Defense Media Network

Interview with Vice Adm. Rich Brown, USN

Commander Naval Surface Forces / Naval Surface Force Pacific

Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (


Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN (Ret.): What has been the major priority for you and your staff?

Vice Adm. Rich Brown: Our priority has been to make sure that we had the foundations correct for both individual and unit level training–because they’re different; we train individuals and then we train ships. So we have to make sure that they’re compatible and that we’re doing the right things to train the individuals at the right time, so that that translates into unit training and we get that right.

So to establish the foundation, there was a number of things that we had to do right off the bat. We took a really hard look at the Surface Warfare Officer career path, and did we have that right? And we found that wholesale changes weren’t required, but there were modifications that were required. We asked ourselves, “What do we want surface warfare officers to be able to do?” Well, they need to be able to drive the ship, they need to be able to fight the ship at the department head level, they need to be able to manage the ship as the XO, and they need to be able to command the ship as a CO. With the North Star being command at sea and producing the most capable commanding officers possible.


It’s all a continuum, starting from the very first day.

You’re absolutely right. And that means we have to maximize the experience at sea in ships to produce those most capable COs.

So we did two major things as far as the career path goes. A number of years ago we had changed the sequencing from a 30-month first division officer tour and 18-month second division officer tour to 24-month first and second division officer tours. There were some unintended consequences, because it takes officers about 15 to 18 months, based on ship schedule, to get their OOD letter. And to become a really good OOD, you have stand to those watches underway. What we found was that surface warfare officers were getting their OOD letter and then transferring in two years. So we went back to the way it was in the early 2000s where we made that first division officer tour 30 months.

And then the second division officer tour is 18 months OR a single, longer tour of 48 months. AND we’ve given the COs a level of flexibility – they control their wardrooms, they get to determine who they want to stay on for 48 months. He’s looking at his deployment and he calls up the bureau and says, “Hey, I want these officers to stay onboard for 48 months.” Done deal. So that was the first thing.

The second significant change was to push the PHIBRON /-DESRON Division Officer and Department Head demand signal to Post-DIVO and Post-Department Head. Some officers would have done a DIVO tour and then gone to a DESRON as a DIVO tour, but now you do your first two division officer tours and you do both your department head tours in ships, not a ship and a staff. That’s huge. We’ve just doubled the amount of time that they have on a ship.


That doesn’t take anything away from the DESRON; it really gives them more qualified people. We’re not just stashing people.

The demand signal is actually not that large for division officers and department heads on the squadrons. So that was the first thing we went after “Do we have the career path right?” Then we did a study on XO/CO fleet up. The result was that we do have that right. We’ve got the stats that show you build a better commanding officer if that officer has served as the XO onboard the ship for 18 months. We’ve also found that if an XO is inculcated into a command that’s really firing on all cylinders, they tend to foster that command environment. They’re brought into this command environment that’s really good, then they tend to foster it, and then they even make it better as a CO. So it can be said if find that we have a new XO reporting and it’s a bad command environment, we can just break that fleet-up and we put two new officers in there. If the ship is working well, once you get it going, it keeps going. But if it’s not working, you have to actively derail it.


It takes effort to earn that good reputation, but once you do it’s much easier to run a ship with a good reputation.

So we’ve really opened up the lines of communication between the O-5 and O-6 commanders and my staff, and the same thing on the East Coast. And I’ll give you an example – I won’t name a ship– but we had a ship that was failing. Everything that they did, it was failing. We detached the CO, put in a temporary CO and a new XO, we broke the fleet-up cycle, and now it’s one of our best ships. It only took us about 6 months to get that ship turned around because we hand-detailed REALLY superior officers in there. But that’s the beauty of fleet-up because now that ship’s got this team, and then the new XO’s going to come in with that XO becoming the captain. It’s proven. It’s working. I know that there’s still cultural bias against fleet up, especially, from the old guys.

Vice Adm. Rich Brown

Vice Adm. Rich Brown, U.S. Navy, Commander Naval Surface Forces / Naval Surface Force Pacific

It’s the old guys who think you need that extra tour as XO.

And we actually have more sea time now than we did under the traditional career path. So we went after the career path. Those were the two things: did we have the tour lengths correct and then did we have the type of tours correct. And we’ve got that settled out. And again, this is for the individual officer.

