Archive for March, 2011

Dear Readiness, You suck. V/r, Everyone (part 1 of 3)


Nothing in the P-3 community ignites passionate bitching more than the readiness system, or rather, the flaws within it. What I don’t understand is why the community leadership is unwilling or unable to (1) Recognize the flaws, and (2) Fix that shit.

I aim to specify what the problem is with the readiness system (I will also suggest a solution). But first, it needs to be defined.

Readiness… What?

The dictionary definition of readiness is: “the condition of being ready.” Hmm… Ok… so the objective of the readiness system is to reflect our condition of being ready. Ready to do what, exactly?

This is perhaps the easiest question to answer, but is largely unknown by many. It is also a very important question to ask, because it forms the basis for what is required for anyone in the P-3 community to do. Everyone’s heard some version of the quote, “Everything is readiness. Readiness drives everything.” Its a relatively true, yet misunderstood statement.

To answer the question, “What are we supposed to be ready to do?” you must, unfortunately, examine the P-3 Capabilities Based Matrix (CBM). The CBM is a shit document that singularly dictates the goings on of every squadron, and therefore, dictates the lives of the members thereof. This document was created and is maintained by none other than Group. Again, this document, more than anything else, defines the life of a squadron.

So where can you find the most up to date copy? You can’t. Scour your S drives for an excel file with CBM in it. You might find one. NKO? Nope. Group’s pathetic excuse for a website? Also no. Didn’t know they had a website? You’re not alone. Here’s the link: https://www.portal.navy.mil/comnavairfor/CPRG/default.aspx. So kind a tangent bitch here, but WTF Group? Do you think e-mails are an effective or efficient solution to distribute the requirements you place on all of us? A perfect example is the VPU-2 incident involving performing prohibited counterthreat maneuvers (note that the restriction isn’t written anywhere, except in an e-mail sent out 2-3 years ago). Looks like I’ve stumbled upon my next article title: Dear Group, What is your problem?.

Sorry about that little rant there… Back to the CBM. How does it dictate what we’re supposed to do? Start at the top left of the CBM. There’s a list of what the Navy calls “Capabilities.” These capabilities are what the big Navy expects (and pays for) the P-3 community to be capable of doing. Examples:

  • Attack Submerged Targets
  • Attack Surface Targets
  • Positively Identify Friendly Forces
  • Conduct Mining
  • Assess Tactical Environment

This list of capabilities is the foundation of the readiness system. None of them are dismissable, and all of them vary in importance only in so much as 1) the probability of the capability to be used, and 2) the importance of the capability in the scope of geo-political machinations (read: the capability, in and of itself, is the requirement – think strategically). To the squadron, each capability is essentially of equal weight. They simply “are.”

So as of right now, the readiness system seems to be built on a solid foundation. The capabilities don’t seem unreasonable by themselves. If you find fault here, at this basic level of the readiness system, you most likely argue, “We don’t need to be attacking surface targets because of x, y, and z” or something like that. Well, I would counter with that it sounds like you have a problem with x, y, and z, not the capability itself.

Readiness… How?

So how do the capabilities translate into general asspain? This is where we’ll start identifying serious flaws with the readiness system.

Let’s examine how we satisfy the capability requirement of Attacking Submerged Targets. Go back to the list of capabilites in the CBM. Find the line that says Attack Submerged Targets, and go to the right. You’ll see a bunch of numbers, with one column highlighted. At each number, if you follow the column up to the top of the screen, it names the category the number satisfies. Each number must be satisfied for a squadron to be considered capable to “Attack Submerged Targets.” Here’s what we need:

  • 11 Skilled crews
  • 3 Instructor Pilots, Taccos, and Acoustics (ACTC level 4)
  • 11 ACTC level 3 or greater Pilots, Taccos, and Acoustics
  • 22 ACTC level 2 or greater Pilots, Taccos, and Acoustics
  • 2 ACTC level 4 SS3s
  • 9 ACTC level 3 or greater SS3s
  • 11 ACTC level 2 or greater SS3s

You’ll notice that if you truly want to have 11 unique skilled crews, you need to have 11 PPCs, 11 2Ps, 11 Taccos, 11 Navcomms, 11 SS1s, 11 SS2s, and 11 SS3s. So all those numbers really mean to dictate is that for a squadron to be capable in “Attacking Submerged Targets,” they have to be able to compose 11 crews without using somebody twice.

