Home » Education Legislation » Two Fleets or One? HASC Settles on Single Readiness Generator After Lengthy Debate


Two Fleets or One? HASC Settles on Single Readiness Generator After Lengthy Debate

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Stethem (DDG 63) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) undergo routine maintenance at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka on June 16, 2017. Stethem is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. US Navy photo.

The House Armed Services Committee debated how to balance ensuring that all forces throughout the Navy are equally ready for battle when they deploy versus ensuring the U.S. Pacific Fleet is nimble enough to respond to whatever military crisis or natural disaster may arise – with the majority of lawmakers ultimately deciding they wanted the Navy to enforce a single standard of readiness.

U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces Command today operate largely as separate entities, training and certifying the West Coast and East Coast fleets independently of one another and to potentially different standards.

Complicating the situation is the Forward Deployed Naval Forces Japan (FDNF-J) fleet, which permanently operates out of Yokosuka and Sasebo in Japan and has a totally different training, maintaining and operating schedule than the rest of the Navy – even compared to the U.S.-based ships in PACFLEET. With the Pacific theater requiring the Navy to provide presence missions to counter China and Russia, ballistic missile defense to counter North Korea, partnership building events spanning from Australia to India to Japan, and disaster relief in between, fleet leaders in the Pacific have adopted different force generation models to try to handle the great requests for forces – though some have accused that model of prioritizing operations over training and maintenance.

Last year, the Navy found after two fatal collisions last summer that unclear command and control, as well as the operations-focused force generation model, contributed to the environment that allowed two nonfatal surface ship mishaps and two fatal ones in the FDNF-J in a span of seven months.

The service has already taken two steps to emphasize readiness: first, it stood up the U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment Naval Surface Group Western Pacific “to oversee the training and certification of surface ships forward deployed to Japan,” to counterbalance the emphasis on operations for the ships forward-deployed in the high-stakes region. And second, this month the Navy reestablished U.S. 2nd Fleet to “exercise training and operational authorities over assigned ships, aircraft, and landing forces in conducting maritime, joint and combined operations” from the East Coast, as a comparable organization to U.S. 3rd Fleet on the West Coast.

However, neither action answered the fundamental question that many grappled with: to achieve optimal readiness, should the Navy allow its U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces to operate separately, in effect creating an East Coast and a West Coast fleet with separate training and certification standards? Or should a single authority oversee the certification of all forces operating anywhere on the globe to ensure that all forces are trained and certified in the same manner?

The House Armed Services Committee in its text of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act chose the latter: it would “require the Secretary of the Navy to designate a single commander within the Department of the Navy responsible for ensuring Navy forces are available for tasking and deployment, including those Navy forces that may be operating from a forward deployed location.” Though the bill does not mandate that the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command be the single readiness generator, it “encourages” it.

Still, two of the HASC members hail from Hawaii, the home of U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command, and argued during the markup that creating a single source of ready force generation would overlook the “uniqueness” of the Pacific area of operations.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) offered an amendment stating that ships could not be used for operational tasking until either “Commander of Surface Forces Atlantic submits to the Commander of the United States Fleet Forces Command, or the Commander of Surface Forces Pacific submits to the Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, as appropriate based on the region to which such vessel is proposed to be tasked, certification that such surface vessel is properly manned, trained, and equipped.” If the Fleet Forces or PACFLEET commander chose to override SURFLANT or SURFPAC recommendations and deploy the ship despite not being certified as ready, that commander would have to notify Congress.

Hanabusa claimed this was a good compromise – ensuring that the type commander had visibility into the surface ships’ readiness but also allowing regional experts to determine for themselves what it meant to be ready to operate in that area and balance training with operational needs.

“Both areas shall have a person who is knowledgeable in that particular area to make the designation that these surface forces are ready,” she said.
“It doesn’t allow, like it used to, that basically the PACFLEET commander could make this decision – it is the commander of the Surface Forces Atlantic or the commander of the Surface Forces Pacific. I believe this amendment is required and one that is cognizant of the fact that the Indo-Pacific Area, the problems that we’re having, including North Korea.”

However, there was strong pushback from others on the committee.