Then the second thing that we had to take a look at was whether or not the training correctly prepared those officers for those tours. And if you remember, a few years ago we really went after Surface Warfare Training continuums, both for officers and enlisted. That’s where we reestablished the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) in October of ’12, we established the Advanced Division Officer Course (ADOC) in October of ’14, we built the Surface Warfare Officers School Command Assessment – with five written exams, and going to Newport and taking the Ship Handling Assessment, the Maritime Warfare Assessment – and the unvarnished 360 Degree Assessment. So we did all that. We changed out the PXO/PCO course to the Surface Commanders Course. So we did a lot of work on training. We really upped the assessment piece. We have the SWOS Command Assessment which you have to pass to go to the command board, and we have the Department Head assessment.


Where does that assessment take place?

It happens up in Newport at SWOS. So we started that in June or July of 2013 and every department head comes back to SWOS between their first and second department head tour to take the SWOS Command Assessment. It’s hard. We only have a 43 percent first pass yield and only about a 65 percent pass rate overall. So you can see the quality cut that now is going into picking our future commanding officers. Here’s the rub: There’s not a single O5 commander that’s gone through the pipeline yet because, because we started it in 2013, it’s now 2019, so they were department heads back then. We will now be getting the first officers showing up for the Surface Commanders Course that had to go through the SWOS Command Assessment pipeline. So they’re now just starting the command pipeline. Similar for BDOC and ADOC.

This year is the first year that we will have lieutenants show up to Department Head School that have had the benefit of both BDOC and ADOC in their background. It just takes that long. We feel really good that the training and the courses that we had in place were sufficient. And we felt there was an opportunity to add more to that. What we didn’t have was the assessment piece. Regarding the training continuum—BDOC is great. It gives division officers what they need to go and do that first division officer tour. It doesn’t give them everything. It doesn’t give them everything to be a second division officer, but it gives them what they need. They understand the 3-year program; leadership; the CSMP (Current Ships Maintenance Plan.); the basics of engineering and material readiness; and we put them through the COVE (conning officer virtual environment) simulators and make sure they know how to con the ship and give the appropriate orders, right? The Advanced Division Officer Course (ADOC) really brings it to the next level and makes the fleet lieutenant. It gives them more maritime warfare training; and it gives them the Junior Officer Ship Material Readiness Course, which is like the Senior Officer Material Readiness Course, but we call it JOSMARC. But what we found was that there was much more we could do from a navigation, seamanship, and ship handling perspective, so we have developed the OOD Phase I course and the OOD Phase II course, based on the LCS training.

That LCS OOD training has been so successful that we’re bringing it to the rest of the fleet. So an officer graduates from BDOC, they then go to the OOD Phase I course, which is an assessment – you have to pass that or you don’t get to go to your division officer tour. We suspect that the majority of people will pass this initial assessment training. Prior to the start of ADOC, they’ll go through the OOD Phase II course. That, however, is a go /no go assessment–the first of three “go /no go” assessments. If they don’t pass that OOD Phase II course, they do not go out and do a second division officer tour. So that’s a sea change. We never had that before.


If I’m on a full 48-month tour, do I go in the middle of that?

Correct. So if a junior officer is going fleet up on the ship to be the navigator, fire control officer, or the DCA, for example, the CO has the flexibility to send that officer at the 24 to 30 month point, when it makes sense for the ship–because that officer is coming back to the ship. But they have to go to OOD Phase II and pass it before they can go to the Advanced Division Officer Course and then they go back, they do their Billet Specialty Training (BST), to train them for their particular job on the ship.

So, we looked at the career path and made some adjustments. We looked at the assessment piece and we added 10 assessments throughout the career path. Three of those assessments are “go /no go” – the first one is that OOD Phase II, the second one is the SWOS Command Assessment, and the third one is between the XO tour and the CO tour when they go back up to Newport for three weeks, which includes a PCO “go /no go” assessment. If they don’t pass that, they don’t take command of the ship. We’ve been doing it for about a year, and we’ve had five PCOs who had already been the XO of a ship before for 18 months, and came to Newport didn’t pass it–and they didn’t take command of the ship. We put a new officer in.


Is there any remediation, a way to “get well” after that?

There is remediation – you get three attempts. So you do it and you don’t pass, you’ll get some remediation. Because, quite honestly, there is a little bit of “trainerism” with the simulators. Sometimes it’s just getting used to where the radar is, for example. So we let them practice and then they get a second attempt. If they fail that, then we give them full-on remediation, and on the third try the CO of SWOS is the evaluator. This is career-ending if you don’t pass it. We’ve had five people that have not passed it. That’s the right thing to do because if you can’t navigate and drive your ship, you can’t command your ship. All the feedback that we’ve gotten from every single PCO that’s gone through the course is it is a fair assessment.


