Navy Increases On-Board Ship Maintenance

Navy Increases On-Board Ship Maintenance

The Navy plans to add more maintenance personnel to ship crews and perform more maintenance activities on-board ships as they are deployed in order to reduce the costs and time needed at the shipyard upon their return, service leaders said.

Naval Sea Systems Command leader Vice Adm. Willy Hilarides pointed out that 78-percent of the Navy’s 289 ships will still be in the water in ten years, a circumstance which underscores the importance of maintenance and modernization. The demand for Navy ships is expected to increase and budgets are likely to remain challenged, making ship maintenance even more important, he said.

Adding maintenance personnel to ship crews helps reverse the impacts of a decade-old plan called “optimal manning” which sought to reduce crew sizes with a sharper warfighting focus and improved on-board technology.

“We went through a period where we said we are going to downsize the size of the crews, saying we’re really going tighten that up and make them just about warfighting. I would say we probably went a little too far — so we’re putting back into the engineering departments of those ships,” said Hilarides.

The idea is to man ships with enough personnel so that sailors can learn how to maintain their own ship to a large degree, Hilarides explained.

For example, sailors on board a ship would be able to repair a broken fire pump by replacing the bearings, seals and properly aligning the pump, he added.

Placing more maintenance personnel aboard ships helps the Navy by better sustaining ships and further refining technical skills and training for sailors who are engineers and mechanics, Hilarides explained.  In addition, performing maintenance work at sea greatly reduces the shipyard maintenance costs.

The Navy is still building and upgrading ships with a mind to increasing efficiency of personnel on  board and lowering costs, meaning there are instances where next-generation technology or improved automation will reduce the need for  personnel on-board certain ships.

This is the case with the Ford-class aircraft carriers and Zumwalt-class destroyers, both of which are engineered with new technology including much more automation compared to their predecessor vessels; more automation translates into a reduced crew size which lowers operational and sustainment costs for the ship.

The Ford-class aircraft carriers are slated to carry a crew of about 5,200 sailors if you include the air wing, a number that is about 800 sailors less than Nimitz-class carriers which preceded them.  Even though there may be fewer sailors on-board a Ford-class carrier, the mixture of sailors assigned to the ship is likely to ensure that there are sufficient engineers and mechanics on-board to perform the requisite maintenance functions.

As a result, lowering costs by having more maintenance personnel on board and making ships more efficient in terms of their crew size are mutually-reinforcing efforts, Navy officials said.

One analyst said adding engineers to ship crews could help the Navy get through a time of strained budgets.

“It stands to reason that there is a category of things that are reasonably easy to fix if you have mechanics on the ships. There’s a lot of pressure on the Navy right now due to flat budgets and rising personnel costs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.

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The sound you just heard today was the groan of a thousands of overworked sailors wondering why the Navy is making them work harder while congress is cutting their pay and at the same time still sending billions of tax payers dollars to weapons systems that don’t work like the F-35 and LCS.

wow, the Navy is realizing that doing maintenance on a continual basis is a good idea, instead of waiting for yard periods, that’s really forward thinking on their part. Now they have to add personnel back to the headcount to make sure it all get’s done

So is this a good thing that’s worth the cost?

You mean the exact opposite of Optimal manning?!!!! SHOCK!

It means better readiness rates. It also means a few more sailors leave the navy with better skills as they enter the civilian workforce.

Overworked, my a s s. Bucket loads of doing nothing but make work as they fight boredom. Maybe, HAHAHAH, I know, maybe, the eggs and braid will cut out a few mandatory meetings about meetings about the repair that should be done, but can’t as they do not carry the proper spare, or misplaced the manual, or the personnel are not aboard to carry out the maintenance. Not that the sailors already aboard the ship couldn’t do the repair, but because there is no one “certified” on board to do the repair. Yes, the word “certified” is a 4 letter curse word.

Everything comes full cirlcle. The Navy decommissioned all but two Tenders and shut down the SIMA function in the early 2000s which in turn took away the afloat/shore maintenance training for the sailors. Which in turn caused the ships to loose skilled craftsmen onboard. The RMCs that were formed from this focused on civilian shipyard contracts for repair and all the sudden they start to realize that the ships are failing to maintain the simplest of systems because, one — there aren’t enough sailors to perform the maintenance, and two — nobody had the skills anyway. SO now the Navy wakes up and is bringing the sailors back to the RMCs production floors to get the skills to take back to the fleet for routine maitenance and emergent repairs underway. Wow, took almost ten years of lost training and skills to figure that out when most of us “Old Salts” saw the writing on the wall back then.

The Yellowstones are gone, I think the only tenders left are sub tenders.

