Normalization of Deviation Within Seventh Fleet Led To Collisions At Sea
I spoke to some of findings of the Navy’s investigation into the recent collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain in the last edition of FOD. Acceptance of deviations or the normalization of deviation from standards of training led directly to the shortfalls in the core functions of basic ship operations at sea in the case of the recent collisions at sea. Defense News is reporting in one of the most remarkable U.S. Navy documents in recent memory, the service is admitting to widespread failures and training shortfalls at the core of its most basic function: safely operating ships at sea. A comprehensive review of the Surface Navy conducted by the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command found that both the Japan-based 7th Fleet headquarters leadership and its ship commanders allowed training and proficiency to erode as they sought to keep ships underway to meet operational requirements. “The risks that were taken in the Western Pacific accumulated over time and did so insidiously,” according to the report released Thursday. “The dynamic environment normalized to the point where individuals and groups of individuals could no longer recognize that the processes in place to identify, communicate and assess readiness were no longer working at the ship and headquarters level.” The problems became easy to ignore because, prior to the mishaps, they were still getting the job done, the report argues. The comprehensive review, led by fleet boss Admiral Phil Davidson, found that the issues in 7th Fleet were in some ways unique to the pressures and demands in the Pacific region, the Navy’s most fast-paced and dangerous operating environment, but in other ways pointed to serious lapses in training and evaluation of its officers and sailors. The review raised troubling questions about the ability of surface warfare officers in today’s fleet and their ability to act under pressure. In a detailed analysis of the four major accidents in 7th Fleet this year — two deadly collisions, a grounding and a minor collision with a fishing boat — the review found that officers and enlisted sailors performed poorly when faced with a dangerous situation. The review ascertained that in all four incidents this year, when the crews were faced with an extreme situation, they delayed actions, froze and did not alert their crews of imminent danger. “Incorrect actions in extremis were a contributing factor to the chain of errors that resulted in the incident[s],” the report reads. The report also found that teamwork was at times non-existent between the bridge and the ship combat information centers, the place that displays and synthesizes the information from a ship’s sensors and weapons systems. Furthermore, the review determined that sailors had routinely failed to use the tools available to them to increase awareness of their situations. In the review, the Navy also acknowledges that its surface warfare officers lacked sufficient navigation and seamanship skills, and recommends creating an “objective, standardized assessment program to periodically assess individual seamanship and navigation skills over the course of a surface warfare officer’s career.” The review details steps, including new evaluation processes, to correct the issues. In regards to the issues at 7th Fleet, the review argues that leaders in the region were blinded by operational commitments and that cutting corners became the norm in order to fulfill commitments. “Evidence of skill proficiency on ships and readiness problems at headquarters were missed, and over time, even normalized to the point that more time could be spent on operational missions,” the document reads. “Headquarters were trying to manage the imbalance, and up to the point of the mishaps, the ships had been performing operationally with good outcomes, which ultimately reinforced the rightness of trusting past decisions. “This rationalized the continued deviation from the sound training and maintenance practices that set the conditions for safe operations.” The collisions of the destroyers John S. McCain and Fitzgerald this summer led to the relief of both commanding officers and several other crew members, as well as the destroyer squadron commander, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group commander and the 7th Fleet Commander. And that’s why we had changes of command without bands.
I am on vacation this week! I’m not quite sure how that differs from my other weeks these days, but I’m calling it vacation.
Well anyway, I’m enjoying some time with a group of good friends, mostly old Navy guys. We spend a few days fishing, shooting at pumpkins filled with Tannerite, brushing up on our much unpracticed Texas Hold’em skills and sharing some great meals at The High Country Inn – Home. I’m sad to report no fish were harmed on our first day of fishing, but we’re picking up some today!
Friends should help you move. I can call on these friends to help move the bodies.
President Trump Moves To Decertify Iran Deal
As predicted in the previous edition of FOD (and some of those other media institutions) President Donald Trump is expected to put the 2015 Iran nuclear deal squarely in the hands of Congress, refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal but letting lawmakers decide whether to tear it up. Congress will now have to decide if they will reimpose sanctions on Iran with regard to the country’s nuclear program, or attach new conditions to the agreement. Those sanctions were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement, and reimposing them would effectively destroy the deal, known as the JCPOA. I watched his short speech announcing his actions. He focused on many actions Iran has taken over the years to destabilize nations in the region as well as their strident and continual support of terrorism around the globe. That terrorism includes state and non-state militant Moslem actions, cyber attacks, threats to freedom of navigation on the high seas coupled with their development of ballistic missiles in conjunction with their own nuclear development program. One of the big issues of concern to Tehran is how the president would treat the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the hardline military wing that had already been sanctioned for weapons proliferation under prior administrations. This is also of concern to European countries that do business with shell companies actually owned by the IRGC. According to a senior administration official, Trump intends to designate the corps as a supporter of terrorism, but will stop short of calling it a foreign terror organization. The administration is required to make the designation under legislation Trump signed in August covering sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. Although officials had until Oct. 31 to decide, they are including the designation in today’s speech of the larger Iran strategy. Those in the administration who are worried about Iran misinterpreting or overreacting are eager to emphasize the distinction between being a supporter of terrorism and an actual terrorist organization. They also emphasize that it has no practical effect because of other existing IRGC designations, but that it could enrage the Iranians.
