FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018

Fired Seventh Fleet Admiral Speaks Out On Fitzgerald and John S. McCain

Navy Times is reporting the former head of the Japan-based 7th Fleet who was fired in the wake of two fatal destroyer collisions in the west Pacific last summer is for the first time offering his take on what led to the disasters, while at times questioning Big Navy’s account of what transpired.  Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was fired as 7th Fleet commander on Aug. 23, just a few days after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore, an incident that killed 10 crew members.  A few months before that, seven other sailors died aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck by a merchant vessel off Japan in June.  Since then, Navy leadership has decried a lack of readiness, maintenance and training among ships based out of Japan, and across the surface fleet in general.  Writing in the Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” magazine this month, Aucoin takes issue with how Navy leadership characterized the shortcomings in a comprehensive review and strategic readiness review done in the wake of the disasters.  “The Comprehensive Review (CR), Strategic Review (SR), and some media reporting could lead one to the impression my staff and I were oblivious to or unconcerned about the manning, training, and maintenance deficiencies affecting my ships and their ability to carry out their assigned missions,” Aucoin writes. “That was not the case.”  Instead, Aucoin alleges that his bosses at U.S. Pacific Fleet knew about the negative impacts that increased 7th Fleet operational tempo was having on training and maintenance “well prior” to the collisions.  “Despite these explicitly stated concerns, the direction we received was to execute the mission,” he writes.  Aucoin also questioned the narrative that the surface fleet’s shortcomings were limited to Japan.  A San Diego-based cruiser, Lake Champlain, was involved in a daytime collision with a Korean vessel last spring, he writes, suggesting a problem that was not limited to 7th Fleet.  Japan-based ships began getting the short end of the stick in 2014, when manning levels for those warships fell because of Navy policies that prioritized stateside ships, according to Aucoin.  He writes that his staff convened a Forward-Deployed Naval Force manning summit in June, and he takes issue with this effort not being mentioned in the comprehensive review, which was overseen by Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson.  “While it is said that the (comprehensive review) focused primarily on training and readiness, it did not address manpower issues nearly enough,” Aucoin writes. “I do not know how one can exclude manpower in a discussion on readiness in a high-operational tempo (OpTempo) environment.” Aucoin also writes that the realities of west Pacific command and control were neglected in the reviews.  Afloat Training Group West Pacific, responsible for training and certification of Japan-based ships, reported to Naval Surface Force Pacific and not 7th Fleet, he writes.  The “Third Fleet Forward” initiative, which sends stateside ships to 7th Fleet waters to relieve the pressure on 7th Fleet ships, came to entail those stateside ships operating outside 7th Fleet’s command and taking on missions that didn’t ease the workload of 7th Fleet cruisers or destroyers, according to Aucoin.  Aucoin also wonders why he was not interviewed for the comprehensive review.  “How comprehensive is the CR when neither Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), nor I, as the numbered fleet commander, was interviewed or asked for inputs?” he writes. “For the sake of our Navy, a transparent examination of the problem should include a full understanding of the challenges with which we were faced.” Naval operations “expanded dramatically” in the Indo-Asia Pacific since 2015, Aucoin writes, and demands from Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command increased, and readiness declined as a result.  “This was known both to commanders in FDNF and across the Navy,” Aucoin writes. “Through 2016 and early 2017, my staff produced detailed data quantifying the increase in (cruiser and destroyer) operational tasking and demonstrating the consequent decline in executed maintenance and training, which I sent directly to (Pacific Fleet).”  Pacific Fleet agreed that 7th Fleet’s maintenance and training were in trouble, he writes, “yet (7th Fleet) received no substantive relief from tasking or additional resources.”  Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charles Brown said several investigations into what led up the collisions had been undertaken inside and outside the Navy.  “We do not have anything to add to these numerous reviews and investigations,” he said in an email.  Aucoin writes that his command worked to stay focused on executing operations safely and pushing back when they could not fulfill a request from higher up.  “In a few cases, we were able to argue for changes that allowed ships to complete training or maintenance,” he writes. “In many other cases, our arguments and recommendations were either overruled or ignored.”  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has said repeatedly since the collisions that commanders need to be able to say no to requests from higher up when their ships are not mission-ready.  The Navy needs to push back when combatant commands ask too much, Aucoin writes.  “It would have been reassuring if the (comprehensive review) had addressed the Navy’s organizational responsibility to act as a check against such increasing demand when divorced from the reality of readiness impacts,” he writes. “While the situation was well known by more senior leaders, this demand went unfiltered and fell to me.”  “I do not understand why our leaders do not push back on the excessive demand on our ships or exhibit more transparency on the true extent of the issues the Navy faces beyond Seventh Fleet,” Aucoin writes.  As 49 sailors had to be cross-decked in Japan to fill gaps on the ships, and five of 11 quartermaster billets were gapped, Aucoin writes that it was “frustrating” to hear of San Diego ships that were so over-manned they had to leave 30 sailors on the pier.  “In addition to a soaring OpTempo, the cumulative effect over time of not having enough people and resorting to cross-decking had a debilitating effect on readiness,” he writes. “We not only lacked overall numbers of people, we also lacked mentors, the men and women with the skills and experience that are vital to raising our next generation of experienced sailors.”  While taking Big Navy to task, Aucoin also points out his own faults near the article’s end.  “While we were able to turn off some taskings, in hindsight, I should have reiterated a ‘no’ when issued ‘force to source orders’ for operational tasking,” he writes. “I accept this mistake. At the same time, in the future I hope our Navy will listen more carefully to our commanders on the scene.”  Seventh Fleet is a hard assignment to fill, due to the rigors of overseas screening and the affects on families, he writes.  “My foremost hope is that my Navy can better support the men and women of the FDNF,” he writes. “Most sailors in FDNF find the mission exhilarating. At the same time, these wonderful people do need reasonable and consistent support for their ships, their families, and their careers.”  Comments?