“Look at what happened in the Pacific: there was a breakdown at every level, whether it was command, whether it was decision-making,” said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee.
“There’s no reason to say we’re going to maintain two different navies. If we’re going to be serious about making sure we prevent these collisions, prevent these deaths, then we must say there should be one standard for our Navy, not two standards – why would you have a standard for the Atlantic fleet and a standard for the Pacific fleet? If things were working in the Pacific, we would not have had 17 sailors die. This is about those 17 sailors, folks, let’s not forget about that. Let’s make sure we do what’s necessary to change where we need to change. … We must make sure there’s a clear, comprehensive chain of command; clear, comprehensive decision-making that’s best for the Navy – not the Atlantic fleet, not the Pacific fleet, but for the United States Navy.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the second Hawaii congresswoman who previously expressed her concerns about the bill’s original language, said her main concern was preserving “the speed, agility, and ability for our PACOM to operate successfully within the region” and that “so far there has not been any explicit determinations that a single command to oversee man, train and equip policy would lend advantages to PACOM, increase our readiness or assist in achieving our national security objectives in the theater.”

Hanabusa later added that “unfortunately these tragedies did occur. But do we react to these tragedies by simply saying, okay, we’re going to put it in someone else’s decision making? No. We own up to the responsibility, and that is what we in the Pacific are doing. And we’re saying, we know the area best, now that we have the mandate as to how we determine readiness and availability to serve by this amendment, this amendment will take care of it.”

Still, after 23 minutes of debate, the amendment was voted down, 26 to 34.

The committee is now on record as supporting the single readiness generator model, with a preference towards Fleet Forces assuming that role. The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its own version of the NDAA the week of May 21, and if the senators reach a different conclusion about command and control of Pacific forces then the two committees would have to sort out the differences later on.

  • Duane

    Good decision by HASC though far from final which requires striking the so-called “Inouye Amendment” from the actual DOD appropriations bills.

    “Separate but equal” never turns out that way. All our sailors need to be trained to the same high standards.

    Under the existing separate but unequal standards, the theater commanders commanded, and the unit commanders were expected to salute and say “Aye Aye, sir”. And if training had to be sacrificed, and then the deficiencies papered over by claiming Pac Fleet was honoring its own special private “standard”, which was apparently no standard at all, well then so be it. So they operated, until disaster struck.

    The results of a two-standard navy were plain to see last year. The Navy leadership has been asking Congress to strike the Inouye Amendment every year it came up for a vote. And as can be seen in the HASC amendments and final vote today, the thinking behind the long dead Sen Inouye is still a diehard!

    • incredulous1

      But you know what they say about an “act of congress” Hopefully “deploy the ship despite not being certified as ready, that commander would have to notify Congress” really only means NOTIFY. If China acts upon the Senkakus and we need to respond, we must do so rapidly regardless of this oversight should there be issues with readiness.

      • D. Jones

        What kind of ship could prevail in the Littoral waters around the Senkakus?

        • incredulous1

          prevail? we may have to take the damned islands back from them. Or a destroyer may need to guard Japan Coast Guard cutters.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    Two LCSs or One? That is what I want to know. We all have a fever, and the only prescription is more Littoral Combat Ships. Perhaps another variety? Variety is the LCSpice of Life!

    • D. Jones

      There’s an old saying about the LCS: “Two is none and one is none”

      • Rocco

        Lol

      • Curtis Conway

        LCS’s provide a Target Rich Environment for adversarial ASCMs, and they are only armed with Self-Defense, when a Defense-in-Depth is required. Too close of an engagement, and too small a warhead.

        • Duane

          Not so, not at all.

          LCS have advanced sensors, both own ships volume search radars, as well as the world’s most advanced AESA synthetic apperture radars and imaging FLIRs on their multiple embarked aircraft (MH-60R and MQ-8B and/or C UAS), which such airborne sensors are required for long range detection and tracking of ASCMs and the platforms that shoot them … a capability that the 28 AB Flight 1 destroyers do not have with no embarked aircraft.

          LCS also have COMBATTS-21 combat management system (which is an AEGIS derivative), which capability no other ship but an AEGIS destroyer or cruiser has. And LCS features CANES, which only 51 ships in the world, including less than half of our ABs, have which enables full two way digital data exchange between our ships, aircraft (both manned and unmanned), satellites, and land sensors. The LCS is leading the way in NIFCCA deployment.

