabilities. Key initiatives
within the integrated sustainment program include enhancing performance monitoring, management and data capture; identifying critical systems and providing continuous systems engineering analysis and software support; improved logistics analysis; centralized obsolescence management; and technical training.Each of these initiatives will only be effective if we maintain the technical rigor and discipline required to plan successfully and execute maintenance availabilities. NAVSEA is in the process of standardizing technical adjudication, integrated test plans, certification of work processes, and event readiness and availability execution processes.
Together, these efforts demonstrate a reinvigorated commitment to fleet readiness and a wholistic approach to ensure surface ships are ready for tasking. It will take continued emphasis across the full spectrum of readiness areas, along with the necessary modernization resources, to ensure all surface ships are ready for tasking; and NAVSEA will continue to meet that challenge.