Adding personnel from where? “A” school after learning how to fix stuff thru computer base training and finding the actual ship equipment does not look like the computer picture or virtual lesson they learned. Navy will need to go back to the days where sailors rotate off ship and go to SIMA’s, MOTU’s or FTSC commands to get the hands on training needed. ( oh the navy got rid of those Commands) Assessments need to be of higher proirity Tech Reps go onboard to find ship Techs off to school, leave, medical etc.. Total lose of hands on training.

I just love learning about these things. Reduced maintenance personnel?! Maybe we can fill the positions with all the Asian engineers that can’t find work. Is Halliburton hiring any Chinese private contractors? How long are we going to take to train American naval technicians and who came up with the previous plan to reduce maintenance personnel on ship? Talk about a world power that’s gotten lax about these matters! More self-sufficiency for our multi-billion dollar floating assets!

Correct and those won’t be around for long either. They were built in the late 70’s and are steam driven. Surprised they’ve lasted this long. Didn’t realize we still had sailors qualified to maintain nonnuclear boilers.

I was an A-gang MM1 who got out in ’92. We fixed EVERYTHING. Who ruined my Navy?

it was a bad decision to get rid of the AD’s. Hell Yellowstone AD-41 was only 16 years old when she was decommed in 96. I was a plankowner onboard her. AD-44 is in the James River with AD-41 rotting away, AD-42 was sent to the bottom in a sinkex and AD-43 was cut up for scrap in Texas. Sad state of affairs. Glad I’m retired.

Right on the button. The training for sailors has been in the works for upgrading for years and still there is none at the training commands. Also, micro managing by personnel is preventing tech reps from giving ships force the training needed to fix “stuff”.

The chickens are coming home to roost. We use to be a Navy that could go anywhere and stay anywhere w/o a train of tech reps or foreign shipyard support. Now a lot of equipment is remove and replace. Mounted on skids. We had pattern makers, molders, skilled lathe operators, and other tender and repair ship sailors. Now what.
MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Retired

Vice Admiral Terrance T. Etnyre

WHAT! overworked from doing what. don’t worry about the cost and it was not designed to be Maintenance free. Let’s get our sailors off of facebook and back into the tech manuals.

We repaired and did extensive preventive maint aboard the ships I was on. I was taught by my Chiefs to rebuild pumps, valves anything associated with our system. Even when there was a major breakdown the engineers had it up in a few days.

and what kind of maintenance do you think these sailors will be performing to get “better skills” when they leave the navy? I spent 2 years on the Enterprise in overhaul…I got a lot of “experience” grinding and painting that didn’t translate into a skilled job after I left the service. College provided that.

I wonder if they realize that much of the required maintenance CANNOT be accomplished while underway! That means ship will be required DOWNTIME … what ships are going to fulfill overseas requirements? These “modern thinkers” in the “new Navy” have got a lot to learn.

Navy leadership needs to put the sailors back to work, you can go to any ship on the water front, and there is 30–40 sailors with IPODS/ cell phones in hand, or leaving the ship at 11 am daily!

MMCS is spot on!!!

The US NAVY is the force of stabilization for global commerce and security. On a program I listened to the “new view” that this is now a multi-polar world where nations like Brazil, Russia, India and China (for example) should be their regional territories law. International law be damned and every nation for itself. This is a dangerous new thought that even permeates our own national security think tank advisors. Some of them, I mean.

I did not realize that the USN was not performing the repairs and maintenance of the ships. That is what a crew is for. The USN had previously performed almost all maintenance so I do not understand how a ship can be operational without someone to repair it, what happened to damage control men, and other engineering rates. Part of the requirement to be promoted from FA (fireman apprentice E2) to FN (fireman E3) is that one must work several hours in the Main Machinery Room, and take apart a pump among other related projects for advancement in any snipe or black shoe rate. The Captain directs the assignment, navigation guides you there, gunnery protects and provides firepower, the deck gets the vessel in and out of port and the ENGNEERS make the boat float or the clock to tick(actually Quartermasters are charge of the clocks) so to speak. The vessel has to float and run in order for it to do anything. USN better get it’s head out of where the sun doesn’t shine and fix their own vessels. Outside help should be abolished. Do what we sent you there for: YOUR JOB!!!

Won’t be long before Navy ships are extensively manned with civilian contractors from the vendors.

You’d think the menial stuff would go to contractors. Granted, they’d find 5/hour part timers (or prison labor) and bill the government for 20/hour per head.