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 20th through 23rd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

 

Buy Your Epic Pass

I don’t endorse many products on FOD, but this one is too good to pass up!  If you’re a skier or a rider than you owe it to yourself to look into the Epic Pass.  For $99 it gives Active/Retired/Dependent service members unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Wilmot, Afton Alps, and Mt. Brighton for the 2018-19 season, as well as Perisher in Australia for the 2019 ski season.  And they’re looking to add more resorts for next year as well.  There is also a good deal for Veterans and their Dependents at $499 for the same benefits.  You also get discounts on food on and off the mountain, lodging and ski rentals as well.  There are also free lift access during the summer at most resorts for hiking or biking adventures.  Also included are six ski with a friend/buddy tickets which give some pretty good deals for friends as well.

 

Congress Races to Pass $1.3T Defense-Friendly Omnibus Bill And Avoid Shutdown

Defense News is reporting the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government.  Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding.  The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion.  Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants.  Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it.  The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification.  “These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads.  The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan.  For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship.  For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements.  For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities.  There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 20th through 23rd 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018

Saying of the Day

 

 

Navy To Receive More Super Hornets

The new DoD budget passed on 09 February 2018 includes a request for additional Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.  Navy Times is reporting a request in President Donald Trump’s new defense budget proposal could add 24 Super Hornets to the Navy’s air fleet and keep a Boeing plant in St. Louis alive, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News.  The defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 is expected to be formally released on Feb. 12. If confirmed, the request for more Super Hornets would be the largest addition since 2012 and would reverse the Obama administration’s decision to stop buying the aircraft.  The Trump administration has requested 14 Super Hornets, and House and Senate appropriators have proposed adding 10 more, according to Bloomberg. That total of 24 jets happens to be the key number needed to keep Boeing’s plant in St. Louis running.  The plant’s future was believed to be at risk after the Navy committed to adopting the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter to replace the F/A-18E/F Hornets.  The Hornets were originally set to retire by 2035, but the Navy was forced to reevaluate that date in 2015 due to persistent delays in the F-35’s development.  The F-35Cs are expected to reach initial operational capacity this year, but the Navy needs additional Hornets to fill its inventory shortage until more of the new jets are purchased.  The Navy has struggled recently with aviation readiness. As of last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornets were fully mission-capable and ready to flyThe Super Hornet fleet is scheduled to begin service life extension maintenance this year, and the Navy may take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the Hornets to the more advanced Block III configuration. Fireball note: the upgraded to Block III is certainly warranted as this is the configuration we need moving forward to ensure fleet interoperability across varied carrier strike groups.)  The upgrades would give the Hornets conformal fuel tanks and add to stealth capabilities. Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018”