Fire, Fire, Fire: How Navy Failures Destroyed the Bonhomme Richard

Major Fires Review Executive Summary: (57 pages)

Command Investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire onboard the Bonhomme Richard (LCH8) on or about 12 July 2020. (434 pages)


Think anyone is listening?

Nope. More important to get all the PC requirements checked off.

In private companies, there’s a fairly well established cycle wherein the bureaucratic tumor grows to a point where it either gets excised through corporate restructuring, or kills the host organism. Only a select few major corporations seem to have figured out how to keep it in check through various forms of medication, thus reaching an equilibrium retaining the agility needed for survival.

I wonder how this will pan out in (democratic) state run bureaucracies? Our current trajectory is clearly unsustainable. Is there some kind of hitherto undiscovered, political medicine? Or will we witness a modern day fall of Rome?

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Think SWOS-in-a-Box. The current crop of ship COs in the Navy, were ensigns when the Navy bean counters got the great idea to ax SWOS (which wasn’t fantastic) and replace it with a binder of CDs.

The string of fiascos over the last few years was predicted 20 years ago and dismissed as fearmongering by change resistant dinosaurs.

Part of the problem with Surface Officers is they don’t read and they don’t follow the book. The Major Fire Review was interesting. The nuke communities (subs & CVNs) try to follow the shipyard 8010 instruction. Nukes do what is written down, period.

A number of my colleagues spent quite a bit of time on GERALD FORD this summer. The below decks DC manning (nukes) is by the book; the rest of ship is following a different drummer and are not doing what is designed. The result? About 300 fewer Sailors on the GQ watchbill. The response to a casualty beyond a trash can fire will not be pretty. The response to the trash can fire may not be pretty.

The JAGMAN report details what the BHR crew did not do. It does not go into what they were doing. What were their priorities prior to the fire? Work completion is one, but what else took up their time?

The CO clearly had his head in his posterior, but that usually doesn’t happen when one is awarded a command star. He had been XO of BHR, he had risen through the surface officer ranks. Was he the best the SWO community had to offer? If he was - Yikes. If he wasn’t the brightest bulb, why was he selected? What boxes did he check that smarter people didn’t?

One of my XOs had only a passing interest in zone inspections and 3M; he spent most of his time flying. However, he was an actual, no shit, hot dog Tomcat guy with a Distinguished Flying Cross to back it up. That goes a long way with a selection board. The BHR XO appears to have been similarly indifferent to 3M and zoners. What did he have going for him to back this up?

As a result of this, we are looking at the assumptions we use for crew response when evaluating shipboard damage. We have to assume that the ship of fools is staffed by idiots. The response time we’ve used in the past needs to be doubled. That may not mean ship loss, but it does mean a lot more equipment cooked beyond repair.