Navy Destroyer Modernization Program Could Cost $17B, Take Up to 2 Years Per Hull

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned. The service has been […]

USS Pinckney (DDG-91) undocks SEWIP Block 3/SLQ-32(V)7 structures under either bridge wing on Aug 26, 2022. Screengrab of a General Dynamics NASSCO Video

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned.

The service has been working for the last several years to develop a plan to back fit about 20 Flight IIAs with the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, the AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar and the Baseline 10 version of the Aegis Combat System.

The DDG MOD 2.0 effort is starting with the first installation of SEWIP aboard USS Pinckney (DDG-91) during a $121 million modernization period currently underway at General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a crawl, walk, run process,” commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News earlier this month.
“We’re installing SEWIP on Pinckney in San Diego right now and that effort is going very well.”

US Navy Graphic

Service officials have told industry that the cost estimation to do the installations aboard 20 ships is about $17 billion, three sources familiar with the conversations told USNI News.

A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the estimated time to install all three major systems – the Raytheon-built radar, Northrop Grumman’s SEWIP Block 3 and Lockheed Martin’s Baseline 10 combat system, along with other modernizations – could run from 18 to 24 months.

SEWIP will be a major upgrade to the surface Navy’s electronic attack arsenal and service has said it’s key to defeating incoming attacks on surface ships.

“SEWIP Block 3 will include improvements for the electronic attack by providing integrated countermeasures against radio frequency-guided threats and extending frequency range coverage,” the Navy said in a statement 2015 after issuing a $267 million award to Northrop Grumman.

The Navy has been incrementally improving the electronic warfare systems on its destroyers over the 1970s era AN/SLQ-32 “Slick 32s,” with Block I awards to General Dynamics and Block II to Lockheed Martin.

SEWIP will be housed in a sponson between Pinckney’s existing SPY-1D(v) faces. A video released in August from NASSCO shows the destroyer undocking with white plastic over the areas where the system were installed.

NAVSEA told USNI News that the DDG Mod 2.0 program will use the Raytheon AN/SPY-6(v)4 radar, a version of the active electronically scanned array radar that the service is building its new Flight III guided-missile destroyers around.

SPY-6 is based on two-foot squared cubes that are linked together to create the radar. The version for the Flight IIIs is made up of 37 blocks per radar face, while the Flight IIA back fit will include 24 blocks.

AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3 array in 2019. Northrop Grumman Photo

“The engineering has already been done and matter of fact is what the shipbuilders will do is they’ll remove all the SPY-1 equipment off the ship. Our 24-[cube] array configuration has an adapter plate that goes on the array that actual bolt into the exact location where the SPY-1 was and there’s no weight issues at all from a topside perspective,” Raytheon SPY-6 program director Mike Mills told USNI News on this month.

It’s unclear when the Navy will move ahead with the back fit program in earnest beyond the SEWIP installations. The Navy is approaching DDG MOD 2.0 as a major acquisition program, Galinis told USNI News.

“What we’re really looking at doing is trying to manage [DDG MOD 2.0] more like an acquisition program where we determine the contractor that’s going to do that work, to provide that on a repeatable basis to drive learning, and to lower the costs and scheduling applications to the ship,” he said.

For their part, some in Congress have been skeptical of the program based on the Navy’s largely unsuccessful attempt to modernize its guided-missile cruise fleet.

“It is unclear to the [Senate Armed Services] committee how the Navy’s more ambitious near-term modernization plans for destroyers, including back fitting a SPY-6 radar and installing a larger electronic warfare system, could succeed if the Navy cannot manage the cruiser phased modernization program,” reads report language from the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

GAO Report on Contested Information Environments

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders. From the report What GAO Found Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make […]

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders.

From the report

What GAO Found
Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make effective decisions. The information environment––that is, the aggregate of factors that affect how humans and automated systems derive meaning from, act upon, and are impacted by information—is at risk of adversaries from anywhere attacking and contesting it to undermine DOD operations. In 2017 DOD elevated “information” as a joint function, and in 2019 it identified Globally Integrated Operations in the Information Environment as a special area of emphasis for education. As adversaries increasingly aim to distort or compromise information available to leaders, the focus on leader decision-making approaches becomes more important to minimize negative effects on military readiness and the successful execution of military operations (see figure). DOD continues to take steps—such as establishing a doctrinal, operational, and technical framework—to improve its understanding of and effective operation in increasingly contested information environments.

As part of its efforts to prepare for contested information environments, DOD offers education and training for its leaders. However, DOD components are unclear about what information environment aspects to cover in such education and training because guidance does not specify what content to include. DOD officials also reported having limited resources for their education and training efforts and cited simulation, infrastructure, and personnel limitations as further impeding these efforts. Officials stated that these limitations hinder the creation of realistic environments in which leaders can practice decision-making skills. However, DOD has not assessed or comprehensively reviewed component assessments of resources. Until DOD develops guidance and assesses its resources, it will lack assurance that it will be able to educate and train leaders to prepare them to make decisions in a contested information environment.