So what’s the problem there? First, what does having 3 IPs in a squadron have to do with attacking submerged targets? Or even 3 Instructor anything? Nothing. The capability isn’t asking whether or not we can teach, but whether or not we can do.

Secondly, and more importantly, why 11 unique crews? Is a squadron expected to be able to field 11 crews onstation at the same time? The answer is no. So its ridiculous to state that a squadron doesn’t meet the capability requirement if they have 11 Taccos but only 10 Navcomms.

What’s the result of this part of the system requirement? Qualifications given out based on need, not on merit. How many people do you know that got qualified because we simply needed them to be qualified? How many times have you seen an instructor be extended to satisfy these requirements? Do you know what that does to the manning process over time? It fucks it up big time. Ever have way to many IFTs and then none at all? That’s what happens. Its a second-order effect of those numbers in the CBM. Both of those effects stem from those numbers in the CBM, and is one causality of our reduced ASW effectiveness that everyone seems so concerned about.

So as the CBM is a reflection of the readiness system, we can infer that manpower and qualifications are an integral component of readiness. That makes sense…But the way in which the CBM integrates that component is flawed. This is the first in the list of my requirements for a better readiness system: A squadron should be manned to a certain level for overall functionality, but the manning should be measured by itself, not tied into every capability.

Moving right along with the CBM, you’ll notice that to be considered capable of attacking submerged targets, a total of 12 torpedoes must have been dropped (meaning 12 passing torpexes), and 12 crews must have finished ARP. The torpex requirement is perhaps the most legitimate in that it directly relates to the capability itself, “Attacking Submerged Targets.” I’ll get into how the torpex is scored later (yeah it sucks, I know but the concept is sound).

The ARP requirement has much of the same problems discussed previously. For a squadron to be considered capable of attacking submerged targets, 12 crews must have completed ARP. Much like having 3 IPs in the squadron, the requirement has nothing to do with the capability.

If we only need 11 fully skilled crews (which I’ve already said is a bogus requirement), why do we need 12 crews to have gone through ARP? The merits of ARP not withstanding, do we also need every single crew to go through a full-blown 4-5 week ARP syllabus?

Each squadron is transitioning to a 12 month homecycle. ARP is a large committment by the squadron and the Wing. In fact, ARP is the single largest manpower committment by the WTU. Condensing the homecycle exacerbates this.

The problems with P-3 ARP are numerous and too vast to be discussed in depth here. I’m going to stick with how the CBM requirement translates into problems. The readiness system requires a specific number of crews to be completed with ARP at a certain timeframe through the IDRC. The idea is modeled after SFARP, and was initiated in its current structure to align the P-3 community with the rest of Naval Aviation (Readiness is granted and maintained only after ARP). ARP validates the crews’ training by using an unbiased standardized third party.

What ends up happening because of this requirement? Both underqualified and overqualified people going through ARP – wasting the time of the squadron and the time of the WTU. Even worse is when the squadron either chooses to, or has no other option than to send the same people through successive ARPs with different crews.

Point #2 for a better readiness system: The ARP requirement is tied into the CBM due to no other reason than because it’s how everyone else does it. The time consumption of both the squadron and the WTU to get crews through ARP causes problems. ARP needs to be more efficient and streamlined, and, if necessary, tied into the CBM in a fashion that is equally efficient.

This next section is a bit dry and essentially finishes up how the CBM translates into work we have to do.  If you want, skip ahead to the nice diagram which should explain all the requirements.

