Since the establishment of the Readiness Reform and Oversight Council (RROC), the Navy made significant progress in its reform efforts to deliver a more ready and more capable Surface Force. With the support of Congress, the Navy invested in meaningful Surface Force reform, and remains committed to doing everything necessary to create a culture of excellence. The Fiscal Year 2020 budget reflects that commitment by allocating $345.8M for readiness reform efforts, with a total $1.1B projected across Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) for RROC initiatives.
Here, we explain some of the investments in the FY20 budget that will make our fleet safer and more effective, categorized into four functional areas:
The FY20 budget request includes $14.9M for readiness efforts that impact personnel issues. In order to maximize shipboard experience, the Navy examined changes to the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) career path, Division Officer (DO), and Department Head (DH) billet bases and tour lengths. These new billets will facilitate the addition of a Plans and Tactics Officer (PTO) aboard more ship classes, and will increase the opportunities for single, longer tour assignments in which first-tour Department Heads can “Fleet-up” to second-tour Department Head positions aboard the same ship. This change not only maximizes at-sea experience for the DH, but also positively influences the safety and operational competence of the ship through leadership continuity.
The FY20 budget also allocates funds for Human Performance Expertise on Type Commander (TYCOM) staffs. These experts, with extensive backgrounds in psychology and organizational management, advise TYCOM leadership and implement safety and training process improvements while also assessing human-centric requirements for proposed equipment acquisition projects aboard surface ships.
The FY20 budget request also enhances Fleet services by funding additional Embedded Mental Health (EMH) provider billets within each Fleet Concentration Area (FCA). This initiative will increase the timeliness of care provided to our Sailors, thereby improving the readiness of afloat units Navy-wide.
The $39.1M allocated for operational efforts in the FY20 budget funds the reestablishment of Second Fleet, as well as the procurement and installation of an additional Automatic Identification System (AIS) laptop for all surface ships.
The reestablishment of Second Fleet will optimize force generation and force employment processes, helping to balance operational requirements among the numbered fleets in a time of increasing great power competition. Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis assumed command as Commander, U.S. Second Fleet in August 2018, and Second Fleet will reach initial operating capability this summer.
To promote safe and effective Naval operations across the fleet, all surface ships will receive an additional AIS laptop, which will also include the latest Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). This additional navigational tool will give our watchstanders the latest navigation technology to accurately monitor underway ship positions and movements. Pending successful testing, distribution of the AIS laptops will begin in May 2019.
A total of $81.5M is included in the FY20 budget for surface ship modernization and upgrades. The Navy will continue its effort to install Next Generation Surface Search RADAR (NGSSR) across the Fleet. The NGSSR will ultimately replace the Navy’s current radar systems, and will help Sailors safely navigate when transiting through congested waters. Additionally, the Navy continues to procure more Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) radars for ships in order to ensure our Sailors have the most up-to-date and effective radar systems, thereby enhancing navigational equipment redundancy. Fleet delivery and installation commenced in April 2019.
Of the $210.3M allocated for readiness training initiatives in the FY20 budget, a significant portion is for the Mariner Skills Training Program (MSTP). This program is designed to enhance overall mariner skills training for our Sailors and Junior Officers. It includes standing up an initial four-week Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) course in the spring of 2019 in San Diego, Norfolk and Newport, as well as the establishment of facilities in various Fleet Concentration Areas for the new Integrated-Navigation Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainers (I-NSSTs). These trainers will be invaluable tools to better train our watchteams on shiphandling and navigation, especially since the I-NSSTs will integrate multiple watch stations and command centers with the ship’s bridge – such as the Combat Information Center (CIC), bearing-takers, and lookouts. The Mariner Skills Training Program also includes curriculum development and instructors for comprehensive individual, team, and unit-level training to include: a new six-week Officer of the Deck (OOD) Phase One and a three-week OOD Phase Two course; expanding the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC); and the fielding of a number of stand-alone Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) certified mariner skills courses.
The largest and most important component of MSTP is the design and construction of Mariner Skills Training Centers (MSTCs) in Norfolk and San Diego. These centers will consolidate critical navigation, shiphandling and leadership training efforts for our Sailors into one location.
Each facility will house 30 COVE III / NSST-2 simulators for individual training during the Surface Warfare Officer School courses, as well as a number of I-NSSTs to support both individual, team and unit training. MSTCs will also provide a wide variety of instructional courses, including the OOD courses; Radar Observer, Automated Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) and ECDIS-N radar training; and Bridge Resources Management (BRM) mentoring workshops.
The Way Ahead
Every recommendation stemming from the RROC process is designed to give our Sailors and ships the resources they need for safe and effective operations in order to build a culture of excellence. We’ve made progress on many of the RROC recommendations, but there is certainly more hard work ahead. We recognize that we must remain dedicated and vigilant in pursuit of meaningful and enduring Surface Force reforms. With Congress’ continued support, we will fund and execute every effort that keeps our number one asset – our Sailors – safe as they defend our country in a competitive and dangerous world.
Our progressive blog, Special Report: Surface Force Readiness Reforms, highlights the developments made to have a safer and more combat-effective Navy.