Why GAO Did This Study
According to DOD, our competitors and adversaries are taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the information environment to advance their national objectives and offset the U.S.’s position as the preeminent warfighting force. DOD’s military operations in the information environment play a pivotal role in engaging our adversaries.House Report 117-118 included a provision for GAO to review DOD training that prepares leaders and service members to operate and make decisions in a contested information environment. In this report, GAO (1) describes DOD guidance that supports the department’s education and training efforts to prepare leaders to make decisions in a contested information environment and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD provides education and training designed to prepare leaders to make such decisions.GAO reviewed selected DOD strategies, policies, and course syllabi; analyzed information related to the conduct of military exercises; and interviewed officials with knowledge of the department’s education and training efforts.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOD (1) develop guidance about what content to incorporate in its education and training related to decision-making in a contested information environment and (2) assess the resources necessary to meet related education and training needs. DOD generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Download the document here.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Jan. 30, 2023

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Jan. 30, 2023, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. Ships Underway Total Battle […]

USNI News Graphic

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Jan. 30, 2023, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
293
(USS 237, USNS 56)
102
(USS 67, USNS 35)
 58
(42 Deployed, 16 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
1 1 1 11 20 68 102

In Japan

A sailor aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) working in the hangar bay on Jan. 30, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is in port in Yokosuka, Japan.

In the Philippine Sea

Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly in a MV-22B Osprey during a rehearsal for an immediate company size reinforcement aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS America (LHA-6), in the Philippine Sea, Jan. 28, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

The America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) – consisting of USS America (LHA-6), Amphibious Squadron 11, and USS Green Bay (LPD 20) – is underway in the Philippine Sea.

In the South China Sea

Sailors observe the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198) steam alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore on Thursday after a port visit and is now back in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Friday.

The Nimitz CSG deployed from the West Coast on Dec. 3 and chopped into U.S. 7th Fleet on Dec. 16.

Carrier Strike Group 11

Sailors observe from the fantail aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) as the ship gets underway from the Republic of Singapore on Jan. 25, 2023. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier

USS Nimitz (CVN-68), homeported in Bremerton, Wash.

Carrier Air Wing 17

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the “Mighty Shrikes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Nimitz and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Fighting Redcocks” of VFA-22 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Mighty Shrikes” of VFA-94 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Kestrels” of VFA-137 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Blue Diamonds” of VFA 146 – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Cougars” of VAQ-139 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Sun Kings” of VAW-116 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) – from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • The “Indians” of HSC-6 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Battle Cats” of HSM-73 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Ens. Dennis Krivida, from Kensington, Md., stands watch on the bridge of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) on Jan. 18, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 9

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) steams near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 9 is based in Everett, Wash., and is embarked on Nimitz.

  • USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Decatur (DDG-73), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
  • USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.

In Singapore

Marines with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) leave from an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) 362 (Rein.), 13th MEU, on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), Jan. 20, 2023 in the South China Sea. US Navy Photo

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are at Changi Naval Base in Singapore. USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, left Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 9 for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The ARG completed the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 in Colombo, Sri Lanka last week following eight days of in-person and at-sea exercises.

“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka took place in Colombo, at Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam, and in the Laccadive Sea, Jan. 19-26. The exercise focused on increasing proficiency in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), and maritime security capabilities,” reads a statement from the U.S. Navy.

Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) operated with USS Anchorage (LPD-23), with the embarked 13th MEU at sea. This year’s exercise included participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Maldives National Defense Force, as well as the Sri Lanka Air Force.

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Sri Lankan marines brief the route plan during a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise, Jan. 23, 2023 in Mullikulam. US Marine Corps Photo

“For the HADR training, two USN landing craft transferred troops, supplies, and vehicles ashore to a beach area of Mullikulam,” according to the statement.
“Additional exercises conducted at sea included divisional tactics, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), replenishment-at-sea approaches, and reconnaissance and gunnery exercises. Helicopters aboard Anchorage successfully carried out VBSS exercises, embarkation, and disembarkation of personnel and material on the decks of the SLN ships involved in the sea phase.”

The ARG includes Makin Island and amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23). During the deployment to the Western Pacific, the ARG has worked with other U.S. assets, including Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, P-8A Poseidon aircraft and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet and CTF 72, 73, 75, 76/3, Destroyer Squadron 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7. Task Force 76/3 recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of the Navy’s TF 76 and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The MEU includes the aviation combat element with the “Flying Leathernecks” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 flying F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and the “Ugly Angels” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 362 (Reinforced) flying MV-22B Ospreys; the logistics combat element made up of Combat Logistics Battalion 13; and the ground combat element with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines.