          Contrary to what you asserted, SeaRAM has plenty of range for own ship’s air defense at 5 nm (Block 1), and the new Block 2 SeaRAM has more than 3 times that range (16 nm), and was successfully tested at sea last year. The newer LCS are now being fitted with the larger 21-cell mounts, same as those featured on the Ford class and new Flight IIA and III ABs and amphibs.

          As to your silly assertion that the SeaRAM warhead is “too small”, it is a 24 pound blast frag warhead. That is several pounds heavier than the warhead on our venerable AIM-9X Sidewinder warhead (20.8 lb), which has been the standard short to medium range AAM for the US military for decades, used to shoot down supersonic enemy jet fighters weighing upwards of 70,000 pounds, and heavy bombers weighing up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. The typical ASCM weighs less than 2,000 pounds, and the heavies weigh in at no more than 3,000 pounds … so your saying the SeaRAM warhead that is larger than a proven Sidewinder warhead is “too small” for use against far smaller targets simply makes no sense at all.

          SeaRAM is supersonic, M2+, and is fitted with an advanced, sophisticated multi-mode (tri-mode IR and RF) seeker. It operates with its own volume search radar sensor that can see out to the horizon.

          • D. Jones

            How can the LCS “lead the way” when only one is deployed?

            Use of any capabilities requires the presence of the equipment where needed. What are the odds the single deployed LCS will be where it is needed, when it is needed?

          • Curtis Conway

            1st If the “… most advanced AESA synthetic [aperture] (sp) radars and imaging FLIRs on their multiple embarked aircraft (MH-60R and MQ-8B and/or C UAS)…” aren’t airborne at the time, you don’t get to benefit from that OTH picture. These went your tipper, and you reaction time to prepare.
            2nd I am a COMBATTS-21 convertee due to its COTS nature (particularly Blk 9+ versions) and Open Architecture approach to development. However, these are the combat system elements that support/perform the C&D, and data fusion of other sensors and systems. It’s pretty much a ‘pick & choose’ for which elements you need to support, and the upgrades that will follow. However, this combat system is ONLY on LCS-1 Freedom Class. It will also be on the new FFG(X).
            3rd Once again, if your awesome airborne sensors aren’t AIRBORNE, then NIFC-CA is pretty much moot because you don’t have the OTH data to share to a shooter, and you have no weapons to donate. I hope this changes in the future (FFG(X)?), and that change should happen on the Amphibs too.
            4th Like the SeaRAM, particularly the Blk 2, but until that range crosses the 20nm mark, you don’t get a check in my box, and that range still does not solve the warhead deficiency problem. Hitting an airframe under the stresses of ACM is one thing. Taking on an armored warhead of the old Soviet style (which the Russians still use) is something else entirely, and NO ! . . 24lbs of blast fragmentation warhead ‘does not impress me’. The warhead on the ESSM is the MINIMUM size I would rely on for this engagement.

  • Naval Planner

    One can only hope that a future CNO will not be as comfortable with HASC discussing and making decisions that are ultimately CNO’s to make.

    I guess if someone is worried about job security, a good course of action could be to just allow yourself to be rolled over.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a future CNO that would either:

    a) take full ownership and resign if appropriate

    and/or

    b) tell Congress to pack sand and lead the Navy similar to E.J. King

    • Rocco

      Kudos!!

    • Curtis Conway

      With All Due Respect . . . when I look for recommendations as to what to do with Surface Combatants at Sea, I will be looking for a SWO pin, NOT Dolphins. SWO pins do not think of surface vessels as targets, except from a defensive perspective. As for ‘Standards’, those Dolphins DO understand that. Thousands of pounds of pressure on your hull (Atlantic, Pacific, IO, etc.) is pressure on the hull, and Standards will be adhered to, or you will lose the boat.

      Second Fleet should develop, establish, train and qualify the Surface Warfare Watch Standards for Bridge Operations . . . PERIOD . . . NO EXCEPTIONS FOR THE PACIFIC!!!

    • Duane

      Sorry … Congress writes law, military members are required to defend the Constitution which decrees that Congress alone enacts law.

      We won’t tolerate law breaking officers. What we need are better Congressmen who decline to meddle in affairs that senior uniformed leaders are competent to manage.

