"Optimal Manning's" International Public Disgrace - Norwegian Edition
you have to have an effective military at war, not one optimized for peacetime efficiency
Many of the problems our Navy faces today trying to address the “lapping” threat posed by the People’s Republic of China in the Pacific are the bitter harvests of the foul seed sowed in the second half of the 1990s and the fist half of the 2000’s.
One of the most pernicious of these remains the Orwellian “Optimal Manning” pushed so hard by the green eye-shade Ponzi salesmen from the Efficiency Cult.
This fetid spawn was/is a classic “short term gain on my watch that will create long term existential problems on some other poor bastard’s watch a few PCS cycles down the road long after I’m driving around The Villages in my pimped out golf cart” that characterized so many of the decisions made at that time … and that mindset is still floating around in the Potomac ether.
Here as I am sure in Norway, tt briefed well, mostly because most of the alternate voices were either not invited to the decision brief or were cowed to silence.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as another “American Disease” or some spontaneous convergent evolution in response to the New World Order of the post-Cold War period - my vote is on the former more than the later mostly due to the metastasizing impact of American consulting firms at that time.
As with all short term thinking - the bill eventually comes due. Remember the loss of the frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad in NOV 2018?
The court case against the officer of the watch (vaktleder) and its appeals has brought the issue back to the front in Norway.
In yesterday’s Forsvarets Forums article (remember to translate it), retired Norwegian naval officer with multiple command tours, Hans Petter Midttun, outlines a must read wire brushing of the entire “optimal manning” concept.
You will see that his view of what it caused to the Norwegian Navy’s nightmare is a direct parallel of that happened to the US Navy in that horrible month of 2017; too much to do with too little people with too thin training.
Let’s dive in;
The Ministry of Defense (FD), the Defense Staff (FST) and the Norwegian Navy (SST) have, in my opinion, knowingly or unknowingly breached the prerequisites for proper operation of the frigates.
My claim is rooted in 23 years of frigate competence. I have held most of the operational positions in the frigate force. This includes the positions as ship commander at KNM Narvik and KNM Roald Amundsen, as well as a period at the Navy's competence center and two periods as staff officer for the "shipowner".
That is the extended way of saying, “I know you because I am you.” He’s raising his voice here because it is personal and he’s wants to go on the record that there are causes to this mishap much deeper than just the one officer on trial.
In light of the extensive changes that lay before the Armed Forces in 2004, we considered it crucial to describe the assumptions on which the staffing concept was based. It was not a new concept. It just hadn't been described before. It had been developed as a consequence of continuous efficiency measures in the 90s.
One of our main messages was:
The Lean Manning Concept was not chosen because it was operationally smart. It was chosen because it enabled the Navy to man and sail (at the time) a balanced structure. It was an absolute minimum crew that could only work if all the prerequisites were met.
The last part - here on the Front Porch we describe that as “exquisite.” Everything - and everyone - has to work just right to make the formula work.
It doesn’t work that way outside the briefing room. Never does.
During a five-year period, the crew sailed one year less than what Nato considered necessary to maintain the operational level (for a frigate with a larger crew). But in addition, the crews never reached more than a maximum of 80 percent of their expected combat power. This meant that each year the training activity started at a lower level than the previous year.
You design minimum manning - and you get 80% of the minimum. It might work for awhile in peace - but it unquestionably won’t work in combat. Exactly the stew that contributed to the McCain & Fitzgerald collisions. Senior leaders try to convince everyone that 9-to-11 month deployments are a “new normal” and humans can do 100-hr work weeks for weeks to months on end with no downside. Just sadistic malpractice.
Left unchecked by those who understand the hard lessons of centuries of building and maintaining a global maritime force, the Efficiency Cult will spready their heresy;
The support structure in the country was built down and reorganized. A satisfactory spare parts inventory has never been established. The vessels all too often sail with technical faults and deficiencies (which further reduces the ability to train effectively). Civilian contractors with limited system expertise are hired to carry out maintenance.
Smell the LCS CONOPS? Of course you do.
Overall, the measures have contributed to reducing the crews' level of experience to a level where risk becomes unacceptable and accidents occur. … It is unreasonable that those who have first borne the burden of years of savings, cost cutting and efficiency measures in clear contradiction to the staffing concept, must then bear the responsibility that the latter finally collapsed.
We are not alone is facing decades of mistakes. It will not be inexpensive or quick to get back to a sound footing, but the effort must be made and sustained.
It is important that we revisit the intellectual failures of the immediate post-Cold War period. Present and future defense policy makers will be confronted over and over with the same sweet, sweet promises that only lead to ruin.
You have to have an effective military at war, not one optimized for peacetime efficiency. One does not begat the other. Peace is only the comfortable period between war. We are a warlike species and war is the default condition of our species and the nations we form.
Never forget that. Prepare accordingly.