In the Adriatic Sea

Israeli Lt. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, chief of the general staff, Israeli Defense Force, during a press conference aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) during exercise Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 26, 2023. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is operating in the Adriatic Sea. Last week, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) participated in Juniper Oak, joint drills between Israel and the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) continues to operate in U.S. 5th Fleet.

Carrier Strike Group 10

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) during flight operations on Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 7

An E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, flies over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, based on Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) sails with the Israeli Navy during Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Destroyer Squadron

Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG-103) man the rails during a scheduled port visit to Haifa, Israel, Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 26 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Truxtun (DDG-103), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Farragut (DDG-99), homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
  • USS Nitze (DDG-94), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

In the Western Atlantic

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class James Heddings, from Kansas City, Missouri, conducts preflight safety checks on an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to the ‘Dusty Dogs’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7, on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). US Navy Photo

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) are underway in the Western Atlantic.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is in the Virginia Capes conducting flight operations after completing a 15-month maintenance period in December. The 45-year-old carrier completed back-to-back deployments on July 18, 2021.

Kearsarge returned home to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., after completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operation on Oct. 13.

Bataan is conducting deck landing qualifications.

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (VMM-162) Reinforced, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conducts deck landing qualifications aboard the Wasp-class Amphibious Assault Ship Class USS Bataan (LHD-5) during Amphibious Squadron/MEU Integrated Training, Jan. 27, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

In addition to these major formations, not shown are others serving in submarines, individual surface ships, aircraft squadrons, SEALs, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Seabees, Coast Guard cutters, EOD Mobile Units and more serving throughout the globe.

White House Nominates New Commanders for Pacific, Middle East Fleets

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and […]

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher (l), Rear Adm. George Wikoff (r)

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and to command U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the announcement. He would succeed the current 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas.

Rear Adm. George Wikoff, current vice director of the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a promotion to vice admiral and to lead U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He would follow the current U.S. 5th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

Kacher, a career surface warfare officer, has served on cruisers and destroyers and deployed to both the Atlantic and Pacific, according to his Navy bio. At sea, he commanded guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and served as the executive officer of USS Barry (DDG-52). He commanded Destroyer Squadron 7 based in Singapore and commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 7. Leading ESG-7, Kacher sailed on four patrols aboard amphibious warship USS America (LHA-6). During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, America was underway often in the Western Pacific while carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was pier side in Guam coping with a COVID-19 outbreak.
He is a 1990 graduate of the Naval Academy.

Wikoff is a career fighter pilot with experience flying F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18s. He has deployed aboard the former aircraft carriers USS America (CV-66), and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). He commanded the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadron 211 aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the “Flying Eagles” of the fleet replacement squadron VFA-122. He also commanded Carrier Air Wing 3 that was embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), according to his bio. Ashore his assignments include time as an instructor at Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (TOPGUN, battle director for the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as chief of staff in Bahrain, executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Staff as deputy director for operations.
He is a 1990 graduate of Catholic University.

The following is the complete Jan. 27, 2023, announcement from the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that the president has made the following nominations:

Navy Rear Adm. Fred Kacher for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, Seventh Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan. Kacher is currently serving as vice director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command; commander, Fifth Fleet; and commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Manama, Bahrain. Wikoff is currently serving as vice director, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Navy Closes 4 Puget Sound Submarine Dry Docks Following Earthquake Risk Study

Four dry docks the Navy uses to overhaul nuclear submarines in Washington are temporarily closed after the service found they are at risk for earthquake damage, service officials told USNI News on Thursday. The dry docks, three at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., and the delta pier at the […]

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) arrives at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a port visit in January 2017. US Navy photo.

Four dry docks the Navy uses to overhaul nuclear submarines in Washington are temporarily closed after the service found they are at risk for earthquake damage, service officials told USNI News on Thursday.

The dry docks, three at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., and the delta pier at the Trident Refit Facility in Bangor, Wash., are still certified to overhaul nuclear submarines, but the Navy has decided to keep the dry docks empty pending further investigation.

“The seismic assessment and expert validation enhances the Navy’s knowledge of the potential issues associated with a large earthquake occurring during a submarine maintenance availability,” reads a statement from the service.
“With this new knowledge, the Navy determined that it needs to remediate specific vulnerabilities to ensure the safety of the shipyard workforce, sailors, the local public, the environment and the submarines.”

As a result of the findings, the Navy over the last week brought in about one hundred experts from across the fleet and outside the service to assess the seismic risk to the dry docks, a Navy official told USNI News.