Back to the CBM… again (sorry – its not over yet). Keep going to the right of the line with the capability, and you’ll run into a bunch of X’s. At each X, go up, and it will indicate a “skill” that is required for that capability. Go down at each X and it will indicate the number of times you have to do the skill and the periodicity. The skills and periodicity required to “attack submerged targets” include the following:

  • EP / Procedures, Basic Flying, Night / IPDFW – various periodicities – These X’s are simply NATOPS/Instrument checks and Pilot Proficiency
  • TORPEX – 1 every 730 days
  • Search, Detect, and ID ASW – 2 every 90 days
  • Instructor TACCO Weapons Proficiency – 1 every 90 days
  • BOMBEX – 1 every 730 days
  • Bomb / Depth Bomb Proficiency – 1 every 90 days
  • Acoustic Analysis – 2 every 30 days

Hopefully it’s starting to seem familiar now. Lets take the example of the Search, Detect, and ID ASW skill. From the X where it was shown as a requirement, go down in the column, and you’ll see that it’s required for the PPC, 2P, TACCO, SS1, SS2, and SS3 to be “skilled” at Search, Detect, and ID ASW twice every 90 days. If you keep going down the column, it will tell you exactly what has to be done twice every 90 days. You’ll notice both R’s and O’s which stand for required and optional. You’ll see that there are two R’s and one O. At each R or O go to either the right or the left and it will tell you what “task” its referring to. These tasks are often called quals around the squadron, which is a holdover terminology from the old readiness system. I will be calling them tasks from now on. The tasks required to satisfy the skill Search, Detect and ID ASW, and are as follows:

  • R – ASW 201 Diesel/Littoral ASW
  • R – ASW 202 Nuclear/Open Ocean ASW
  • O – ASW 211 ASW Active/Passive

Since you need to do two of the preceding tasks every 90 days, and each requirement is a standalone task, the optional one here doesn’t do anything. Keep going down in the column and it’ll show you how many of the required tasks can be performed in the simulator. In this example it’s 1.

So we’re finally getting down to how the CBM tells us what we have to do and when. To be skilled at Search, Detect, and ID ASW, you need to do an ASW 201 and an ASW 202 every 90 days, one of which can be done in the simulator. Furthermore, go to the right of the task list, and you’ll find the column Hours per task – which tells you how many flight hours are required to satisfy the task. For an ASW 201 or 202, you need to fly 4.0 hours, or you don’t get credit for the task.

 

Ok.  Now that we’ve gone through that bit…. we can identify what’s wrong here.  Where to begin though?  I guess I’ll start by highlighting the flight hours part.  It will be covered more in the “Why?” section, but that’s the part that relates the capability to a dollar amount.  It is retarded to set a minimum flight hour requirement for a specific task.

Let’s say a crew accomplishes the ASW 201 task in 2 hours.  Because of the minimum flight hour requirement, they then have to remain airborne for another 2 hours doing nothing.  Lets say they ignored that and the crew came back and said, “I did what was needed to be done at a 50% savings in flight hours and gas!”  They would get punished for being so efficient and called lazy.  Even worse is when a crew does the minimum hour requirement and then is still called lazy because they didn’t do more.

Now lets say that crew 2 did the same event in 2 hours, but their MC decided to stay airborne for an extra 3 hours – a full extra hour than necessary.  They would get lauded for their work effort.  Mind you, this costs us in aircraft hours (read: HONA), fuel consumption (read: money), and manhours (read: people on the plane are pissed that they’re stuck onboard doing nothing).

So there it is – the minimum flight hour requirement is dumb.  It drives up costs, drives down morale, and decreases efficiency.  But it can’t be done away with.  Remember that the flight hour component of the CBM directly ties the capability to a dollar amount.  This is an important concept of the readiness system and one that can’t be discarded.  In fact, its kinda the whole reason behind it in the first place.

Point #3 for a better readiness system: Flight hour requirements should be expressed in terms of averages, not minimums.  It should be acceptable and praised for a crew to complete their tasks faster than average.

