Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the outgoing commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, sent the following message to U.S. Navy surface forces commanders Sept. 1, 2012. The email was presented as a parting message before his retirement on Sept. 14, 2012. The message and subsequent attachments were addressed to flag officers in leadership roles in the U.S. Navy’s surface community.
Fellow Surface Warfare Flag Officers,
I’m communicating with you today in my capacity as the senior Surface Warfare Officer on active duty, otherwise known as “the Old Salt,” who is soon to retire and who, upon retirement, will relinquish that status and the honorific that accompanies it to VADM Terry Blake. This e-mail is my first “Old Salt-gram” to you, the leaders of our community, and it will be my only one.
Having had the great privilege of serving as a SWO for many years in a wide array of duties, the last 12 years as a Flag officer, I’ve watched our community grow and develop in both capability and professionalism across the wide array of mission sets for which we are responsible. And while there is certainly a great deal that is very positive for us to focus on, from the quality and performance of our ships to the quality and performance of our Sailors, there is a significant issue I want to discuss with you because of the painful lessons-learned we’ve accumulated over the years and the potential implications for the surface force if we don’t take those lessons-learned to heart.
More than a decade ago, Navy leaders decided to abandon historic standards for ship-manning levels and for shipboard maintenance, supposedly to make the Navy more “business-like” and “efficient” and to make more money available to buy a new generation of ships and weapons.
But the result instead was a sharp drop in the material readiness of the surface ships and a continued decline in fleet size, which forced the leadership to work the remaining operational ships and their smaller crews harder, thus aggravating the problems.
With congressional committees, Navy inspectors and a high-level outside panel issuing increasingly shrill alarms, the leadership finally is acting to correct those mistakes.
A sailor removes deteriorated paint and rust with a disc sander on a weather deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan on Sept. 6, 2012. U.S. Navy Photo
This week, as he prepares to retire and turn over Fleet Forces Command on Friday, Adm. John C. Harvey has fired off a lengthy message to the surface warfare community and its supporting organizations warning that “the cumulative impact of individual decisions made over long periods of time had put the future readiness of our surface force at risk.”
And he charged those who will remain on watch to adhere to the old proven standards and procedures to restore the surface fleet to its historic state of combat readiness.
It was a strong message from Harvey, who had remained surprisingly quiet about the growing readiness crisis earlier in his tour at FFC.