“The risks are still not fully quantified. What we’re doing is no different from what anyone in the Northwest that has facilities is doing – the risk is not localized here. It’s really a regional risk,” a separate service official told USNI News.

The pause at the dry docks will not result in the reduction of the 14,000 personnel working at the yard, the Navy said on Thursday.

The Navy established PNSY in 1901, with the oldest of the six dry docks originally built in 1906. The dry docks the service has closed are four of the newest ones. Dry Dock 4 and 5 were both built in the early 1940s, while Dry Dock 6 – used for aircraft carrier overhauls – was completed in 1962.

The delta dry dock that’s 13 miles away in Bangor was completed in the 1980s as part of the Navy’s support systems for its nuclear ballistic-missile submarine fleet.

“They are all constructed differently and out of an abundance of caution we want to take a look at all of them,” a second Navy official told USNI News.
The Navy has for years known of the seismic risk to Puget Sound, as the facility sits on multiple fault lines, USNI News understands. It’s unclear what new information the Navy gleaned from the recent seismic assessment.

Undated photo of the TRF Bangor Delta pier

The yards in Bremerton and Bangor sit near a major fault line that runs from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, Calif. In 2001, an earthquake with an epicenter near the shipyard prompted the service to look at the risk to the shipyard.

“Following the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, seismic vulnerability studies identified high-risk facilities in the shipyard, and in response, the Navy began planning and implementing significant seismic upgrades,” reads a Thursday statement from the Navy.

“The Navy continues to plan and conduct upgrades; several projects are in progress, and the remaining facilities will be addressed as part of the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program.”

An overhaul to the dry docks that would allow them to better sustain earthquake damage could take somewhere between 18 and 24 months, based on previous Navy assessments, USNI News understands. That kind of work could include removing the floor and sides of a dry dock and using different types of sand to absorb motion in the case of an earthquake.

It’s unclear how the pause in the four dry docks will affect the backlog of nuclear submarine maintenance in the service’s four public shipyards. According to a 2020 Government Accountability Office report, the Navy had more than 4,000 days of delays in submarine maintenance between Fiscal Year 2015 and FY 2019.

Program Executive Officer for Attack Submarines Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker in November said 18 of the Navy’s 50 attack submarines were in maintenance or waiting to go into a yard for an availability.

The Navy brought down its average number of maintenance days from 1,500 to 1,600 in FY 2019 to about 1,100 in FY 2022, Rucker said at the time. The Navy hopes for that number to go down to 700 days by FY 2026.

Given the physical characteristics of submarine maintenance work, a limited amount of it can get done pierside, USNI News understands.

While the Navy could divert some attack submarine maintenance to other locations like Point Loma, Calif., and even potentially Guam, Puget Sound and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard are working through a backlog of submarines.

When factoring in the potential for a conflict in the Indo-Pacific and accidents like the 2021 incident with USS Connecticut (SSN-22), which hit an uncharted sea mount in the South China Sea, the capacity could become further strained.

The ballistic-missile submarine work at Bangor, however, could become a more immediate issue. SSBNs go into the Trident facility for shorter, more intense maintenance periods that average about 40 days before heading back out for patrols. This allows the Navy to surge the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad when necessary.

For now, the Navy is continuing to analyze mitigation efforts for the dry docks and is unsure as to when it will reopen them.

“We’ve got a hundred people across different organizations and different seismic backgrounds that are bringing some unique solutions and ideas to this,” the first Navy official told USNI News.
“The Department of Defense pulled out all the stops to try and get the right people together quickly to go after this.”

Russian Arctic Threat Growing More Potent, Report Says

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The Arctic remains “of great strategic […]

Russian Borei-class nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov. TASS Photo

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found.

The Arctic remains “of great strategic value to Russia,” Njord Wegge, a professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, said this week as the report was released. On the military side, the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic provides a gateway for Russia’s Northern Fleet’s attack and ballistic missile submarines to move through the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom [GIUK] gap to reach the Atlantic

The “Russian Arctic Threat” report noted Western-imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for the Feb. 24 invasion may have a future effect on Russian defense industry’s ability to deliver future strategic capabilities. The report mentioned their effect on ship construction and updating conventional land, sea and air weapons systems that rely on imported technology. The report cited the benefit and importance of keeping tight sanctions on dual-use computer chips that could be used for Moscow’s conventional forces in the Ukrainian fighting.

It remains to be seen how sanctions will work over the next four years, said Colin Wall, associate fellow in CSIS’ Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program. For now, “Russia will probably have to make tradeoffs” in spending and where it commits military resources as long as the war continues.

Russia has already deployed advanced tanks to the fight and could soon be sending advanced air defense systems to better protects its forces against a spring offensive, Wegge said. Both moves put further strain on the Russian industrial base.

