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.
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.
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.