I can predict what people would say about that…. “If you give crews the option to come home early they will because they’re inherently lazy and the quality of training will suffer and we’ll be worse off than before.”  My counterpoint?  Maybe if you didn’t mandate the wasting of time doing nothing so often we wouldn’t be so eager to come home early.  Everyone can stomach the occasionally 6-8 hour flight.  But when you insist that each flight is 5+ hours when it doesn’t actually take that long, those long ones just feel like a kick in the nuts and, yes, crews want to come home early.

This misplaced emphasis on time spent on the job is echoed elsewhere in the Navy.  Take two LTJGs.  They are given the exact same task and each produces the exact same quality of output.  One of the them shows up at 10 am, does it in 2 hours, studies for an hour, eats lunch, and goes home.  The other one shows up at 6 am, and takes 12 hours to do the task, skipping lunch.  The OPSO arrives at 7:30 to see him hard at work, and leaves at 5:30 seeing him still there.  Which one gets the better fitrep?

To be continued…. Come back to see the “Why?” and “Who?” questions being answered, and plausible solutions presented.

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And now… A conversation about orders.


Scene: We find ourselves in a typical hangar. It is a day like any other. The part of “Me” will be played by Michael Cera. The part of “P-3 Career Guy” will be played by John C. Reilly.

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Me: I’ve been trying to decide what to do for a disassociated sea tour.

P-3 Career Guy: Go to the boat.

Me: Ha. Yeah, I know that’s what everyone says.

P-3 Career Guy: Go to the boat.

Me: Yeah, I know it’s the “safe” career move. Some of the carrier jobs sound pretty cool, I guess. The thing is, so do some of the other jobs out there.

P-3 Career Guy: Ignore them. Go to the boat.

Me: Yeah, well, I’ve been trying to get an idea of what is out there. VPU, FSU, Dallas. Then there is Bahrain or Japan.

P-3 Career Guy: Shooter. Boat. Go.

Me: Ha ha…well, a lot of people say they like the Shooter job.

P-3 Career Guy: Go be a Shooter. That’s the job to get. Don’t be a TAO. Too hard to break out. You break out as the ANAV too, but Shooter is more fun. I mean, it still sucks a lot, but there are times when it is fun.

Me: Well, the thing is, I’ve talked to a lot of guys from VPU, FSU, and Dallas. They all seem to love it. They say how rewarding it is; how valuable their work is. They all seem happy.

P-3 Career Guy: They’re faking. They’re really sad on the inside. They just wish they were on the boat.

Me: What is it with this constant push to go to the boat? What’s wrong with the other choices?

P-3 Career Guy: Bad career moves! VPU, FSU, Dallas – all career killers

Me: Yeah, I’ve heard all that before – the historical trends for selection and all that – but it doesn’t make any sense.

P-3 Career Guy: It’s all about the board. You gotta be thinking about those Department Head and Command boards. You know who is on there? It’s mostly non-P-3 guys. They’re carrier aviators. They don’t know what hell VPU is. Same goes for FSU. Especially true for BUPERS Det Dallas. They know what a Shooter is though! Always been that way, so you can look at the stats and see that your best bet is to go to the boat.

Me: And nobody thinks that’s stupid?

P-3 Career Guy: No! It’s just the way it is. Look at the numbers! Who was selected last time around? People who went to the boat. So YOU need to go to the boat if you want to be selected. God, I LOVE talking about the boat!

Me: Settle down man. Why are you getting so excited? I’ve talked to other guys about this and they’ve told me the same basic things, but at least they were reasonable about it. You’re not being reasonable. You’re kinda being a –

P-3 Career Guy: Go!

Me: What? Why would you –

P-3 Career Guy: To!

Me: Why are you –

P-3 Career Guy: The!

Me: Seriously, stop interrupti-

P-3 Career Guy: BOOOOAAAAATTT!!!! (lifts ass cheek, farts)

Me: I don’t even know why I’m wasting my ti-

P-3 Career Guy: (lifts ass cheek, farts again. It’s a 15 second squeaker that starts off loud and trails off) That ones called the rusty cat shot!!!

