SECNAV, CNO: Surface Navy Corrections ‘Already Having a Positive Impact’
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s top officials told Congress that the service is implementing reforms for the surface fleet to reverse a trend toward “normalization of deviation,” while appealing to Congress for stable and adequate funding to reduce the stress on the fleet in meeting its training requirements and operational commitments.
Speaking Jan. 18 on Capitol Hill during a joint hearing of the House Armed Services readiness and seapower and projection forces subcommittees, Navy Secretary (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer and Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations (CNO), assured the panels that the Strategic Readiness Review and Comprehensive Reviews — ordered in the wake of three collisions and a grounding in the U.S. Seventh Fleet last year — are providing solutions that already are being enacted in the fleet and are already having a positive impact.
Richardson said the “tragedies were due in large part to human error and failures of leadership as we took our eye off of mastering the basics in seamanship and navigation,” while noting that “these incidents do not define your Navy.”
He said he has established an oversight board, chaired by the vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Bill Moran, “to track the completion of those actions that remain in progress, things like command and control; surface warfare officer career paths, training, equipment and certification.”
The CNO said that he is “responsible for crushing any obstacles that prevent our Sailors from achieving warfighting and safe operations at sea.”
“We started by re-baselining every cruiser and destroyer in the Forward-Deployed Naval Force in Japan,” he said. “Every ship that is underway now has been assessed to be ready for those missions. Then it’s a matter of just sticking to that plan so that we do provide sufficient time to maintain the ships, [and] when they get out, there is sufficient time and attention given to training and certifying those ships before they get assigned to their missions.”
Richardson said that “schedule discipline has been established and enforced by [Vice] Adm. [Phillip G.] Sawyer, the new commander of the Seventh Fleet,” and noted that the Ready-for-Sea Assessments of the ships have been completed.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., asked the CNO to consider more specialization in the surface warfare officer community by having separate deck and an engineering career tracks for the officers.
“That model, which is largely used by the Royal Navy, is always on the table being assessed,” Richardson said. “I look forward to having a more robust conversation about some of these. The gives and takes are complicated. … There is also value in understanding the engineering plant and the rest of the ship as well, so there is always a balance there.”
Spencer said the Navy is scrutinizing its command and control, operations, training, governance and learning culture, but asked the Congress for “stable and adequate funding.”
He noted that “healthy additions to ship maintenance” have been requested in the 2018 budget, which still awaits congressional approval.
The CNO also spoke out against the “corrosive effect of nine years of continuing resolutions and years under the Budget Control Act. The absence of stable and adequate funding for defense makes everything that our Sailors and their commanders do harder. On a scale of 1 to 10, the importance of stable and adequate funding scores an 11.”