By Adm. Bill Moran
Vice Chief of Naval Operations
I recently completed an energizing trip to Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) in Newport, Rhode Island, to get a first-hand look at how Surface Warriors are taught and gain important insights into what instructors and students feel are important to the future of the Surface Force.
As co-chair of the Oversight Board responsible for implementing recommendations from the Strategic Readiness Review and Comprehensive Review (SRR/CR), our team is organized to trace what has already been done to ensure near-term safe and effective operations at sea and to the longer-term institutional measures necessary for lasting improvement in today’s Surface Force.
Addressing issues as important as those reported by the SRR/CR with an oversight board is not necessarily new. However, the scope of the tragedies and the obligation we all have to our lost shipmates demands our full attention as senior leaders in order for the fleet to maintain its warfighting edge. A key assumption of our team is that we don’t have all the answers; if we go it alone, we will fail. Success will require input and two-way dialogue with the fleet, especially with our commanding officers in the fleet.
To that end, a trip to SWOS seemed necessary and appropriate. Spending time with instructors and prospective COs and XOs attending the Surface Commanders Course was my primary priority for the visit. Much has been written lately about what SWO leaders are thinking and feeling – hearing directly from them was an important first step.
A dialogue and rapport that promotes sharing of ideas and feedback is vital to not only implementing the suggestions from the two reviews, but importantly, to building a culture that addresses problems before they become crises. It is also imperative to let those whom we have selected to lead know we have their backs and are listening.
At SWOS, it was immediately clear that leaders there were all in. They showed a passion for learning, were chomping at the bit to get out into the fleet and had given real thought to how we should continue to improve Surface Warfare. They wanted more reps and sets – preferably underway – but they all valued modern simulators and scenarios that practice their decision-making under stress. They also saw great value in more tailored courses throughout the SWO pipeline, and more one-on-one training to build self-confidence at sea. They were ready, and we owe them the tools, resources and processes to do so.
Some elements of this process have begun. Specific recommendations from the two reviews last fall are already underway. Examples include ensuring that no Forward Deployed Naval Force Japan ships are operating without certification for their assigned missions; completing an evaluation of naval requirements in the Western Pacific to prioritize operations in theater; and establishing a comprehensive fatigue and endurance management policy to guide command teams to make balanced risk decisions.
Additional near-term recommendations being evaluated by our new SWO Boss, Vice Adm. Brown, include: improving the SWO career path with emphasis on experience at sea; revamping the standards for shipboard qualifications; and reviewing all inspection and certification requirements with the goal of buying time back for commanding officers.
Make no mistake, this is my top priority, and there is plenty of work in front of us and more feedback to collect. The Oversight Board is not intended to be another administrative burden. The SRR/CR recommendations are solid, and it is our work to remain locked at the hip with the fleet and Vice Adm. Brown to do everything within our power to make sure that these changes are meaningful and enduring.
Success requires listening to your feedback and incorporating what makes sense. Implementing change in a vacuum will lead to failure.
Thank you for your patience, your professionalism and your steadfast devotion in standing the watch. See you in the fleet.