In addition to smuggling and trading with partners who ignore the sanctions, “China has been important partner in the past” and could be again in filling in these military technological gaps, Wegge said. So far, Beijing has not stepped in to fill Moscow’s immediate military needs as Iran did with drones.

“Russia has had 10 years of successful modernization” of its forces that it can fall back on, he said, specifically citing hypersonic weapons and silencing its submarines.

Wall, who co-authored the report with Wegge, added, with Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership Russia’s goal of “protecting its second strike capability” is of heightened concern in the Kremlin. Moscow’s other strategic goals in the Arctic are: protecting the Northern Sea Route as a potential major trade route between Asia and Europe; and protecting its energy industry in the region, a major source of outside revenue.

When Sweden and, especially, Finland are admitted to NATO, the security equation in the Arctic will change. Both panelists agreed the High North has been a region of relatively low tension.

The report noted Russia’s defense minister warned “retaliatory measures are required” such sending more land forces to northwest Russia if the two are admitted to the alliance.

CSIS Graphic

With Finland a member, the alliance would have better highway access and now rail access to the northernmost areas of Europe. In addition, Finland has a “broad mobilization base” in reserve manpower and stockpiled conventional arms, weapons and ammunition, Wegge said.

Wall described the Kremlin’s comments as “ratcheting up” tensions. He added it was unlikely immediately that United States or NATO would create a Baltic or Arctic Command in the near future.

“The Arctic is not going to shoot to the top of the priority list” of American immediate security concerns, Wall said. He expects U.S. presence to grow but to continue to rely on allies and partners to keep an eye on Russian activities.

Speaking at a Wilson Center event Thursday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, deputy commandant for operations, policy and capabilities, emphasized presence. “It’s about being there … to be successful” in providing security for the region, he said.

Adding the Arctic is a “unique domain” for security and military operations, Ryan said. The service’s expanded commitment can be seen in its building a heavy icebreaker and looking to buy another existing large icebreaking vessel to operate continuously there. Both are part of a long-term effort to rebuild the nation’s icebreaking fleet to three heavies and three medium icebreakers.

The CSIS report stated the Northern Fleet has two “ice-class” vessels in its number and can call up 46 civilian icebreakers when needed. Some of those icebreakers are armed.

Wegge noted at CSIS the American Marines and the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska, have stepped up training exercises in the High North with allies like Norway and large-scale exercises like Trident Juncture. For years, the Marine Corps has been prepositioning equipment in northern Norway to use in a crisis.

He added Norway can play a pivotal role in Arctic security in providing air and maritime awareness with its advanced platforms and technology.

F-35s, Super Hornets and Growlers to Perform Super Bowl LVIII Flyover

Before the 2022 football season comes to an end in February when the Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers or Eagles will hoist the Vice Lombardi trophy, the Super Bowl will have to wait for the Super Hornets. To celebrate the anniversary of the first female naval aviators in the U.S. Navy, the NFL has invited naval aviators […]

Before the 2022 football season comes to an end in February when the Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers or Eagles will hoist the Vice Lombardi trophy, the Super Bowl will have to wait for the Super Hornets.

To celebrate the anniversary of the first female naval aviators in the U.S. Navy, the NFL has invited naval aviators to overfly the field during the country music star Chris Stapleton’s rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of kickoff, the league announced this week.

“To commemorate 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy, the service will conduct a flyover of State Farm Stadium during the national anthem with female aviators as part of the formation,” according to the NFL release.

The flyover will include F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, EA-18G Growlers from the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 and F/A-18F Super Hornets from the “Flying Eagles” of VFA-122, according to a statement from the league.

The Navy released digital trading cards Thursday for the 15 service members involved in the flyover. They include Lt. Lyndsay “Miley” Evans, Lt. Lenue “Loo” Gilchrist III, Lt. Slawomir “GP” Glownia, Lt. Gregory “Benz” Oh, of the “Vikings,” Lt. Kathryn Martinez, Lt. Garrett Sherwood, Lt. Cmdr. Ben Piazza, Lt. Ryan Baptiste, Lt. Michael Thorsen, Capt. William Frank and Lt. Saree Moreno, from the “Flying Eagles” and Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Armenteros, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Calbretta, Lt. Chris McNulty and Lt. Ryan “Mr. Hong” Turner, from the “Argonauts.”

Naval Aviators set to perform a flyover for the Super Bowl.

 

The Navy selected eight women in 1973 to train as the first female aviators in the service, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Lt. Barbara Allen was the first woman to receive her wings as a naval aviator.

In February 2019, the Navy flew a four-plane formation with all female pilots in honor of Capt. Rosemary Mariner, the first female jet pilot in the Navy, USNI News reported at the time.