The case study for demobilization can be found in the German military, post-WW1. The military downsized, but they preserved enough of it to enable re-mobilization at the appropriate time. And of course, it was well-timed to a moment when technology required a restructure, but emotional ties prevented a massive restructuring.

Things like global power projection require global logistics and global support. To make the Navy “look badass” we mitigated the damage to parts of the surface warfare component and went hog-wild stripping out everything else. Look, we have twelve carriers. Let’s drop tenders and support ships without replacement. Nobody in Congress cried over the Yellowstones the way they did for the Enterprise and the George Washington or the nuclear cruisers…

The GAO report regarding maintenance on LCS-1 (USS Freedom) indicated that the LCS crew size (which was supposed to be 40) was upped to 50 before she began her asian adventure. Despite the now-up-crewed size of 50, it still required the help of the “surface warfare” mission package crew (17 sailors) AND the on-board contractors, the crew still suffered from sleep depravation.

For the engineers, the problem was even worse.

It has since been determined that despite the “automated” design of LCS-1, she is (and remains) a maintenance nightmare. As a result, she will be used as a training or “hazing” ship. Whether changes
made to subsequent ship in class will help significantly remains to be seen (the GAO report doubts they’ll
be sufficient), and that LCS will have to be redesigned to handle a more realistic crew count.

I would guess that the folks at Lockheed failed to do the homework regarding maintenance requirements
vs. crew size. Whether this is a problem for the Austal variant remains to be seen.

Typical.up until lately we did that and did it very well thank you very much .its good to see they arent gonna stA stupid.

There is 2 choices. Increase the amount of naval personnel and train them with something called OJT, with the older sailors as trainers, just like the old navy, and man up the ships with sailors that kick off the contractors. OR reduce the amount of ships and put the personnel they have to work.
The USN always did everything on the ship and the yard did the things that cannot be done in the water, WTF is going on? Who ran off the trained crews? Start training now and screw the engineering schools(except specialized equipment) with OJT. The jobs on the outside are far and few between and in the long run the pay and benefits out distanced the contractors. Most of the contractors are just plain out and out thieves and should not be on a USN vessel period…WITH NO CONTRACTORS THERE WILL BE LESS THEIVES TO STEAL TRAINED PERSONNEL.

Hey CaptainDoc you left off one more key group that keeps the ship afloat and going.….
Supply MS, SK, SH, DK, PN and so on.

deck ape

Wow some admirals just discovered that if you take something round, punch a hole in the middle for an axle you can make an object that allows improved transportation possible!!

Read about First Lord of the Admiralty Jacky Fisher. The Dreadnaught was extremely innovative, but it worked. And Fisher focused on gunnery training, maintenance, and simplicity. He might have been an egomaniacal workaholic… but his ideas worked.

What????? I guess the “Kinder, Gentler” Navy is in for a rude awakening! Even on a Tin Can with minimal Fabrication Facilities, we did ALL of the routine maintenance. The ONLY time we “LET” someone touch “OUR” Machinery was when there was an “Upgrade” being done, or if the job required a Dry dock. I’m not just talking inspecting, greasing equipment. I’m talking overhauling pumps, valves, ejector systems, Main Engine Bearings etc.…..What ever happened to having real Sailors?

A lot of the ships in the gator navy have oil fired boilers.

Reorganization as an illusion of progress. Did someone just discover that ships are an entity within themselves? Amazing!!! It sounds again like the 1200 PSI Program where the operators thought than being an engineer was beneath their station in life. Cost not just a few of them to learn that lesson. I led snipes for twenty years and they were always under appreciated. They truly were the backbone. Bob Nerup CDR USN {ret}

You’ve got to be kidding.…until I read this article it never occurred to me that shipboard personnel weren’t overhauling their own equipment and machinery.….when did this come to pass? And, while we’re at it; didn’t the article also say they were going to increase the manning to allow this. “Overworked sailors…” overworked at what?

Being an ex MM and LDO snipe.…I can say you are right on the money.….reading an article that talks about sailors repairing their machinery as if it’s a new concept is totally sickening. Like you, I recall being able to repair anything and, if for some reason I needed help.….there was always the tender with OTHER sailors to come assist.….or possibly a SIMA. Tech Reps came to work on some highly technical stuff and held training for the sailors so next time around THEY could do it.….what’s happened??

When the bosses don’t pay attention to history they are bound to repeat failures. I was assigned to Mayport Fl in 1976 and saw many careers go down in flames during insurv and PEB due to riding the ships hard and putting them away wet during Nam. And as a glutton for punishment I did two tours on Perry Class Frigates that were designed as minimum manned the manned up to be able to safely get underway. The Perry class with the fin stabilizers was a good ship.

