Division officers will serve a combined 48 months at sea. This new career path affords approximately 38 percent more sea time for these junior officers.
Department head and command-level training will continue with revised assessments and defined go/no-go criteria. Similar to division officer tours, department heads will serve a single longer 36-month tour or complete two 18-month tours. The length of time between department head and executive officer will be shortened as the force evaluates the XO and CO progression. But one thing will not change - forceful emphasis on the principles at the heart of command: authority, responsibility, accountability, and expertise.
To build officers immediately ready to stand watch, we will augment the nine-week Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) with a rigorous six-week Officer of the Deck (OOD) bridge watch standing course. A second, three-week OOD course will be attended prior to commencing the Advanced Division Officer Course (ADOC). Taken together, this new training model will increase formal schoolhouse instruction for division officers from 14 weeks to 23 weeks. Relevant improvements to the course curricula are also being implemented to better prepare junior officers for the challenges they will face at sea. These courses are difficult — not all will pass. This cycle of training, assessment, and experience will continue throughout an officer’s career at every afloat milestone.
Second Waypoint: Unit Level Readiness
Each unit must demonstrate proficiency across a wide array of mission sets spanning from internal damage control to long-range anti-air warfare and everything in between.
To better challenge our crews for complex environments, we are creating maritime skills training centers (MSTCs) in Norfolk and San Diego. New watchbill instructions will offer adequate periods for rest. Administrative tasks that do not directly contribute to combat readiness will be reduced. And navigation check-rides presided over by immediate supervisors in command (ISIC) will evaluate the proficiency of the ships and crews to safely navigate in a range of scenarios.
Unit readiness necessitates a disciplined process for shipboard training drills, special evolutions, and real-world events to absorb lessons and apply best practices. The Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center (SMWDC) and the creation of warfare tactics instructors (WTI) have been instrumental in emphasizing the role of doctrine, championing data-driven analytic training approaches, and inculcating a warfighting mentality within our wardrooms and combat information centers.
Finally, unit readiness is a function of the systems and the crew’s proficiency to operate them. Consequently, we released a comprehensive Fleet advisory on safe operation of all variants of steering systems; completed a survey of all ships with integrated bridge systems for feedback and lessons learned; established standards for use of the Automatic Identification System when transiting high traffic areas; and evaluated existing “redline” policies with respect to navigation, radar, steering, and propulsion.
Third Waypoint: Fleet Level Employment
As the Surface TYCOMs produce and deliver properly manned, trained and equipped ships, the two numbered fleet commanders produce carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups and independent deployers through intermediate and advanced training. SMWDC is now two years into conducting surface warfare advanced tactical training (SWATT). Following certification, units can be employed within the scope of their training and skill sets to increase our competitive advantage. For FDNF-J, 7th Fleet is developing similar intermediate and advanced training exercises.
Command and control
Additionally, we are bolstering the readiness of our rotational and forward-deployment ships by more closely assessing actual readiness across the fleet; adjusting overseas presence based on future overseas homeporting and strategic laydown plans; evaluating all current operational requirements in the Western Pacific; developing a force generation model for ships based in Japan addressing operational requirements while preserving maintenance, training, and certification windows; and restoring the 7th Fleet’s deliberate scheduling process.
The strategic environment in which we sail is fast-paced, increasingly complex, and oftentimes uncertain. Make no mistake: the competition is on for maritime superiority.
We must build teams with the requisite training, skills, and equipment to be effectively employed to fight and win any battle, against any challenge. The surface type commanders own this and are underway at flank speed.