Lt.j.g. Sarah Platt, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), mans the lee helm during virtual reality ship handling training at the Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainer (NSST), at Naval Base San Diego. Bonhomme Richard collaborated with NSST personnel to sharpen their skills utilizing technological innovations in virtual reality. The NSST is a computerized bridge simulator that allows Sailors to practice ship handling, navigation and visual information skills in a controlled environment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Diana Quinlan

Are there any common reasons for failure?

Not really. Failing criteria would be a collision; a close call; or not properly managing the contact picture. Following 2017, we took a look at and every collision, allusion and grounding. While each one has its own set of contributing and causal factors, we found that over the last 25 years or so, all of them have the same six traits of a mishap ship. The first one is that someone did not do, or chose not to do something they were trained, certified, or qualified to do, such as calling the captain, or setting a sea and anchor detail, or something like that. The second one is that the ship had a near-miss in the weeks prior to the actual event and didn’t do anything about it. The third one is poor log keeping, which is an indication of organizational drift. If the engineer figures out that the captain and the XO aren’t really reading the engineering log, or the quartermasters figure out, “Well, the navigator and the XO, the CO, they never really read the deck log,” they start lowering the standards themselves. And then when you get into a time-sensitive situation, they don’t meet that standard. If they did, there’d be a lot more information. The fourth common factor is poor watch team coordination between the bridge and CIC–that one’s probably not a surprise. The fifth one is poor risk management — making decisions without thinking about the second and third and fourth order effects. And the last one was that the ships were considered above average at the time of the incident. So we put together an Afloat Bridge Resource Management Workshop using our Strategic Sealift Officers –SSOs—who are reservists who are all master mariners in their regular jobs. They come aboard and conduct a two and a half day event, and get underway. They’ll discuss, “Hey, this is how we talk when we’re in the merchant; this is how we set up our radar; this is how we use our radar.” We got such great positive feedback from that Afloat Bridge Resource Management Workshop that we added in Post Major Command CO Mentors because I felt getting after the six common traits of a mishap ship was the most important thing that we could do to try to prevent the next collision, allision, or grounding. We actually have a formal training process where those post major command captains actually get trained up in how to identify and address the six common factors, and then they go out on the ships during the Afloat Bridge Resource Management Workshop. They are only there for the commanding officer. There is no report that goes to the ISIC, or SURFLANT or SURFPAC– it only goes to the CO. That post major command O-6 is observing briefs, evolutions, watching the watch teams, and he’s looking for those six common factors of a mishap ship. And then he provides that info right back to the COs.


Where do you get these mentors?

The waterfront. We have captains on the Third Fleet staff and other staffs, as well as captains on my staff that are post major command COs that we train up and they go out and do it.


Is this mentorship only for the period of the ABRM workshop, or does it last longer, or is he or she going to be my shipmate for a long time so that I can reach back for advice when needed?

That’s exactly what we wanted to have happen and we’re finding that it’s happening. Our goal was not to impose a mentorship program on our COs. They might not like their mentor. But what we’re finding is that the COs like it so much they end up calling their mentor, “Hey, I got a question for you.” And so that dialog is continuing.


Especially if they know that it’s not going to go anywhere.

And it doesn’t go anywhere. So it can’t be your commodore. Right? “Hey, Commodore, I think I’m doing this wrong.” But an experienced post major command captain coming onboard and just saying, “Hey, Captain, this is what I kinda saw. You might want to look at this.” Or, “Hey, you’re doing this really good!”


How many of those do you have right now?

We’ve done 26. We have eight post major command O6s trained on the west coast and we’re rapidly getting to that number on the east coast.


Would they have more than one ship that they are mentoring?

Yes, one of those captains will do two or three ships a year, but we’re trying not to overload them because they have day jobs.  Not every post major command captain gets to do this. Myself and Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson with SURFLANT on the East Coast approves each one. So when looking at those “common factors in mishap ship,” we realized that if we get after that, we solve 90 percent of the problem.” It’s one of the things that I’m the most excited about. The second major thing that we did at the unit level was to change the Surface Force Readiness Manual to the Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual. We got all the captains together and asked them, “Hey, what really bothered you in command?” What we heard was that there were so many assist teams, inspections and certifications—like MTT (Mobile Training Team), MOB-E (Mobility-Engineering), and OPPE (Operational Propulsion Plant Examination), and they’re start off by telling you how bad you were, and then work with you and after that you were the best ship in the fleet. And the next team comes aboard and does the same thing.