Chief I’ve got you beat my first two ships were USS Grand Canyon AR-28 and USS Yosemite AD-19 both commissioned during WWII. Not one ship that I served on during a 24 year career that ended in 1995 is still in commission.


So…after decoming the SIMA SANDIEGO boat house…and trashing millions of dollars in tools parts and equipment, Scrapping the last two LCRU jeheemy cranes, sending all the seabees and shipfitter ratings away, turning the boathouse keys and ramp over to eod and giving the business to contractors down on 13th street where there isnt a boat ramp…oh and getting rid of the dyno and paint and fiber shop…you think they might reopen? Experience points lost. Eggheads…cant stop f-ing us over. Everyone thinks Snowdens working for the Ruskies…maybe we better dig deeper on some of these white hats and politicians. P.s. F3M

I’ve been saying it for years–we have a fifth volume that’s looting the people’s assets. Bad political, military and commercial decisions are being made to weaken America and profit the few. Where is the globe’s manufacturing base now? Where are US jobs? “None dare call it treason.”

I served on the USS Prairie AD-15 in the early 60’s and there was nothing we could not fix. We kept the Destroyer Fleet humming and took pride in being the best. Most of those old Tin Cans, as they were affectionately referred too, were built for WW2 and would take a beating and keep on ticking. Four boilers, two engines and the ability to cross connect to make them fly as required to stay underway and fight our way through a buzz saw if need be. It was fun to be a sailor in those days and you didn’t have to put up with the limp wrist crap real men have to endure these days. Just throw a lap top computer at should fix the problem, ya right! EWCS USN Retired.

For those of us who retired more than ten years ago, this may be news. But the loss of onboard technical repair talent/skills/knowledge began to accelerate right after 9/11 and continued up until just a couple years ago. The focus and budget emphasis shifted to operations not repair. Formal school training programs took huge hits. Everyone woke up a couple years ago, so things are slowly turning around. The programs to rotate sailors through shore regional repair facilities, getting repair experience, certified and NECs are ramping up even more, as the article points out. We can all point to the “Old Navy” and moan about the state of things, but it took almost15-20 years to get here. Now it has to be turned around. Won’t be overnight, give it time to happen.

Same crap the Army has done. Used to have Mechanics in the line companies, then moved them to HQ and attached them to the companies during exercises, now we have maintenance companies. There is a LOT to be said for living and working with your operators. You get to know which ones are worth their salt and which ones are oxygen thieves.….

If the funding was not as tight as it is, this would not be a topic of conversation. Retired in 73 as an LDO engineer. I would cringe when I had to call for outside help. We fixed our own gear, that is why we were there. The sad part is the Navy has lost a lot of talent and as previously stated the average sailor doesn’t know squat how to repair due to the fact that they have been brain washed into believing they are operators and not maintainers. Years ago there was an Admiral who spoke to a large group of sailors and ask their complaints, the response was they make us paint, clean, and work on equipment. The Admiral replied that with the modern technology the average sailor could not repair the equipment he operated. How can you operate something if you don’t know how it works. We eliminated service schools, SIMAS and other facilities that would assist in maintaining ships. I have often wondered if we ever have to go through a Naval battle how many ship’s will survive due to lack of fixing damage when it occurs or when equipment fails. It is a sad day for the Navy.

It is a step in the right direction, the decision to reduce maintenance at sea, in my opinion had an unintended consequence of tripling (at least) the in port workloads. We should be happy that some maintenance level loading is going on with regards to ships lifecycle maintenance requirements.

This comes about because we have deprecated trades and working with our hands in secondary school. Too expensive, too dangerous, they say; but mostly because it requires finding qualified teachers. Sadly, students aren’t motivated either.

The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle phenomenon that failed to include Repair. This is a sign of the throwaway society.

“began to accelerate right after 9/11″

Would’ve thought that it was a consequence of the peace dividend and that it would’ve been repaired ASAP. Sounds like they wanted all the money for thigh holsters instead.

This is what happens when your biggest opponent disappears. Peacetime laxity. Organizations have two choices: downsize but maintain the organization at a smaller scale, or prune the organization in an ad hoc fashion. We trimmed tenders, submarines, support ships, battleships, nuclear cruisers and conventional carriers and instead of preserving overall capability, elected only to preserve parts of the organization.

Of course, the lack of a huge American merchant marine to serve as a holding area for sailors while out of active duty doesn’t help. Once everything got flagged foreign it meant all the expertise to maintain ships was built up overseas as well.

