Posts Tagged readiness

Why Your On-Station Performance Does or Does Not Matter.


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.”

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Dear Readiness, You suck. V/r, Everyone (part 2 of 3)


Hello. If this is your first time seeing the site, scroll down a bit to read some of the introductory stuff. This post doesn’t really make sense without the first part.

I just got finished reading through parts of the WTM, and I should point out that 1) the CBM I’m using is outdated (go figure) and 2) you only need to do 80% of the flight hours required to accomplish a task. Those flight hours are CNAF approved, and therefore, beyond reproach (someone felt so insecure about their justification for those hours that they put that verbiage in the WTM). So instead of a minimum of 4.0 hours to get your ASW 201, you only need to 3.2. My previous argument nevertheless remains valid. My new argument is if you’re going to stick to minimum flight hours, and you’re saying the actual minimum is 80% of whats advertised, why not just multiply them all by 80%? Probably because that would cut our flight hour funding by 20%. Are you starting to see how we distort reality to fit our funding desires? I am.

I left off in part 1 of this post having finished describing how the CBM works and drives what the squadron has to accomplish. I then finished talking about how the flight hours requirement is illogical and dumb.

I should probably let you know that I’m having some misgivings finishing this post. As I reread my stuff, it seems like it’s turning into a point paper to be filed away in a desk somewhere and never read. And when I start to think about what to write about next on this topic, I feel like I’m cresting the peak of a mountain I was trying to climb, only to find that I’m only a 1/3 of the way up. Readiness is an almost insurmountable amount of wrongness. How did it get like this? Maybe this is what happens when you task aviators to do things they have no business doing.

Nevertheless, I’m still going to finish, but with maybe less zeal than what I started with. Before I get into the biggest problem with readiness (it’s the tasks), I do want to point out some nit picky stuff. First off, who came up with the names of the some of these things? “EP / Procedures?” why don’t they just call it a NATOPS check? Everyone in naval aviation knows what that is.

“Search, Detect, and ID ASW” doesn’t make sense… At all. That one really pisses me off. Are we searching for antisubmarine warfare? If you’re trying to define a capability by a set of skills required to have said capability, THEY NEED TO MAKE FUCKING SENSE. Jesus Cristo how are we supposed to be skilled at something that isn’t even defined properly?

Up until now, I’ve focused mostly on how the squadron’s overall readiness system is measured. An important concept to grasp is that the readiness system is really a measurement system. It measures how much work squadrons, or the individual crews within them, needs to do to have a number of skills, which translates into a number of capabilities. I’ll get more into the measuring capabilities later in the “why” section, but the reason everyone hates readiness so much is that the measuring process is very flawed.

The bulk of the measurements come from the tasks we have to do. When talking about readiness, everyone is probably most familiar with the tasks. The completion of these tasks, as I previously pointed out, yield the “skills” which culminate in “capabilities.” In review, the two major skills needed to satisfy the capability to “Attack submerged targets” are “search, detect, and ID ASW,” and the TORPEX. While I’m here, I’m going to change that skill name to “Search, detect, and ID submarines” (I will heretofore refer to it as that). It’s driving me crazy writing nonsensical stuff like how it’s written in the CBM.

Anyways, that seems pretty reasonable. To attack a submarine, you need to be able to find it, and then drop a torpedo on it. The problem is that the tasks required to be skilled at “Search, detect, and ID submarines” don’t really relate to it.

In reference to the VP Qualsman (whoever came up with that gem needs to be fired), an ASW 201 and an ASW 202 require some baseless tracking time, and a couple of attacks. The only difference between the two is the type of target. I would argue, and many would agree, that the major difference between the two targets resides in the searching thereof. Like i said before, it makes sense that to attack a submerged target, you need to find them, and then drop a torpedo on them. How does the ASW 201 and 202 evaluate whether the crew can effectively search for the target? It doesn’t.

So here’s points 4 and 5: 4) The skills required for a capability must actually be related to the capability, and not just a mirror from the old readiness system. 5) The tasks associated with a skill similarly must be related to the skill, and not just mirror the old readiness system.

What’s the end result of being evaluated at unrelated things? We fail to actually achieve the capability that we sought out to have in the first place. I ask, can we effectively search for a submarine? A better question: can we prove we can effectively search for a sub? The answer is no, and it’s because we never truly evaluate it.

One final thing before I strive to answer the question, “Why does this readiness beast exist?”. Again, it involves how the skills and capabilities are validated. Let’s take for instance the capability of “Attacking surface targets” more commonly known as ASUW. Among the requirements you’d find in the CBM are the firing of one SLAMER, Harpoon, and Maverick per squadron each IDRC, plus periodic tasks for crews. First off, one missile launched by one crew does not a capability make. Secondly, the requirements and periodicity of the tasks similarly do not adequately provide the skills necessary to validate the capability. How many of our crews are really able to employ SLAMER? How about Harpoon? How about employing in an integrated strike environment?

So point 6: The tasks and requirements to validate a skill should actually amount to something more than just an advertised, yet never used capability.

Ok so I’m going to take a little break from the readiness bit… Up to over 130 hits so far. Only sent the link out to about 20 people. Pretty good start I think. I guess that means that people either thought it was good enough to share, or are showing their friends mocking me. Either way, I suggest you subscribe to get the update notifications (your emails will be kept confidential – and I have no qualms about taking all the heat if I get busted for this). Also, I think it’s time to move to a more public forum. If you’d like to post this on facebook, be my guest. Spread it openly. And if you’re mocking me, fuck you.

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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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