Mariner was also among the class of eight women selected in 1973. Both Allen and Mariner earned their wings in 1974.

 

Marines Turning to Outside Experts for Fixes to Recruiting Challenge

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Fifty years after the United States turned to the all-volunteer force, a group of Marines gathered to hear outside experts discuss how to man the force between now and 2040. The Marine Corps, like the other branches, faces a competitive recruiting environment, which it is trying to overcome with a variety of […]

Recruits with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, learn and apply rappelling techniques on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., October 31, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Fifty years after the United States turned to the all-volunteer force, a group of Marines gathered to hear outside experts discuss how to man the force between now and 2040.

The Marine Corps, like the other branches, faces a competitive recruiting environment, which it is trying to overcome with a variety of talent management programs. But Wednesday, the Marines took a listening role as they sat through multiple panels at the Naval Institute’s Jack C. Taylor Conference Center. Later, Marine leaders would take what they heard and aim to turn it into action, Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said during his opening remarks.

The Marines have turned to new ideas through their Talent Management 2030, the personnel side of the service’s Force Design 2030. The latest plan stresses retention and maturing the force over a high turnover rate and recruiting the service has been known for in the past. Now, the Marines need to figure out how to continue to recruit enough new Marines each year.

In Fiscal Year 2022, the Marines brought on 33,210 enlisted active-duty Marines, meeting the service’s recruiting goal, but commandant Gen. David Berger has raised concerns that it will not be able to keep meeting those goals.

“Nothing is off the table, except we’re not lowering our standards,” Smith said.

The military cannot be a family business, he said, after asking anyone in uniform to raise their hand if they had a family member who served. The majority raised their hands. Even Smith contributes to that family business. His son is a Marine.

“I really do have skin in this game, and this is personal for me,” he said.

With China as the pacing threat, the numbers do not look good in terms of bodies, Smith said. China has a larger population that can fill its military in the short term. In the United States, the numbers are smaller, reduced even further by fewer young people able to meet eligibility requirements and who have the desire to serve.

“It is just a matter of time before we are once again called to defend our nation and, perhaps, on our own shores,” he said.

The theatres where conflict could occur are expanding, said Jack Goldstone, chair of public policy at George Mason University. The highest growth of young populations is in Asia and Africa, he said.

China’s population growth is slowing, which could lead to President Xi Jinping pushing for a Taiwan invasion in the next 10 years while the population is still strong, Goldstone said. But the population increases in African countries are going to also pose a challenge for the military.

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks during his visit to Recruiting Sub-Station, College Station, Texas, Nov. 18, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

China can do more than outmatch the United States in manpower, said Francis Hoffman, a distinguished research fellow at National Defense University. The country also has economic and technological advantages.

Hoffman does not necessarily agree with the idea of China as a pacing threat, saying it is too general. There are multiple futures for which the U.S. needs to prepare, he said.

Marines of the future will need to be more tech-savvy and collaborative, he said.

Technology can help address manpower concerns, said Paul Scharre, vice president at Center for New American Studies. But the Marine Corps will have to ask what can machines do and what still needs a human touch or decision.

Looking toward the future, one aspect that might need to change is the overhaul of the officer system, Scharre said. He questioned why recent college graduates, who go through officer programs, are put into the middle manager version of a position in the military. The system harkens back to the British influence on the country, he said.

“It’s fundamentally unAmerican,” Scharre said. “I don’t know why we do it.”

Instead, there needs to be more education available for enlisted service members so they can get into leadership positions, bringing their time and experience into the positions, he said.
Identifying what the 2040 force will face is one challenge. The other is figuring out how to ensure there are enough people that want to and can serve.

There are systemic issues that are affecting the population that can serve. Obesity, drug use and felony convictions pick away at the population of young Americans targeted by the services. Roughly one in seven men in the United States has a felony conviction, said Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt chair in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Then there is the issue of willingness to serve. Only half of Americans 18-29 years old think the military has a positive effect, said Richard Fry, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center.

Nationally, fertility rates are dropping – there were 58.21 births per 1,000 women in 2019 versus 70.77 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau – but immigration is rising, which means that there will still be a number of young adults, Fry said. Immigrants are a population that the military can pull from, Goldstone said. There are young people who would take the opportunity to join the military as a way to get citizenship.

“So just like all the tech companies in Silicon Valley that are recruiting engineers from around the world, the military should, I think, take a leading role in exploring ways to draw on the strength of immigrants and have immigrants a big part of our National Service and National Defense as they always have been,” he said.

The military needs to expand the pools where it recruits, said Lindsay Cohn, an associate professor at the Naval War College.

