Military Readiness:

Navy's Report to Congress on the Impact of Training and Crew Size on Surface Force Material Readiness

GAO-11-746R: Published: Jul 7, 2011. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 2011.

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Since 2000, the Navy has undertaken a number of initiatives to achieve greater efficiencies and reduce costs. For example, it reduced the workforce requirements for some of its ships and transitioned away from instructor-led training programs to more computer-based training. In June 2010, we reported the Navy lacked a firm analytical basis for some of the reductions it made to ship crew sizes and therefore could not be assured it had appropriately sized its crews to maintain material readiness and accomplish necessary tasks aboard its ships. We also reported the Navy lacked outcome-based performance measures to evaluate the impact of changes to training on trainees' job performance, knowledge, skills, and abilities once they report to their ships and therefore could not fully determine the effectiveness of the training changes it implemented and whether further adjustments were necessary. We recommended the Navy validate the underlying assumptions and standards it uses to calculate workforce requirements and, as necessary, based on this assessment, reevaluate its cruiser and destroyer workload requirements. We also recommended the Navy develop additional metrics to measure the effectiveness of its training. The Navy concurred with our recommendations. Citing our previous work and other sources, the House Armed Services Committee has expressed concern about the material readiness of the Navy's surface combatant ships. In House Report 111-491, which accompanied a proposed bill for the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5136), the committee directed the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report that describes (1) the impact that changes in training and reductions in crew size have had on the material readiness of its ships, including (1) the ships' ability to perform required maintenance tasks and pass required inspections; (2) any projected effects on the lifespan of individual ships; and (3) any effects on overall reported readiness; (2) the methodology, including metrics, that the Navy used to make this assessment, and based on the results, any adjustments in training and manning that the Navy plans to make to address its findings; and (3) the steps the Navy has taken to establish a stringent tool-control program, through appropriate commands, for all surface combatant ships similar to the tool-control program that exists for aviation squadrons, and describe the funding required to implement such a program. The Navy issued its report to Congress in February 2011. This report (1) describes the Navy's methodology for developing its report to Congress and the information presented in its report on conclusions and adjustments the Navy is making to training and manning and (2) assesses the reasonableness of the Navy's methodology and conclusions. As agreed with your staff, because the Navy has not implemented a stringent tool-control program as envisioned in the House report, we were not able to assess its impact and therefore are not addressing the topic in this report. We are not making recommendations in this correspondence.

The Navy's methodology for producing its report consisted of assigning responsibility for the report to the Fleet Readiness Division, which searched for sources of information to address the reporting requirements outlined in House Report 111-491, assembled the information from the sources that appeared to be relevant to training and manning readiness, and finally, vetted the Navy's report through a variety of Navy organizations and through the Navy's chain-of-command. To prepare its report to Congress, the Navy assigned responsibility to officials from its N43 office, the Fleet Readiness Division. These officials reviewed and assembled information from a variety of sources including (1) total manning numbers and Navy Enlisted Classification distributions; (2) training changes relative to maintenance skill sets; (3) historical data from the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (which conducts material inspections of ships every 5 years), referred to as INSURV inspections; (4) readiness trends from the Defense Readiness Reporting System-Navy (which reports the readiness of Navy forces and the supporting infrastructure to accomplish designed and assigned missions); and (5) findings and recommendations from the Fleet Review Panel on Surface Force Readiness. The Navy used a reasonable methodology in preparing its report to Congress; however it did not perform sufficient analysis to verify the information used to support its conclusions and recommendations. Specifically, the Navy's methodological approach of relying on existing information and subject-matter experts supported accomplishing the report's objectives of describing the impact of training and manning changes on ship readiness, and related conclusions and recommendations. By reviewing and drawing upon published reports such as the Fleet Review Panel report and existing databases such as Defense Readiness Reporting System-Navy, and using reviewers knowledgeable about the subject matter, the Navy gathered relevant information on the status of ship readiness and insights on training and manning issues being experienced on board surface combatants. While the Navy reached specific conclusions and related recommendations in its report, it did not perform any independent analysis to verify source information, including taking steps to assess the reliability of any data. According to N43 officials involved in preparing the report, they reviewed the various source documents previously mentioned and extracted information to include in the Navy report, but did not do any independent analysis to confirm the validity of the data or the conclusions referenced in the source documents. As a result, the Navy's report did not include any discussion of data limitations or caveats to any of the information it presented, including its conclusions and recommendations.

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