Navy Times - Officers of the deck to undergo competency tests


From the Navy Times

Officers of the deck to undergo competency tests

The Navy has begun randomly testing surface fleet officers on their officer of the deck skills in order to better understand where the community’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

It is part of the surface community’s efforts to assess and revamp training in the wake of fatal collisions involving the warships Fitzgerald and John S. McCain last summer that killed 17 sailors.

The article states> “There is no punishment for an OOD who fails the check, Robertson added.

After the assessment, the ship’s captain receives one of three grades for their OOD.”

If you are giving the grade to the person who writes your evaluations then that soounds like punishment to me.

More importantly… who is conducting the testing? Not the Navy itself I hope!!

Sounds like the Navigation Skills Assessment Program over at MITAGS. They’ve been having MSC run threw it so USN is aware of it.


That’s a huge leap, from saying that the Navy as an organization is failing to place qualified officers on the bridge to saying that the Navy, as an organization, is not capable of putting qualified officers in the bridge.


That’s not the leap I was making at all. The Navy certainly has top shelf navigators/ahiphandlers in house. The problem is organizational insularity and working within the constraints of a linear command structure.

They need objective eyes looking at the problem. And these aren’t my words, it’s what the Secretary Of The Navy has called for.

Of course it will be used punitively, just like courtesy turnovers (LEOs bringing sailors picked up out in town back to ship) or quarterdeck breathalyzer results.

And the Navy is more than capable of running this assessment, what’s troublesome is that we have found time to do more assessments but haven’t found time to do any additional training. I once had a debate with a colleague on what constituted a culture-changing event. His bar was much higher than mine, and I thought it was excessive. But I am starting to become convinced that FTZ/JSM were not enough to change SWO culture. Short of an autocratic CNO in place that was willing to clear house, I don’t know if we’ll be able to get the rudder over enough to make a difference.


Everyone thinks the problem is the other guy.

This happened to me - I was very recently (waited for the last minute) taking the leadership and management class. One of the top dogs in the union interrupted the class to make an announcement.

Maersk had given the union an ultimatum, stop sending unqualified chief mates out to the ships. Specifically, for one, the chief mates have insufficient knowledge of ship stability. This matches my experience.

In response the union was going to require chief mates take a one or two week course to qualify for Maersk jobs.

Imagine if Maersk was to make the claim the union lacked the expertise to run the required class.

I do not know anyone that has worked with the Navy who doubts their technical expertise/acumen or their strive for excellence. I have 0% doubt that the navy can conduct accurate proficiency assessments. But should they??

I am on the board of directors for a maritime security firm and our director of operations is a retired SEAL. What shocked him most about these incidents is the lack of third party involvement.

According to him the SEALS have a steady flow of third party trainers, weapons experts, leadership experts, teamword experts, instructors, consultants, etc.

Does anyone doubt the SEALs ability to conduct a mission? Or asses their own people? No! They are the best in the world at what they do and, in many cases, are more competent than the 3rd party assesors they hire. So why hire them at all?? Because that is how you root out flaws in the system. That is how you improve the culture.

This is why I have come to believe (as does the Secretary of the Navy who has hired Crowley and BP to look at the problem) that the navy needs to work on improving relations with the US Merchant Marine. We are can do people with deep rooted patriotism. One call from the CNO and I will personally get a dozen top Masters to join the assesment teams for free. I would personally drop everything for a few months and not bill the navy $1.

Why would I personally work for free? Because I would learn so very much. By assesing the best navy in the world I would become a better mariner myself and being better at your job always pays in the long run.

But if the Navy insists on being insular and doing everything in house then put a SEAL and Submariner and an MSC master on the assesment teams.

Because this is not a competancy problem, the US Navy was the best Navy in the worls before these incidents and they remain so today, it is a cultural one. And you can’t fix culture from the inside. You fix it by looking at the problem from different perspectives… even if, as the SEALS have learned, those perspectives are less technically competant than those you already have in house.

And, as I already said, don’t take my word for it, just listen to what the Secnav said. The Navy is subordinate to the civilian leadership of this country and that leadership has told congress in clear that third party assessment conducted by Merchant Mariners is the way forward.

Here is the original post:OOD Competency Checks: Obtaining a Fix on Fleet Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling

Two weeks ago in San Diego, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet partnered with Surface Warfare Officer School and Navigation, Seamanship and Ship Handling Training (NSST) San Diego to carry out the first set of OOD checks

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Yes, and the Strategic Readiness Review was published a couple of months ago. I would not hold my breath on it leading to any cultural changes.

The Navy has been operating under the Soviet-style “fire your way to success” program for a while now. “Training Team up, watch standers down”. SECNAV can try to lead change, but it’s only going to stick if it can take at the grass roots level.

My officers, as a group, were terrible at BTB communications. OODs have to monitor a lot of voice circuits, and they all have different protocols. Factor in some discomfort in calling out to other ships, and the various temperaments and preferences of COs, and you get a massive gamut of uses and effectiveness of BTB usage by the Navy.

You’re never going to get the Navy to eat enough crow to let a bunch of merchant mariners crawl over our ships telling us how messed up things are (even if it is true). If you want to affect change on the Navy, you’re going to have to start small. Maybe external communications could be a place to start, after all its you guys that we’re hailing.