We all talked about this and decided to change it. So we merged Afloat Training Group (ATG) Pacific and Engineering Assessment Pacific into one body. Because ATG is heavily senior enlisted, and EAP is primarily lieutenant commander and above, with some lieutenant LDOs, they look at life differently. What we did was we put the “Big T” – Training – into ATG and made the assessment portion of ATG a “little a.” Okay? That was the main thing. And then on the Surface Force Readiness Manual, it called for block training, but it was really block assessment. There was training happening, but training wasn’t the focus. So like for engineering, you went through Mob-E, 1.0, that was in the maintenance phase. Then you went to 1.1. Then you went to 1.2. And then Mob-E 1.3-A. Mob-E 1.3-B. Mob-E 1.3-C. AND THEN, that was all ATG, and that took 16 weeks to do. And then EAP would come on board for the singular event of Mob E, and the ship would fail. So we said, “It’s not working. Let’s redo it.” So we got rid of the block training and we went to focused training availabilities. We merged the things, and we focused on certifying the watch teams first, as opposed to certifying the training teams. We found that we were training and certifying our most junior and inexperienced watch standers because all the senior and experienced watch standers were on the training teams. That didn’t make any sense to me. So now we certify the watch teams first. ATG comes on board, they write all the drill packages and impose all the drills and conduct the training, and then they do their assessment. After that’s done, the ship presents their training teams, and then ATG trains the training teams. We believe that we can get to watch team certification faster. We’re able to take time that had to be devoted to this 24-week process back to the CO to do what he or she needs or wants to do with the crew. We’ve set the foundation for the COs to make this drive to a culture of excellence because if they get their watch team certified in 10 to 12 weeks and their training teams certified in, let’s say 4 weeks, you now have 8 weeks of time that you just brought back in your schedule and it’s yours.

Vice Adm. Brown aboard

Vice Adm. Rich Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, tours the main engine room of the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) with Capt. Kurt Sellerberg, the ship’s commanding officer. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Millar

So if your ship is in good shape and you pass, you don’t need to go through the whole 24-week workup.

That’s right. So that was our hypothesis. And that’s what we’re seeing. . We just started in January, but we already have a list of ships that have certified early. We’re also hearing from rom ATG and the engineering assessors is that the ship are better trained. Because there’s a steady-strain approach with the trainers that, “Hey, ship, you’re not getting STO – Safe-to-Operate – in your engineering plant. This is how you get STO.” And then because they’re there all the time, right, that STO is maintaining and the ship gets it! They know how to do it and there’s not this, they come on board for four days, you fight three days to get Safe to Operate, then they run a couple of drill sets and then they leave and then they don’t show up again for another six weeks, and all of a sudden you fight trying to get Safe-to-Operate. They’re finding that the programs that the ships are responsible for–the tag out logs, lube oil quality – are getting to effective faster and they’re maintaining in effective throughout the training cycle because they’re actually training the ship on how to do it, as opposed to just assessing the ship. So it’s all incredibly successful. We’ll make adjustments, and it will take three years because we’re only going to put a third of the force through the basic phase per year. So we’re going run it this year; we’ll do an evaluation; but all the indications are, right now, is that we’re getting it.


What about all of the recommendations of the Readiness Reform and Oversight Council following the Comprehensive Review regarding the ship incidents of 2017?

The RROC was stood up and made 111 recommendations. As of today, 91 of those recommendations have been implemented, which doesn’t mean that they’re entirely complete, but they have been addressed. We’re looking at commercial off-the-shelf radars for a tertiary radar, as well as the next generation surface search radar. There is a huge body of work we’re into, but from my perspective, I had to go after the career path, and I had to go after the unit level training and make the adjustments there. And so we did that in 2018. We had to drive the surface force back to a culture of compliance, and comply with the standard. Out of the six Common Factors of a Mishap Ship, the first one is someone didn’t do – or chose not to do – something they were trained, certified, and qualified to do. That’s compliance. But compliance doesn’t win wars. Compliance produces survivors. Excellence produces winners. So we established the foundation in 2018 – or re-established it in some cases because it was always there, it re-emphasized it – and then we set the conditions for the COs to run with it. And that’s the feedback we’re getting: the COs really feel empowered that they can run with this, and now I’m pushing the surface force in this drive to excellence.