Friends of FOD – How did you observe the solar eclipse? All the best photos are on the internet, but I enjoyed seeing the solar eclipse in Boise, ID, thanks to Friends of FOD Roger and Glorie. Thanks to both of you! And I also got to do some fishing on the Boise River. Notice I said fishing and not catching. But a good time was had by all. Good stories appreciated.
Another Collision At Sea
USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) an Arleigh Burke-classdestroyer (below left) suffered “significant damage” to the hull after it was involved in a collision at sea with the Liberian-flaggedAlnic MC (below right) off the coast of Malaysia east of the Strait of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing and five were injured following the collision, which happened at 5:24 a.m. Singapore time (5:24 p.m. ET Sunday), according to the Navy’s latest update issued around nine-and-a-half hours later. And the search continues as of August 21st. After the collision the ship, which sustained damage to her port side aft, was able to return to port under her own power. According to United States Navy press release, the breach “resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms. Initial casualty reports indicate ten sailors missing and five sailors injured. Admiral John M. Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations (below left) has ordered an “operational pause” or safety stand down for a day to “include,
but not be limited to, looking at operational tempo, trends in personnel, materiel, maintenance and equipment.”
The Strait of Malacca is one of the most heavily transited bodies of water in the world, with more than 80,000 vessels moving through it annually, roughly one third of all oceanic transits. US Naval vessels usually have their best bridge team on duty for the transit. I noted in the 11 through 15 August edition of FOD that a military band is standard for that all important change of command. I would venture to say the yet unannounced, change of command for the McCain and perhaps even Commander of Destroyer Squadron 15 will not need a band. As you’ll recall, the destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) was involved in the June 17 with the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal, a container ship, off the coast of Japan resulted in the death of seven sailors. Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief have been relieved of their duties aboard Fitzgerald. I’m thinking the commanding officer of Destroyer Squadron 15, CAPT Jeffrey A. Bennett II might be looking for another job.
Hey, I’m getting tired of talking to myself here. I need your comments to make this worthwhile to me and to others. I’m sure you Friends of FOD have some opinions. Let’s hear/see something from you. And if you have suggestions or personal contributions surrounding an event or a interesting tidbit from around the dates of a particular edition. I’d really like to hear from you active duty Friends of FOD.
Trump Verses Transgender Service Members
The big news across the military today is President Trump’s tweet from July 26th saying transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the US military. This announcement came as a shock to Pentagon leaders who had no idea such a policy change was coming. In fact Secretary of DefenseJames Mattis (left) is on personal leave this week and newly confirmed Deputy SECDEF Patrick M. Shanahan (below right) is holding down the fort. Previously, the policy allowing the enlistment of transgender recruits into the military was put on hold pending a six-month review of all military policies. That review did not cover transgender individuals already serving openly. There are many unknowns here and more questions than answers. Does a tweet make policy, or does it need to be codified before a change in policy can be enacted? What happened to the requirement to be published in the Federal Register? What guidance should be provided to unit-level commanders regarding men and women under their command? And more importantly, what does a change in policy mean to thousands of men and women who have identified themselves in the months since the Obama administration’s policy allowed and welcomed them to serve openly? I think it’s a bit too late for such a radical change of policy. That horse has left the barn! The military, rightly or wrongly has been THE organization where social changes have been codified ahead of societal norms in the civilian population. I was going to mention this in FOD anyway, but Executive Order 9981 was an executive order issued on July 26, 1948, by PresidentHarry S. Truman. It abolished racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services long before segregation was dealt with by the civilian sector. In January 2013, Secretary of DefenseLeon Panetta issued an order to end the policy of “no women in units that are tasked with direct combat”, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join certain direct combat roles, but changes are occurring. Women are now in leadership roles across all commands, demonstrating there are no glass ceilings if you have good leadership and management abilities. And women in the military are paid equally for their service, something women are fighting for today in the nearly all civilian sector jobs. Just to conclude, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender service members could be forcibly separated because the Defense Department cannot, “… be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Military Times pointed out, the Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops. So the expense for transgender troops will never fly in Congress. And Military Times also reported Top defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill quickly blasted President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban Wednesday, calling the policy change short-sighted and potentially dangerous. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., called the surprise news “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.” He said Trump’s statements on the issue were unclear and confusing. “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” he said. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military, regardless of their gender identity.” Expect to see legal actions filed soon. Your comments appreciated.