  • Ed L

    Makes me wonder if the navy still uses the PQS manuals for lookout, Helm and lee helm, BMOW, QMOW, After steering, Surface search radar operator, ESWS, etc. we used them for years when I was in the fleet in the 70,s 80’s. They were good. As LPO or Training PO I would review the men’s books weekly and record their progress just in case they would lose their books. I wonder if the LPO’s still are envolve in the junior training or was that given to junior officers. I would like to see the return of the Atlantic Fleet with 2nd Fleet being a 2nd hat with a 3rd hat as NATO western Atlantic commander for the Atlantic Fleet Commander

    • Curtis Conway

      No lookouts, and no Signalman anymore . . . no one outside to even LOOK to see if something was out there . . . IN CONGESTED WATERS! Deck Force Lookout Training and watch standing needs to come back.

      • Ed L

        Don’t forget setting the Navigation Detail. We used it in the English Channel, while transit through various straits, etc

  • Curtis Conway

    “Still, two of the HASC members hail from Hawaii, the home of U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command, and argued during the markup that creating a single source of ready force generation would overlook the “uniqueness” of the Pacific area of operations.”

    This has been a Red Herring Argument since the day it was hatched by PACFLT Sailors, and championed by Senator Daniel Ken “Dan” Inouye from Hawaii. Senator Inouye was a Ground Pounder from the 442nd Infantry Regiment, US Army, not a sailor. Conducting ships operations at sea is the same regardless of the seas in which you steam, some are just a bit larger than others. However, that does not change fundamental watch standing responsibilities that have been tried and true for centuries, and in some cases millenia. Until a multi-spectral Passive EO/IR combat system is fielded that is drop dead reliable and simply will not break, we will need ‘eyes on target’ hopefully looking through 20-by-50s for the forseable future. I look forward to 2nd FLT standing up the SWO/Bridge Watch Standing Training using our new Integrated Bridge Systems, and getting back to basic watchstations that keep people form being killed because they didn’t SEE IT COMING!

    A radar target is exactly that, a target with position, course, speed. The color of lights observed, and its Target Angle is not in that list. Identification of the size and kind of ship is not in that list. The fact that the target is attempting to communicate using dayshapes, signal lights, flares or smoke rockets is not in that list. Lookouts and Signalman existed for a reason. Bring back the Signal Bridge and regain that very valuable tool. The new SM Rating can be the experts on new visual (Passive) communications technology, along with the signal flags and day shapes. Every Signalman knew and understood most of the OODs responsibilities and gave them a heads up, and collated/coordinated with the Combat Information Center, if they were worth their salt, and doing their job.

    It would seem those who have changed My US Navy HAVE changed it into a more deadly organization, and unfortunately they are killing the wrong people.

  • Curtis Conway

    It will be hard to call the new training a Standard if more than one interpretation is permitted to exist. Single Training Command is the only way to go. Regional differences are exactly that, and every region has them, but operating a Combat Vessel at Sea is the same thing everywhere. The previous path enabled a degredation of Good Order and Discipline. Let us not go down that path again for it has cost us our MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD. Anyone who suggest otherwise, and has NO SHIPBOARD TIME at sea in Conflict on a US Navy Surface Combatant need not express an opinion, for it is unqualified.

    • Old Coasty

      How about some one who has served in conflict on a US Coast Guard Surface Combatant?

      • Curtis Conway

        Absolutely!

      • Curtis Conway

        I find it amazing that the greatest offender of the Standards that have caused the largest and most egregious transgressions (deaths and accidents) is the very organization (PAC & C7F) looking for exceptions, for they have Practically DEMONSTRATED that they can not be trusted with said exceptions. No . . . a single Training/Qualification Standard and schoolhouse/command to place it in effect is the path, for when it previously existed we had much fewer accidents, and far more successes. The system wasn’t broke before and it was changed to Save Money and what did we get? Return to the winning combination, and bring back REFTRA, for COMPTUEX may serve the Battle Group, but Individual & Unit Qualifications are LACKING! The US Coast Guard investigations have proven it.

  • David C

    How did it ever come to this? In Naval Aviation there is no such thing as a West Coast NATOPS and an East Coast NATOPS! One more reason to look at what the CNO has been doing all these years. These lapses in leadership go way beyond anyone standing watch.

    The investigation should be directed top-down.

    • Duane

      Congress did this, against the strong objections of several successive CNOs. It’s the law, called the Inouye Amendment, that has been included in every defense appropriations bill since 2009.