It’s been well over a year since I’ve posted. I’ve been kicking about some ideas in my head about what I should do with this blog, since I still get hits every day. This is most likely thanks to the navy employing anti-Google URLs for all their websites, so when people search for VP-30 they get my blog.
Over the last 2 years, I have heard many of our community leaders extolling the excitement of the coming years. How change is coming, and that change looks, and is, good, and was built upon the results of what we did on station. So I wanted to look at the changes that have happened in the last two years, and analyze whether those speeches meant anything. One change that happened is that there are evidently polls that we can embed in these blogs. If you will, please vote in the above poll.
1. The readiness system: It changed, but people still hate it. The readiness system changes align very neatly with some of the changes I proposed in an earlier post. Since I’ve been constantly accused of not having a lack of hubris, I’ll play into that perception and take credit for it.
The biggest problem still remains with what we have to do to claim quals (hereby referred to as tasks). The “checks in the block” for each task simply isn’t robust enough to say concretely that a crew or an individual is or is not capable of meeting the demands of the skills. We’re stuck in this mindset of having to measure every tiny detail of what a crew does and put a metric, limit, or score associated with it. Must attack in 5 minutes – 20 points! Must analyze CPA within 3 minutes! Must call a sitrep every time the SS2 is confused!
That way of analyzing performance is all about collecting a lot of precise data. That could work – however our data is inherently imprecise! Even worse, our means to collect that data is based on the message traffic system, or an excel spreadsheet that gets passed around and saved in a folder labeled S:\Trackers2009 – hardly an efficient process.
So while the readiness system made some strides forward, the biggest hurdle yet remains. And I don’t think anybody is working on this or even considering changing it because it’s so entrenched in the way we do business. If we’re to stick with this data-driven evaluation system, the system should get its inputs directly from the sensors and the computer on board. Furthermore, our sensors must be more precise and the data gained to be verifiable. Otherwise, create a more holistic approach to evaluation – there’s validation in unbiased concensus.
2. The budget – we’ve experienced so much turmoil with the budget. Squadrons might be coming home early! Squadrons are having their deployments cancelled! No more flying! All of these rumors didn’t come true in light of looming budget cuts. Our leaders’ leaders have gone on about how damaging the sequester is going to be. How costly it will be to try to regain the skills we’ll lose from the budget cuts.
My question is, “Is nobody even considering just making us more efficient?” If we’re so concerned with losing our skills due to reduced funding, why not reduce expenses in other ways? I think the two biggest costs we have are manpower and costs associated with flight hours. So here are some cost saving tips that wouldn’t reduce our skills:
Admin: in today’s world of connectivity – why do they have to deploy? They just eat up per diem and other costs that simply aren’t necessary. The biggest reason to keep things the same is that it’s “sea duty.” So the entire detailing process would have to be reworked to make it into a shore duty. But then how could they possible compete for that #1 EP against a deployer? This highlights how our advancement system sets up these invisible barriers towards organizational progress.
Measuring operational performance based on executing what we’re budgeted for ensures that we are NEVER going to be more efficient in how we spend our money for operational flight hours. The OPSO is given a certain amount of flight hours to cover each quarter. That amount is based on what we’re budgeted for. That budget is loosely based on how many hours it takes to keep everyone proficient. Our leaders fight to keep those hours from getting slashed.
Meanwhile, our PPCs have found an easier way to be more efficient – simply lie about when you took off and landed. This cheating of flight hours is rampant – with 20 minutes on either end extremely commonplace. On a 5 hour DFW, my guess is that the average PPC flies 4 hours and 20 minutes. That is a 13% reduction in flight hours. In an organization that values integrity above almost anything else, it’s shocking how acceptable this form of cheating is. My belief is that many PPCs inherently understand how arbitrary and stupid the way we MUST fly our hours is. Thinking that bending the rules is ok as long as nobody gets hurt, they do it. And they do it all the time.
Draw your own conclusions here – I don’t think that bending the rules by lying about takeoff and land times is wrong. I think it’s a natural result of dealing with arbitrary and outdated rules. With the high percentage of republicans and libertarians in our ranks, it’s surprising how many don’t extol the virtues of the free market when it comes to P-3s flight hours.
Since it’s fashionable to be budget conscious, why not perform an experiment with one or two squadrons wherein they fly what they need? We have that flexibility. Not every squadron has to do the same thing! Further, rumor has it that some squadrons may get the axe – that’s a perfect platform to try something different.
3. 100MB inboxes!!!! Holy shit our email space doubled! I was wondering why I hadn’t gotten an alert that I was over my limit in a while. This must have been a Herculean effort and a monumental cost – unbelievable that they achieved this with all the strain on the budget. 50 extra Megabytes is 0.05 Gigabytes. Multiplied by the 350,000 or so active duty personnel and you get 17,500 extra gigabytes of storage space, which is 17.5 Terabytes. You can buy 1 TB hard drives on amazon for $84.65 each, which means that extra storage costs roughly $1500. Multiply that by 2 to make it a server, then multiply by another 2 for the government rate and you get $6,000 + extra operating costs for that storage. Thanks NMCI!
4. The Super-JO program, or Squadron WTI program came…. And quickly went away. For those unfamiliar, the Super-JO program is where a Weapons and Tactics instructor (WTI) goes back to a squadron after their shore tour in lieu of a disassociated sea tour. WTIs come from the Wing (ARP Instructors), VP-30 (Weapons School… mostly), CTFs, or NSAWC/NMAWC (very specialized billets). The idea is that you take quality instructors, make them even better with another 2-3 years in platform, and reinvest that experience and talent back into the squadrons.
So the Super JO program was around for 9 months or so. To my knowledge, there was zero discussion with the Super JOs selected for the program about whether or not they were making gains in squadron performance. So why the cancellation of the program? It seems like a smart idea – have very experienced instructors that have the desire to give back to their community reinvest their experience and knowledge.
Was it competing priorities for bodies? One Super JO per squadron is 12 bodies. Are there not 12 people that can be poached from somewhere? Was it for career progression? “We have to send people to boat because they don’t understand what’s good for them!” Last I checked, there were only 24 CO/XO billets, and around 500 JO billets. Clearly, not everyone is going to make Skipper. Was it because they couldn’t convince anyone to go back to a squadron?
I don’t know why it was cancelled. But I know why it was started. It was started because the MPRWS continually noted the exact same deficiencies year after year after year. No amount of newsletters or tactical discussions or changes to the ARP program helped. What could you possibly do but inject MPRWS expertise directly into the squadrons? Bypass the layers upon layers gained from the “Instruct the Instructor” model (think about your squadron’s CNS/ATM program).
This program’s cancellation is completely and utterly deflating. If what we do onstation matters so much, why do our leaders’ actions not prioritize it? What can someone possible reason other than “My performance just doesn’t matter that much.”