The Navy has admitted they made a mistake by attempting to minimize the manning of their ships using a concept called “Optimal Manning.” As unfortunate as the mistake may have been–and it has resulted in a lot of pain and may have weakened the service for years to come–poor morale and broken ships–at least now it has been acknowledged. There has been some soul searching about how the mistake was made. The general consensus seems to be that a new generation of leaders was absolutely positive they have evolved to be smarter than those that went before, and since their solution is so obviously superior, there is no need to test it on a small scale be for applying it service wide.
Has the Coast Guard made a similar mistake in attempting to replace twelfve 378s with only eight National Security Cutters, based on an untried concept called “Crew Rotation Concept (CRC)?” Unlike the Navy’s mistake, if we have made a mistake in adopting this concept, it cannot be quickly reversed by moving billets ashore back afloat.
Its not clear when the CRC concept originated. An official decision was made to adopt it in 2006. I suspect it goes back much further and was part of the decision process that will give us 33 ships to replace 41.
From the Acquisition Directorate Web site, “Initially, the Coast Guard will employ four crews for three NSCs at a single homeport, rotating the cutters among the crews to limit crew PERSTEMPO to 185 days while maintaining each cutter’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) at 230 days. The three-cutter, four-crew prototype will be evaluated in 2009 through an operational testing-and-evaluation process. Policy and procedures for CRC are based on the lessons learned by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, as well as consideration of the recommendations made by auditors from the Government Accountability Office.”
Note the concept was supposed to have been tried in 2009. I know they put a crew from a 210 in “Mission Effectiveness Program” on another 210 for a patrol, but I’m not sure that constitutes an adequate test. If this was such a good idea, in view of the ship day shortage, I would have thought that we would provided four crews to three 270s and tried it out some time in the last several years.
As I noted earlier (“Multiple Crewing of National Secuity Cutters”), this concept, even if it works as planned, provides only the equivalent of ten ships with conventional crews, not twelve. Eight ships don’t really fit the four crews for three ships concept. Manpower costs per ship day actually goes up. Maintenance costs/per op-day are also likely to go up since there will be less time for the crew to do maintenance work.
If we are going to back away from this decision, now may be the most appropriate time. Our earlier decision was, as noted in the quote, appears to have been based on information from the Navy that has now been discredited.
The Navy may not be ready to admit that multiple crewing will not work, because they are still planning on doing it for the LCS. Another concept has also not yet been tested, even as the ships themselves seemed to designed to preclude going back to conventional manning. They aren’t ready to acknowledge that mistake yet.
As discussed elsewhere (“Rethinking the New Cutter Programs“) I am now more convinced than ever, that we cannot continue to build only one major cutter a year. We need to truncate the NSC program at five or at the most six, replacing them in the budget with an accelerated OPC program, building them as quickly as we can afford. If as the OPC program is winding down, we find we need more larger ships, rather than just a few more OPCs, we can build them at that time, benefiting from the experience of having operated both the NSCs and the OPCs