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, raise their right hand during the Oath of Allegiance aboard the Battleship USS North Carolina Dec. 2, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

“The idea that you should only fish where there are fish, I get that it makes total sense, Cohn said. “But you have to expand your idea of who the fish are. Because if you just go to the places where you have an easy time recruiting numbers, you’re not going to get the force that you need.”

This includes seeking out more women to serve, she said. In addition to seeking out more places to find recruits, the military needs to go to populations that have been less tapped, like women, said Meredith Kleykamp, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

Recruiting messaging also needs to change, Kleykamp said. Right now, the message being shared is the one that encouraged current Marine leadership to join. But the Marines need to appeal to future generations.

“And those are the people we need to recruit and the institution needs to be a place that is seen as a desirable place to go for people who both want to serve the nation and fight and defend the country but also who have a very clear sense of justice about our collective national values,” Kleykamp said.

It is not that young people do not want to serve, Cohn said. They just want to serve different communities. The service branches need to appeal to young Americans as their community.

Younger people also see problems as not requiring force, and if there’s no need for force, the military has less importance, Cohn said. When it comes to China, young Americans think the country will affect their lives but they do not see it as a military problem.

That mindset needs to change in order to get more people who want to serve, she said.

The military also needs to figure out how to better recruit those who have already been to college or those considered difficult to recruit, Kleykamp said.

The military does not want to lower its standards, but there are military policies that are kept because it has always been that way not function, Cohn said. She raised the question of haircuts and if it was because of function or history.

Marijuana use is another issue that could be changed, she said. As a compromise, the military could let in people who have used marijuana in the past but not allow use once recruits are in the service.

Medication is another area that can be examined as society as a whole is more medicated now, Cohn said.

Recruiting is about getting those who do not have the desire to serve into the military, said Beth Asch, a senior economist at RAND. Incentives offered by the service branches are good, but they only help push those already considering service.

The military is stressing its recruiting system, said Todd Harrison, managing director at Metrea Strategic Insights. The service branches have made do, but it comes at the cost of lowering standards.

“I don’t think it’s a money problem,” Harrison said. “I think it is a culture problem. It is a career model problem. And then there are some limitations that we’ve artificially imposed on ourselves that are holding us back and making it difficult to recruit the people that we need.”

Recruits with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, conduct physical training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Jan. 18, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

The military’s reliance on the pyramid model, where many people start at the bottom and few rise to the top is also hurting the military, Harrison said.

“We build ourselves in an inefficient way to try to maintain this pyramid structure,” he said.

It also leads to an up-and-out problem, where those who want to stay are pushed out because they are not promoted, Cohn said.

The military needs to move beyond the industrial model that drove it in the past, he said, a sentiment Cohn echoed. It is not about putting bodies in the Marines anymore, they said. It’s about finding the best and the brightest.

“That is the Marine Corps today, that is who you are today,” Harrison said. “Is that who we want to be in the future?”

New Marine Training Plan Emphasizes Technology to Prepare for Modern Conflict

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations. Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its […]

Recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, initiate the Crucible with a hike at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C, Jan. 12, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations.

Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its Force Design 2030 effort to reshape the service for modern conflict. Training and Education 2030 is a companion policy to Talent Management 2030 released last year.

Under the new plan, the Marine Corps aims to move away from some of the repetitive training and replace it with exercises that require critical thinking to help young Marines learn to make battlefield decisions, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, commanding general of Training and Education.

“There’s a sacred process to making a Marine,” Iiams said. “That’s not going to change.”
The critical thinking piece is going to allow the Marines to prepare for what the Marine Corps leaders predict the future will hold as well as unknowns, he told reporters during a roundtable on Tuesday.

The document, which lays out a number of objectives and areas of further study, along with deadlines for each, also formalizes the commanding general of Training and Education as a new deputy commandant.

Training and Education 2030 will build on the core legacy of the Marine Corps, through more integration and abilities provided by technology not previously available or used.

“They want to talk,” Iiams said. “They want to be part of solutions. They want to be thinkers and what we’re doing is we’re just unchaining them, they have capability well beyond anything that we ever imagined. And this is just us recognizing that and finding a ways and a means to unleash it.”

The focus on critical thinking is one way that the Marine Corps can mature the force without just bringing in and retaining older Marines, said Col. Joseph Farley, assistant chief of staff for Training and Education Command.

The training program also lays out some new standards for the Marines, including an emphasis on swimming.

For the past 20 years, the Marine Corps was focused on the Middle East, with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the change of focus to the Indo-Pacific, Marines need to be better equipped to be in the water, said Col. Eric Quehl, director of the policy and standards division in the Training and Education Command.

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force prepares to breach and entrance during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

One aspect of the training plan is Project Tripoli, which will eventually allow for integrated training across the globe through the use of simulations. The idea behind Project Tripoli is that different units will be able to train together even when not in the same place through a combination of live and simulated training.