There must be a way to accomplish the same objective without the crow. Truth is nobody worth his salt wants to embarrass the Navy, and anyone who does probably isn’t a good fit for the job.

(I know this makes me sound hypocritical considering the articles I wrote the but intention is important and embaressing the Navy was never my intention.)

I disagree. The Navy has centuries worth of protective layers built up to insulate itself. This is laregly because it had to. Ships are expensive and the public has no desire to pay for defense during peactime forcing Admirals to protect every dollar they receive. It’s also proven effective at times. The Revolt of The Admirals is a great example of an insular old-boys club mentality working for the interest of the nation.

But that insularity served a time when budgets where comparitively small and the benefits of a strong Navy were misunderstood. These aren’t major factors anymore. Globalization combined with large shifts in human understanding show the weakness of this attitude and the strength of dynamic/collaborative systems.

But these are high level issues. We can certainly start small and grassroots but that’s only going to happen if senior navy leadership open the door and lead the way. A change in the attitude of these flag officers can not be accomplished from the roots up… no do we want it too because , regardless of problems, mutiny rarely has positive results.

So civilian leadership of the Navy has lost control? This may become a problem for the Navy because it’s not just the SECNAV, the Presdient and American People have spoken and both want to give the helm over to sucessful businessmen who have corporate sucess in their given feilds of expertise. Unfortunately for the Navy commercial success = american shipping = merchant marine.

Today’s cabinet is stock full of shipping executives and the President has made it very clear that he wants to strengthen the Navy. The administration has been distracted by other issues this past year but will that attitude continue?

John, I’m guessing you haven’t had any simulator time at a USN facility lately (or at all). It’s all run by contractors, not USN personnel, in every case I can remember seeing.

Much of my simulator time was at a Navy facility in Newport (Marine Safety I believe) … and, yes it was mostly civilian contractors BUT they (at least my instructors) were all former navy (both active and reserve).

Again it’s not just an issue of competance, it’s an issue of culture. We have a similiar problem in the merchant marine… most of our instructors are american and former (or current) merchant mariners. They provide solidly competant instruction but they also share many of the same faults and blond spots.

This is one of the reasons why many dynamic positioning officers preffer training overseas and why pilots rave anout the manned model class in France.

It’s not that the level of instruction is better overseas, it’s the fact that you get a lot kore light bulb moments training with a culture different than your own.

If uou want to really learn a subject you have to break out of your preconcievd notions. This is why I choose newport for my simulator trainng… specifically because th navy culture is different and I’m goad I did because I learned a lot!

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But these are high level issues. We can certainly start small and grassroots but that’s only going to happen if senior navy leadership open the door and lead the way. A change in the attitude of these flag officers can not be accomplished from the roots up… no do we want it too because , regardless of problems, mutiny rarely has positive results.

You’re operating under the assumption that the opinions of the admirals are going to change - I think that’s asking a lot. Remember, these are people who have been working the system for 25+ years; they are not the innovators. You need to target the next generation. I would start with the Department Heads; they are senior enough to know what the problems are, and young enough to be open to change and have some optimism for the future. And the DH level is really where your career trajectory is decided.

So civilian leadership of the Navy has lost control?

Of course not. But SECNAV is working at a level so far above this mess. The Dept. of the Navy has almost a million personnel, and operates on nearly a $200 billion budget. You think he’s holding weekly meetings on the SWO ‘get right’ plan?

the SECNAV, the Presdient and American People have spoken and both want to give the helm over to sucessful businessmen who have corporate sucess in their given feilds of expertise.

We did that, it was called the Strategic Readiness Review. I am sure their input will be “taken under advisement”. Realistically, I don’t know what else was expected.

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Great points.

Ok but who will target this next generation? If the flag officers don’t then how will this change be organized? Who will lead it? How will it get internal and external support??

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Ha! If I had all the answers I wouldn’t languishing away today! I think some of it can be accomplished through policy changes. For example, right now SWOs are pushed to go to post-graduate education (particularly at the Navy Postgraduate School) and earn their master’s and Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) certificates. Mind you, they won’t need JPME until much further in their careers, but SWOs excel at knocking out wickets.

Some of the juicier assignments at NPS are held for those people who commit to DH school. It also comes with a signing bonus. Instead of promotion board precepts having JPME viewed favorably, encourage OICNW endorsement instead. And follow it up with a program where you could earn it while at NPS - partnering with Cal. Maritime, for example.

Right now there are limited opportunities to do “Secretary of the Navy Tours with Industry” for officers heading to shore duty. They are highly sought after and given to the best and most promising young officers. You could create an industry tour with MSC, and offer interested officers one 36 month sea tour plus a year with MSC instead of the nominal 48ish month two sea tours. There could be a follow on tour at NPS to earn OICNW too.

Some of these things will cost money, but the hard part will be convincing officers to do it. Ducks pick ducks, and people who stray from the well-trod path tend to get left behind. SECNAV would have to use his authority to ensure that officers with OICNW instead of JPME and those who “step away” from the Navy to do tours with MSC are rewarded and not punished.

These are the officers that have to be grown today so that the culture will stay changed 10 years from now when SECNAV is out of office and all the current crop of flags are retired.