I spent two years on USS Proteus (AS 19), ’83-’85 out of Guam. She had been in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered and subsequently was converted to nuclear repair capable. If we couldn’t fix it, it couldn’t be fixed. I now work for a defense contractor, often aboard CGs/DDGs, and in some cases their material condition is downright scary. It’s about time the navy realizes you can’t maintain ships without an adequate number of highly trained engineers and techs, but it will take years to reestablish the level of competence and experience that has been lost in the over emphasis on crew drawdowns.

Don’t laugh but I used to read about this kind of thing in science fiction books. It is scary that it is actually happening in our current NAVY. Thanks to these threads I’ve been reading for years the extent of the problem should be remedied ASAP.

” some cases their material condition is downright scary”

This sounds like what happened to the Royal Navy whenever their nearest rival collapsed, leading to massive complacency that is reluctantly kicked back into shape during the next war.

It was easy to see this problem coming but it’s a bit harder to believe they will truly fix it. Surely not like it once was. We did ALL of our own maintenance and shipyards were for drydocking and major upgrades. The only time I ever saw civilian techs on board was the early days of satellite comm development when we were the FIRST and ONLY such group in the world.

Being an outsider I had to look up SIMA: Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity.

However, I did find an article from 2011: http://​www​.navy​.mil/​s​u​b​m​i​t​/​d​i​s​p​l​a​y​.​a​s​p​?​s​t​o​r​y​_​i​d=6

“In the past, IMAs served as a critical component of the training pipeline for fleet Sailors. In recent years, however, funding cuts led to the downsizing of these facilities. Re-establishing the intermediate maintenance activity in Mayport reflects the Navy’s commitment to a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to shipboard material readiness.

“This is not just about a ceremony, but rather we are embarking on an important mission that recognizes the significant revolution that has happened in how the Navy views surface ship maintenance,” said Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy. “In a budget-constrained environment, the fleet has supported adding a total of 50 additional skilled personnel to this activity. By 2012, we will add another 85 military and civilian. We are expanding and bringing back the needed facilities to properly support the needs of the fleet.”

While training at an IMA, Sailors will receive on-the-job training within five primary product families, each of which will provide rating-specific training for Sailors. This training will be in such areas as corrosion control, engine maintenance, component machining and combat systems repairs.

In addition to the invaluable hands-on training provided to Sailors, they will also have the opportunity to participate in the Navy Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy program, which provides the means for Sailors in these ratings to achieve journeyman-level certification in these skills during their assignment to IMAs.

“This training will be invaluable to [Sailors] during your career and in your later post-Navy careers,” said McCoy while addressing Sailors assigned to the command.

Over the past decade, substantial fiscal constraints forced a reduction in ship manning and in surface ship support maintenance activities ashore. While the immediate results of restructuring created a cost savings for the Navy that proved favorable, the longer-term, unintended consequence of not training Sailors to maintain and repair shipboard equipment created a significant material readiness void.

Navy leaders recognized the void, and have since undertaken several initiatives designed to rebuild resources, and positively impact quality maintenance and modernization practices across the Navy’s RMCs. One of these initiatives is the re-establishment of IMAs.

“Our senior Navy leadership, from the CNO, to the fleet commanders and NAVSEA have made the re-establishment of our IMAs possible, and their investment in the surface ship maintenance initiatives and resources the Navy requires to properly sustain our ships and train our fleet Sailors has been vital,” said Rear Adm. David Gale, commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center. “With their support, we are now uniquely positioned to ensure that the material readiness of today’s, and tomorrow’s, fleet is sustained.”


Things like SIMA probably got canned to free up money for all sorts of DoD contingencies. Now we’re reaping what we sow…and now we’re refueling the GW and buying aircraft and perhaps even starting studies into LCS replacements while still keeping LCS and demonstrators around. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and if you can’t support the fleet, why are we prioritizing procurement over support? Before I argued that if we were tight on funds, putting the GW away would free up funds to keep the rest of the Navy alive. Unfortunately the idea of keeping the rest of the Navy alive just for an aircraft carrier is not well received. And here we are. We prioritized carriers above all else.

Little mention is made here of the increases in top brass staffs and human resources personnel. Plus graft. These cost money too. How many higher ranks are assigned just to advise Congressional members about pet projects?

Actually very few and they are going away fast

The Navy has a maintenance plan for their ships that I was part of when I as in around 20 years ago. It as called the 2m system if I remember correctly.
What there talking about here is repairs of major pieces of equipment that they want to be able to repair on board instead of dry dock or AR Vessel. Which is a good thing even for a combat situation. If a weapon hits the ship and causes damage to a big piece of equipment then they can fix it on the spot if it can be fixed instead of leaving the combat zone.
I would put them as part of the Damage control teams during battle.


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