Me: (sighs) Incredible. You can’t see any other way than the way it’s always been done. You can’t see how asinine that whole system is – you’re too imbedded in the system. But does the system generate the best people for DH and Command? Is there something about doing a carrier tour that makes you more equipped to be a DH or a Skipper than if you had done one of the other paths? It doesn’t seem that way – I mean, they could train a monkey to be a shooter.

P-3 Career Guy: That’s not the point. The point is, the people on the board know what the carrier jobs are and don’t know about the other jobs. ie, ergo, ipso-facto, vis-a-vis, je ne sais quoi – go to the boat. HA! I just showed you up with my smart-talk!

Me: …….I’m just going to ignore the “smart-talk” comment and pretend it never happened. It’s pointless to think that you could see a problem with this whole system……..So what you are saying is, we insist that people stay away from VPU, FSU, and Dallas, not because they are not important or valuable jobs, but because the people on screen boards don’t know what they are?

P-3 Career Guy: Well, they have been trying to educate the board members about those jobs.

Me: What does that mean? A five minute explanation right before the board starts?

P-3 Career Guy: Probably.

Me: Well that should do it. So instead of really trying to give people some choice we half-ass a fix, then pressure everyone to stay on the right path. Of course, the people making the decisions all came up in that flawed system, so who can expect any rational ideas? I hate to complain about this with no real solution to the problem, but I know that this is not the way to keep the best people. Is there a way to change the selection process so that people have more freedom to try for the jobs that are right for them?

P-3 Career Guy: Who cares? Just go to the boat and don’t worry about it! It’s great leadership experience and you get to see how “Big Navy” works.

Me: That’s great, but don’t those other jobs provide some great experience too? It’s still valuable – it’s just different. And, isn’t there something to be said for some diversity of knowledge in the Department Head and Command ranks? Why do we want a homogeneous blob of mediocrity instead of diverse sets of professional experiences and expertise?

P-3 Career Guy: There’s diversity amongst boat guys. One guy may have been on the Eisenhower and another on the TR. Boom! There’s your variety!

Me: Are you trying to be an asshole?

P-3 Career Guy: No, but you’re trying to be a boat-dodger. Ha ha! Boat dodger!

Me: For God’s sake, I’m just trying to find the job that I would be good at, that I would enjoy, and that would allow me to actually contribute to something worthwhile. That may be the boat, but it also may be one of the other jobs. I don’t want to be forced to work within this broken system, where important and meaningful jobs are looked down upon because people didn’t know what they were, and that’s just how it’s always been. No wonder we lose so many smart, capable people. Who wants to be restricted like that? That’s why we end up with some incompetent Department Heads…. No offense.

P-3 Career Guy: No, no. None taken. Hey, you should just suck it up and go to the boat. I heard VPU orders for you guys might be going away anyways. They want to staff it with people who didn’t screen for DH.

Me: I heard that rumor too, but there’s no way. Somebody with some sense had to have stepped in to stop that one. First of all, why would you want to put the bottom-feeders in the squadrons that are contributing every day to the wars we are fighting? Second, there aren’t enough boat spots for everyone! That’s really a key point here that gets overlooked. There aren’t enough boat spots! What’s so hard about this? People are fighting for boat spots! We can’t ALL go to the boat!

P-3 Career Guy: Boat dodger!

Me: I can’t take it. I’m going to punch you in the face right now.

P-3 Career Guy: Ok. You can do it on your way to the boat. Boom!

Me: I’m serious, I’m going to punch you in the face. I may kick you in the balls too. Not sure. I’m still deciding.

P-3 Career Guy: You can decide on that after you decide which boat to go to. Burn!

Me: Seriously, I’m going to lose it. You have to stop.

P-3 Career Guy: You have to stop … at the boat for a disassociated sea tour. Double Boom! Smoked you!

Me: To hell with it ….. I’m getting out of the Navy.

P-3 Career Guy: ………. Good. That’s one less person taking up a boat slot.

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