The Navy’s surface ship, submarine and aircraft carrier maintenance planning activities will host a summit next month to look for lessons learned in one community that could help the others improve on-time delivery of ships in yard maintenance.
Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Tom Moore said last week at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference that about a third of the fleet is in maintenance at public or private shipyards on any given day and that returning them to the fleet on time is critically important. And yet maintenance availabilities continue to drag on for weeks or months longer than expected, due in part to shipyard workforce shortfalls and a lack of understanding of the full scope of work before the ship enters the yard.
“We have failed consistently over the last 10 years to …, to articulate what that (work) requirement is, so that OPNAV [the chief of naval operation’s staff] can get the funding right,” he said during a maintenance panel discussion.
“We have consistently been on the order of $600 to $700 million a year short in maintenance, and if you’re $600 to $700 million short in maintenance every year, you’re always going to have challenges. So there’s a concerted effort underway, my staff and the fleet staffs and the naval shipyards, to try to get our arms around a better understanding of what the true maintenance requirement is at the time of the availability so we can better align those budgets.”
Once everyone has a correct understanding of that year’s maintenance needs, the OPNAV staff can either fully fund the work or have an informed discussion about how much they can afford, Moore said.
To address this issue, Rear Admiral Moises DelToro, NAVSEA deputy commander for undersea warfare (SEA 07) and commander of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, said in the panel that a “planning summit” would be held during the second week of February to bring together the planning activities, regional maintenance centers, NAVSEA maintenance organizations and OPNAV staffs to figure out how to reduce lost operational days due to maintenance availability overruns.
A primary goal of the summit “is to determine the root causes of that requirement mismatch, so we’re going to look at … our class maintenance plans and our technical foundation papers amongst the carrier folks, the surface folks and the submarine folks and try to figure out if there are lessons learned amongst that to see how we can get better at the planning piece of our availabilities,” DelToro said.
“And then review our processes that are required to drive those mismatches to zero, so look at our historical patterns by ship class, look at our metrics, what are the right metrics to track. … I know the planning activities talk amongst themselves, but again, the lessons learned, how we can accelerate the lessons learned from one planning activity to another to lessen the lost days of (operational availability) is also a desired outcome of this.”
DelToro added that the warfare centers had spent about $2.5 million over the last two years visiting all the shipyards and looking for innovative ways they attempt to keep ship availabilities on track and avoid lost operational days, in the hopes that those ideas could be applied to other yards around the country. NAVSEA’s Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations (SEA 04) is currently continuing that idea solicitation and implementation effort through a shipyard innovation fund, he added.