The U.S. Navy has created a new way to better manage surface ships by type or class. New "class squadrons" are being established, known as CLASSRONs to coordinate the support of ships by type, wherever they may be home ported. Eight CLASSRON Implementation Teams were established on Oct. 1, as an initiative of the Navy's new Surface Warfare Enterprise (SWE).
The CLASSRONs will be located in Norfolk, Va.; San Diego, Calif.; Ingleside, Texas; and Mayport, Fla. (see chart).
The Implementation Teams have begun staffing, defining roles and establishing procedures that will lead to CLASSRONs achieving full operational capability in the spring of 2007.
According to Vice Adm. Terrance Etnyre, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, CLASSRONs will not replace current Immediate Superior in Command (ISIC) organizations such as Carrier Strike Groups
and Expeditionary Strike Groups, but will support them with warships ready for tasking by aligning manning, training, equipping and maintaining processes of ships by the class.
When fully operational, CLASSRONs will align SWE readiness and cost control processes with established waterfront support organizations to provide greater overall enterprise effectiveness. The CLASSRON is part of a triad that includes the commanding officer of the ship, the ISIC and the CLASSRON. The commanding officer of each CLASSRON will report to the SWE Chief Readiness Officer, Rear Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, and will serve waterfront support organizations as a supporting commander.
The new "squadrons" do not eliminate existing operational squadrons, such as destroyer squadrons (DESRONs) or Amphibious Squadrons (PHIBRONs). Those will still remain the Immediate Superior in the Chain of Command (ISIC). The CLASSRONs will support the ISIC and better manage resources.
A guided missile destroyer, for example, will still belong to a Destroyer Squadron (DESRON), and will report as it does today to one of the numbered fleets for operational control (OPCON). But now a single entity will be looking out for all DDGs across manning, training, maintenance and equipping, no matter what squadron they're in, or where their homeport is.
The goal of the new CLASS
RONs is to assess current readiness, analyze metrics across ships of a class, examine class trends, determine root causes, establish lessons learned and provide recommendations and solutions, while emphasizing readiness and cost control processes.
The effort is part of the Navy's Sea Enterprise concept, which is manifested in the Surface Warfare Enterprise, led by Vice Adm. Etnyre and the leadership of the Surface Navy, which comprise the board of directors. Etnyre says SWE is not changing the way the Surface Navy does business just for the sake of change, "but because we believe that only a clean-slate approach can ensure we will have the technologies, systems, platforms and people for the needs at hand," he says. "We have organized for the future efficiently to provide our product: warships ready for tasking."
"What we didn't have is a command that integrates requirements and readiness across manning, training, maintenance and equipping a warship so that it's ready for tasking," says Capt. Bill Valentine, commander of Afloat Training Group Norfolk. "And it's a continuous process."
The CLASSRONs provide cradle-to-grave management and oversight of the hulls and the crew, and serve as the link between all the other external agencies. "The CLASSRON will have a dotted line relationship with everyone in the funnel," says Capt. Brian Goulding, commanding officer of the Regional Support Organization Norfolk. "The CLASSRON's relationships with external organizations will improve the support those organizations provide to a specific class of ship."
Ships will be at a higher state of readiness more often, able to go into harm's way to do their mission and come back with everyone they sailed with.
From the top down, the Type Commander now can ask one person about a class of ship. From the bottom up, the commanding officer and squadron commander now have a single place to meet the needs of Naval Sea Systems Command and the Program Executive Office. "They never had that kind of advocacy before," says Valentine.
They'll use a common set of SWE metrics for all ships in a class. The staff will have visibility and capability for objective and informed management and oversight decisions of things like steaming days, fuel costs or resource allocation.
"We collect so much data today, but we don't really know what to do with it all," says Valentine. "Now we'll know."
In fact, says Valentine, the Navy collects more than 12,000 discrete data elements on the training and readiness alone, on every ship. "Now we have it down to 2,500 or so."
The difference is "an order of magnitude," says Capt. Mike Davis, who is the Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic (COMNAVSURFLANT) Chief of Staff. "Eventually, we may ask for different data so we can be consistent across the enterprise."
What is collected will be consistent. Instead of spurious short-fuzed data calls, the same data will be collected in the same way on the same schedule. Much will be collected and transmitted electronically, freeing up Sailors to do more important tasks.
"We'll collect less, but use it more efficiently and effectively," says Davis.
Analysis from one CLASSRON can be compared with another, and the right information can be delivered to the SWE board of directors to make informed decisions.
For the deck plate Sailor, CLASSRONs will better identify deficiencies, track progress and implement permanent solutions to class-wide problems. This efficiency will ultimately lead to increased readiness and improved warfighting capability.
"CLASSRONs will better align the Surface Warfare Enterprise. Aligning the Surface Warfare Enterprise process teams with established waterfront support organizations, operational commanders, and assigned ships will ensure the readiness and cost control processes required to provide greater overall Enterprise effectiveness are in place," Curtis says. "This will ensure we are producing warships ready for tasking at the right time, at the right cost."
CLASSRON Ships Headquarters
Guided missile destroyers DDG 49 Norfolk
Guided missile cruisers CG 22 San Diego
Coastal patrol craft
PC 8 Norfolk
Frigates FFG 30 Mayport
Amphibious Assault LHA/LHD/Steam LPD 23 Norfolk
Littoral Combat Ship LCS 12+ San Diego
Landing Ship Dock/Platform LSD / LPD 17 21 San Diego
MCM 22 Ingleside
Each CLASSRON will have similar functions, but some types of ships are more complex, or have bigger numbers, or both. There will be similarities, such as the CG and DDG CLASSRONS. Both classes of ships have the Aegis Combat Weapons System and similar gas-turbine propulsion plants.
"You have a high-level group involved in fixing the problem. The CLASSRON will be able to address the specific processes. What kinds of Sailors are really needed? What Naval Enlisted Classifications (NECs) and schools are required for a particular watch station or job, and how can we ensure those Sailors have the right training," Valentine says.
One of the ways the Navy measures unit readiness is with a Training Figure of Merit (TFOM). Using new and objectively measured ways to train the entire crew, TFOM is an invaluable tool for use by the commanding officer and the ship's training teams to self-assess proficiency levels and generate resource requirements based on warfighting capability requirements.
"Altogether, these initiatives allow the ship to maintain a steady strain instead of constantly being in a crisis management mode," Valentine says.
The Surface Force continues to remain at the leading edge of warfighting, Curtis says. "Establishment of the CLASSRONs, as the key enabler to the Surface Warfare Enterprise, will produce warships ready for tasking in the blue, green and brown water."
About the Author: Edward Lundquist is a senior science advisor for Alion Science and Technology, Washington, D.C. He is a retired Navy captain
and supports the Navy's Surface Warfare Directorate.