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Document: GAO Report on Navy Optimal Manning Practices

The following is the May 18, 2017 GAO Report, NAVY FORCE STRUCTURE: Actions Needed to Ensure Proper Size and Composition of Ship Crews

From the report:
What GAO Found
Total ship operating and support costs—which include personnel and
maintenance costs—and maintenance backlogs increased during the optimal
manning period (2003–2012) and have continued to increase for most ship
classes since the initiative ended. Since the implementation of optimal manning,
the Navy reduced crew sizes, which decreased the associated personnel costs
for most ship classes, even as crews were partially restored. However, increased
maintenance costs offset the reductions in personnel costs, as shown below.
Navy officials attributed maintenance cost increases to reduced crews, longer
deployments, and other factors. GAO’s analysis did not isolate the relative
effects of reduced crews from these other factors. Maintenance backlogs also
increased during the optimal manning period and have continued to grow.

The Navy’s process to determine manpower requirements—the number and skill
mix of sailors needed for its ships—does not fully account for all ship workload.
The Navy continues to use an outdated standard workweek that may overstate
the amount of sailor time available for productive work. Although the Navy has
updated some of its manpower factors, its instruction does not require
reassessing factors to ensure they remain valid or require measuring workload
while ships are in port. Current and analytically based manpower requirements
are essential to ensuring that crews can maintain readiness and prevent
overwork that can affect safety, morale, and retention. Until the Navy makes
needed changes to its factors and instruction used in determining manpower
requirements, its ships may not have the right number and skill mix of sailors to
maintain readiness and prevent overworking its sailors.

Moving forward, the Navy will likely face manning challenges as it seeks to
increase the size of its fleet. The fleet is projected to grow from its current 274
ships to as many as 355 ships, but the Navy has not determined how many
personnel will need to be added to man those ships. In addition, as the Navy has
gained experience operating its new ship classes, their crew sizes have grown
and may continue to do so. Without updating its manpower factors and
requirements and identifying the personnel cost implications of fleet size
increases, the Navy cannot articulate its resource needs to decision makers.

  • Ed L

    History repeats itself. Back in the late 70’s The manning levels on the Oiler I served on was about 60 percent of full manning. One thing we did in Deck Force was pay more attention to maintenance than simple things like painting. we had six men dedicated to paint deck department areas including the sides of the ship. Many times we would end up combining weekly PMS in with Monthly and Quarterly work. But that did not help when it came to running the UNREP rigs. 3rd Class Petty Officers or a complement Seaman being Rig Captain’s running a refueling rig. Using Radiomen as phone talkers and MM’s or EN’s running the winches. Talk about cross training on our AOE, Our Boat Coxswains and others in deck force qualified as Small Boat Engineers. I even had a couple of great snipes as boat coxswains. At times the lines between departments was so blurred it was hard to remember who belong to who. Sadly we had to throw people out for using drugs, booze or being racist.

    • M Yates

      Ditto on a Knox class. It seems to me that institutional knowledge is lost more often than it should be. I know there are or should be people that are aware that these minimum manning studies have been done and tried before. I just don’t get the senior leadership that thinks just because it didn’t work before they think (maybe?) they can make it work. Quit wasting money on this stuff and make the manning studies document what actually is done and needs to be done and man to the correct level!

      • Ed L

        As an LPO in Deck Department, I always hated going into shipyard. would lose anyone that had more than a year left. Transfer off. Going through a shipyard at 50 men divided between two deck division and weapons, and looking at the Watch Quarter Station bill seeing 20 or more empty spots was frustrating. On one ship LPD we were getting ready to move to Craning Island for fuel up. I had 18 men (6 new) for the forcastle and provide at least 4 for the bridge and lookouts. 2nd division had 17 men (7 or 8 new). So The Weapons division helped out on the accommodation ladder. Thank God there was no win that day and the Captain laid on extra tugs Training one or two new men on line handling was one thing. We were lucky that we had 3 Chiefs Two 1st class and 6 experience 2nd and 3rd’s Amazing I can remember details like that. The Navy finally gave us a couple of dozen more seaman and 2 more PO’s I was going through a box of old photos and found quite a few from that time. I can never remember deploying with full manning. Always had 5 or 6 open positions at best . These studies always talk about rated positions but rarely have I ever seen reference to filling unrated positions Being on a Austin Class LPD I think our manning was around 400 but we rarely made it to 380. The LPD-17 is listed as a crew of 480 or so? I bet they never had a full count.

  • Lazarus

    You can never win with GAO. If the Navy increases crew size, then GAO will say that it is wasteful and that the Navy can do the same job with less people. When crew size is reduced, GAO says that crew size is too small. The are an office that always says “no,” and in that regard are not helpful.

    Lots has changed since the early 2000’s. Personnel costs have grown, lots of maintenance has been deferred, and deployments and commitments have grown. Those factors alone may have contributed to the Lion’s share of the cost increase.


    Yes, all good points. Three things immediately come to mind. Not sure, even from reading the GAO document what they mean by the Navy using “outdated standard work week”. Two, peacetime crew complements are only part of a full wartime complement (saw this first hand in Desert Storm where my division onboard an AGF doubled in personnel when the associated reservists reported onboard). Three, the whole concept of crew optimization is flawed. One can’t crew a ship based on ‘bean
    counting’ and, by the way, the new policy of moving crews ashore whilst not a sea doesn’t help. My first ship was a CGN and I lived (as did most of the unmarried crew) onboard where my berthing space was on the 2nd deck forward, but the air vent controllers were aft and two deck down in SD-2
    berthing . You can’t really know your ship unless you live aboard. The point is,is that part of the reason maintenance costs have gone up is that crews no longer (in my humble opinion) have an intimate knowledge of their ships and their ship systems. Yet, now E3s have ESWS pins. The optimization of crew also doesn’t take into account a realistic in port (as many as three watches a day) and at sea watch standing requirements (port and starboard, of course), while still completing routine painting and preservation requirements, etc. The thoughts today seem to be ‘let the shipyard or the relief crew, handle it’. I recently read about the new LCS breaking down too much and requiring supplemental watch standers because of under manning. Seems a perfect example of crew optimization at work.

  • Ed L

    Up and out must go. Keep those Officers that are great ship handlers but can’t get permoted. Same with aviators that don’t fly fighters or attack jets.