Navy Wants Less Variance in its Equipment

Navy Wants Less Variance in its Equipment

The Navy has launched a new pilot program to save money and streamline the acquisition process by increasing commonality of parts, technologies and processes, service officials said.

The multi-pronged effort is primarily aimed at reducing what the Navy calls variance – the use of different parts and technical configurations for systems and products which could instead use more of the same materials, Rear Adm. Thomas Kearney, Deputy Commander, Acquisition and Commonality, told Military​.com in an interview.

This translates into work on finding more common parts for valves for nuclear submarines, motors, controllers and water tight doors for ships, among other things, he added. The idea is to save money for the Navy while simultaneously improving the acquisition process by making it more efficient.


“We do have a long term objective and it is to reach a 50-percent reduction in variance by 2020. More commonality is less variance. By having less variance, it is easier for the fleet to train their people on things, it is easier to maintain a logistics trail and it is easier to maintain ships,” Kearney said.

Although the new directorate at Naval Sea Systems Command is looking at improving training of program managers and streamlining processes such as welding procedures, the major thrust of the initiative is looking at equipment and technology.

“An example would be in motors. We have 4,500 types of motors in the Navy that we use. When we look technically at the requirements, we have about 1,500 different motors needed. That is an example of an area where we have room for improving commonality,” Kearney said.

One of the current pilot programs in this new acquisition and commonality directorate involves an effort to examine water tight doors for ships, he added.

“How can we save money by making our water tight doors more common? There will still be differences in technical requirements but we’re working to look at shrinking the pool of choices to be more common,” Kearney explained.

In addition, part of the commonality push is to identify and combine similar initiatives which already exist within the Navy’s acquisition community.

“We have found numerous efforts toward commonality that we unaware of each other’s existence and now they are aware so we can get a lot of synergy there and a lot of forward momentum,” he said.

Part of the processes push is to establish a common set of steps for key activities such as welding in order to improve efficiency, reduce redundancies and save money while maintaining quality, Kearney added.

“We want to maintain competition with industry but make it easier and less expensive to design and build the ships,” he said.

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Big Navy figures out the financial advantages of commonality in 2014.

Forty-three years after Southwest Airlines did so in 1971.

One might guess that Big Navy’s next discoveries will also be of 1970s vintage. Can’t wait for the disco music and the polyester leisure suits.

No shite? You finally think that might be a good idea?

One would have thought that the Navy (and the A F, Army and Marines) would have done this common sense approach to commonality of parts a long, long, tie ago. Maybe sequestration is forcing the services to husband their resources whereas previously money was no object. Hence, $200 hammers and $400 toilet seats.

Ummm… Someone in the navy did discover the joys of flammable uniforms, when they ok’d the navy purchasing them for their sailors, until not so long ago (when they finally got some sense into their heads).

They are supposed to be back in non-flammable uniforms now…

Part of the problem is the system is not setup or funded to think across the “enterprise” but rather at the program level. Someone has to pay for, incentivize, etc., the work to have commonality. It just doesn’t happen by accident. It isn’t a Navy only problem, but exists everywhere in the DoD.

Exactly. Each program is handled by a separate office often at different points in time and then executed by different vendors.

Most of the detailed design documentation is classified or at least distribution controlled (e.g., proprietary drawings/models, etc.) so sharing is not the default path.

It really needs to be a top down focus in order to force it to happen.

Having 1500 common motors is not going to save us any money as long as the Navy continues to pay defense contractors more to drag out the design and building of ships and to jack up their cost. All it will be is one more opportunity for cost growth. There is a fundamental economic theory called capitalism that says the contractor will always perform best at doing whatever the monetary incentives reward them for doing. The Navy pays more for process and they get lots and lots of process. If they paid more for results, they’d get better results.

The problem exists everywhere, not just the military. If you want an example just go take apart a lawn mower or some other simple machine and count the different types of screws and fasteners used just to hold the thing together.

This may sound like simple common sense, but it’s not at all common.

Sorry to say the BIG down side is that we end up with just a few types of planes and ships. The Navy seems to want only a few LCS and other surface ships that all share parts. Downside is that you have far less capability and performance from ships that are different but can do a better job than just one ship type that does all jobs.

How about using common test equipment.

There’s no such thing as common sense.

Hey Navy…I don’t blame you..(make yourself one fit)…(Good thinking).

I use to have one military sticker on my outer door…Air Force.…Now on my inner door I have Navy…Thank for Knocking off you know who. Really.…Incredible.

If commonality is the priority for economics, and ease of use, what happens when someone comes up with an improvement during the life cycle of say…X, or S band radar software/hardware and it changes procedure, or operating cycles?

The Navy first needs to commit to being a Navy, not an Air Force, nor an Army. The Navy needs to focus on maritime issues and stop trying to muscle in on other people’s missions.

And of course, you and your neighbor may have procured different lawn mowers that do not use interchangeable parts. Why? The vendors see no need to procure common parts.

It’s thinking that starts with the defense contractors. A “one size fits all” solution has lots of political clout due to all the various commands that have a stake in the future of the program. Plus, when you’re making money designing ships or any other weapon, why build anything? Say it’s the best thing ever when you’re designing it, and then let the truth come out when it comes time to build it. Bid on the next design program.

I was in Navy 1976 to 1989, In the aviation support equipment rate, we wanted to have engines of the same manufacture, to ease maintenance, this was stopped by lobbying from manufactures. The same went for batteries, but this was because of supply system, that only allow use of items procured thru system.

It’s generally a problem because each vendor is totally frozen out if their engine fails to win. Procuring two different types of engines would create more problems. Unless two vendors submit competing designs and then split production of the winning design…

There’s a limit to commonality for the Navy. We can’t toss all the Nims just to have Fords, and I imagine the Ford will be sufficiently different to make maintenance for two classes of distinct nuclear aircraft carrier interesting. For starters, the steam vs EMALS. Even in a single class of destroyer there are multiple flights each with varying upgrades.

But the problem the Navy highlighted is a serious foundational one. Multiple unique parts when a single type will do? Whose bright idea was that?

I guess some [Edit: designers] didn’t play with Legos when they were kids.

I know, let’s have the Navy go back to designing their own ships like they used to when we had a 600 ship fleet for the cost of 200 tubs now. That way they could design in whatever common equipment they wanted. No, why do that when we can pay a defense contractor a bonus for dragging the design of our warships out for decades, and they can get another bonus for jacking up the manufacturing cost of the ship they’re designing. Plus, they get one more bonus if the ship doesn’t stay afloat, because then they get to redesign it so it does. Sure, with a genius system of procurement like that, why ever go back to a system that worked for 200+ years?

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