As an example, Iiams said a situation under Project Tripoli is a lance corporal using a blended reality system to train at Twentynine Palms, Calif., with an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot using the same training system in a simulator from the East Coast.

“So the airplane doesn’t exist, he sees it as an avatar as being flown by a pilot on the East Coast, that pilot looks down and can actually see the entire grand scheme of maneuver, and can strike and employ in support of the forces,” he said. “That simulator might also be flying in a formation with a live airplane, that live airplane looks over and actually sees its wingman avatar.”

Tripoli also helps to address the lack of long ranges that are required for training on long-range precision missiles or ranges that allow for Marines to test equipment like jammers, Iiams said.

With the use of virtual space, the Marines are able to do this type of training within the space the service already has.

It also allows for more real-time adjudication and feedback, Iiams said.

“We know that Marines learn, humans, learn, in real-time,” he said.

The virtual aspect can also help with safety around training, as it’ll allow for progressive training, said Col. Mark Smith, director of range training programs division under the Training and Education Command.

That sort of progressive training means that a Marine might be able to train on the basics before using live fires, Smith said. Or they can do training that would be considered riskier in a safe environment because of the virtual element.

It also allows Marines to train their critical thinking skills in an environment where they cannot get hurt, Farley said.

The Marine Corps has a mishap library from training exercises so Marines can see mistakes made by other units when training in order to learn and avoid making similar ones, Iiams said.

Aspects of the new training policy are already in effect. Training and Education 2030 lays out new standards and training for marksmanship with a new advanced rifle qualification course, Iiams said.

“[It is] more offensively minded,” Iiams said. “It’s combat related, it’s positional shooting, it’s talking about how they’re actually going to employ their [weapons], teaching them how they’re going to employ their weapons in combat, instead of just marksmanship.”

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force signals platoon to halt while on patrol during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

Marksmanship is more than firing at static paper targets, Quehl said. Instead, the Marines are using training that requires service members to start at farther positions and progress toward the target to simulate a combat situation.

That’s already been rolled out in the fleet, but they are still working toward full operational capability, he said.

The Marine Corps is a learning organization, said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Griffin, command senior enlisted leader of Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

The document lays out the plan for how to modernize the force to be able to address future operations, Iiams said.

“And I think what’s really key here when we talk about the document, as much as we’re talking about new, is this document actually builds on the core legacy of high standards. It’s really, really rooted in our core values, our warfighting ethos, what we consider for our Marines, you know, a desire for a bias for action. And then, you know, really our cornerstone document, which is MCDP 1 Warfighting, and that’s all of the tenets of maneuver warfare.”

Coast Guard Opens Up Senior Enlisted Positions to More Candidates in Pilot Program

The Coast Guard introduced a new advancement pilot program meant to help fill critical, vacant positions, while also allowing service members to develop professionally, the service announced Thursday. Under the new policy, Coast Guard assignment officers can offer advancements to service members, who would have typically not been eligible or below the advancement threshold, if […]

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Engelmann, a boatswain’s mate assigned to USCGC Vigorous (WMEC 627), drives the cutter’s small boat during an at-sea personnel transfer in the Windward Pass, Dec. 2, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

The Coast Guard introduced a new advancement pilot program meant to help fill critical, vacant positions, while also allowing service members to develop professionally, the service announced Thursday.

Under the new policy, Coast Guard assignment officers can offer advancements to service members, who would have typically not been eligible or below the advancement threshold, if that service member agrees to an empty position late in the assignment year or an offseason fill position, according to the Coast Guard news release.

The pilot will start with two ratings – boatswain’s mate and electronic technician – and will be limited to pay grades E-6 through E-9. The program may expand to include other E-9 positions in order to meet grade caps.

The new pilot comes as the Coast Guard, like other military branches, adapts to a challenging recruiting environment. But unlike some of the other services, the Coast Guard has not seen struggles with retention, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan said during a talk at the annual Surface Navy Association conference earlier this month.

Under current Coast Guard policy, when the service does not have enough members eligible to advance to fill empty positions, the number of candidates who can advance is adjusted, according to the release. The change in policy is meant to offset the negative aspects the policy has on professional development.

The pilot is one way the Coast Guard is assessing innovative ways to assign service members, Master Chief Petty Officer Grant Heffner said in the release. It also gives people more power in choosing their assignments.

“We understand that as people age and mature, their lives and priorities may change,” Heffner said in the release.

If service members get more agency in deciding their positions means, then the unit they go to will have someone who is more motivated to be there, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Laufenberg said in the release.

“This lessens the likelihood that a position is going to remain vacant,” Laufenberg said. “And the member benefits because they get an opportunity to advance that they may not have had otherwise.”