Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific (CNSP), hosted the annual Surface Team One (ST1) Maintenance and Modernization Summit, Oct. 23 and 24. The two-day event, which brought together senior Navy and Marine Corps officers, government civilians, and representatives from industry, sought to address the challenges of ship repair, modernization, and material readiness, and to develop solutions aimed at delivering more materially ready, and therefore more lethal, warships.
Joined by Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Vice Adm. Tom Moore, Vice Adm. Rich Brown, CNSP, and the ST1 members reviewed in detail all aspects of surface ship maintenance and repair, including port-loading concerns, contracting options, modernization challenges, data analysis techniques, and alternative maintenance strategies, such as condition-based maintenance. NAVSEA led efforts to streamline existing maintenance and repair processes—its heralded Private Sector Optimization and Private Sector Improvement initiatives—were discussed in depth.
“We had the right dialogue with the right people in the room,” said Moore. “SECNAV signs his emails with “Urgently,” and there has to be a sense of urgency to get things in the ‘done’ pile and move forward.”
The principal goal of the summit was to identify ways to eliminate the barriers that stand in the way of delivering mission-ready ships out of maintenance on time to meet Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) requirements.
“There’s no question that there’s a lot of good work getting done,” said Brown, “but we’ve got to get better.” “We’ve got to move beyond simply meeting the minimum standard. We need to move from a culture of compliance to a culture of excellence.”
Among the discussion items on the agenda, ST1 members considered ways to improve maintenance planning and execution, such as how to improve on time delivery rates for required long lead time repair material, how to increase the speed of decision making to improve maintenance availability contract change times, and how to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. The group also addressed ways to develop and retain the skilled private industry workforce needed to perform complex repairs on Navy ships.
During the second day of the summit, industry executives discussed a range of solutions to the maintenance and repair challenges they encounter daily, bringing to the attention of the attendees the specific challenges they encounter while repairing navy ships.
Industry executives highlighted the need for the Navy to provide a stable and predictable workload, where possible. The more stable and predictable the workload requirement, the easier it is for industry to right- size their workforce and ensure workers with the proper skill sets are in place. Predictability also enables industry to better manage the sequencing of repairs and to more accurately forecast future yard capacity needs. A better understanding of out-year requirements also encourages industry to invest in their businesses to meet anticipated demand.
Commercial shipyard representatives also spoke to the impacts of irregular and untimely funding on their ability to deliver the product the navy needs. Still, industry leaders were largely appreciative of the navy’s willingness to engage with them to develop mutually beneficial solutions to maintenance challenges.
“We are seeing a lot of cooperation between our team and the government team on a daily basis,” said Richard McCreary from Vigor Industrial LLC. “I really and truly applaud you all. I see more change happening faster with regard to establishing Navy requirements than we have seen in a long time.”
At the conclusion of the ST1 Summit, Brown stressed the importance of building on the momentum generated during the preceding two days.
“Summits are only as good as the follow through,” said Brown. “We've identified a number of near and longer term actions to improve how we do business. We need to get after the near term fixes ASAP, and make steady progress on the longer term issues. I do not want to convene again next year and discuss the same issues without also discussing the headway we've made addressing them.”
ST1 members adjourned energized and optimistic, with a renewed sense of purpose and a mandate to improve fleet maintenance creatively and expeditiously.