Let’s talk a little bit about some of the ships that you have. Tell me about cruisers and cruiser modernization; how we’re doing with our new DDGs that we’re getting, and transitioning to Flight III – the next generation of the DDG. And I’d like to hear about LCS, as we’re getting ready to deploy them again.

So I’ll hit LCS first. LCS is now delivering at pace. We are actually building out divisions now. We have the SUW surface division, we have the MCM divisions, and then we have the ASW divisions. We’re starting to deliver the MCM mission package. Tulsa is commissioned. Charleston is commissioned. Sioux City finished out the delivery on the East Coast. Wichita is delivering. They’re coming at pace. We’re going to have two LCS deployments: Montgomery and Gabrielle Giffords from the West Coast. That will be the beginning of an LCS always being forward deployed. We’re standing up the shore-based Maintenance Execution Teams (METs). They’ll go IOC in fiscal year ’20. When Montgomery goes over, it’ll still be a contracted maintenance, but that will quickly transition to the METs concept.


Will the METs be manned by sailors?

They’ll be sailors. And then on the East Coast, Detroit is deploying next year and it looks like it’s going to be a SOUTHCOM deployment to the Fourth Fleet AOR. People need to remember that it’s a single mission ship. But in that single mission, it is incredibly capable with the pieces and parts of the MCM and ASW modules delivered to the ships. They are minimally manned because they are single-mission ships, but in those single missions, they will really perform well and I have a lot of confidence in them. As you know, we’re still building DDGs. We got, I think, 68 of them commissioned right now. We have a more Flight IIAs being built, and then the Flight IIIs are going to be built. The DDG is the work horse of the fleet. We’re operating the DDGs to the Baseline 9 combat system, which is the best baseline that we’ve ever put together and incredibly capable. For the cruisers, 22 of them, we have a few that are in the service life extension, and they’re all being upgraded to Baseline 9 cruisers which is the best baseline that you can have out there. We put Baseline 9 on Baseline 8 cruiser, which gives them much of the Baseline 9 advantages without having to rip out all the consoles. And then we have our BMD cruisers. I know that there’s a lot of discussion about whether those cruisers are going to remain in service or not, but as we build up the DDGs and we incorporate the Baseline 9, which has an inherent BMD capability, some say we might not need the BMD cruisers anymore. The team at OPNAV N-96 is getting after that and making the right decisions. The Flight III DDG is going to be incredibly capable. That’ll be a Baseline 10 cruiser with the AMDR, the Advanced Missile Defense Radar, which is the solid state AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar. It’s an incredible radar. That coupled with SM-6 missile, and it will be one of the most formidable ships in the world, hands down.


How about the amphibs?

So in the amphib world, I will tell you that I would have loved to have commanded one of our LPD 17s. Those are just incredible ships. That hull design is so good, so that as we look to start replacing the LSD, we’ll replace them with an LPD Flight 2. That ship will have the same basic hull, but will have the capabilities and functions of an LSD. The amphib force is in pretty good shape right now. From a materiel standpoint, they’re doing pretty well. The transition of the big decks – from AV-8B Harriers to the Joint Strike Fighter – is bringing an entirely new dynamic to the high end fight. Essex deployed with F-35, and Wasp is on her second patrol now with F-35. And as we get carrier-based F-35Cs out in the fleet, they can also support those Marines on the beach. The F-35 is going to be a game changer. It already is.


Are we upgrading them so the deck can handle the higher exhaust temperatures?

Wasp and Essex are already upgraded; America is just finished. Tripoli will be built for F-35, as will Bougainville, and mods are planned for Kearsarge, Iwo Jima, Makin Island and Boxer. That’s coming at pace.


What about LCS mission packages? They can also be deployed from other platforms, to some extent.

I think we’re really looking at that in the MCM world – Mine Counter Measure world. The LCS MCM force will have four ships in each of the divisions. We hope to have 12 LCS that are primarily configured for MCM. That’s not enough. But you can put that mission package on, really, anything and operate it on ESBs, the EPFs, or fleet tugs, or really any other thing, you just have to do the “man, train, and equip” for the personnel that are going to operate that equipment. I can see that being a huge game changer for our ability to deliver mine counter measure operations in the future. And we’re looking at that. We’re already doing the experimentation. We are standing up the Surface Development Squadron, and we’ll now have a focal point to do this type of experimentation.  The SURFDEVRON is going to own ships and unmanned vehicles. It’s going to be a squadron where we can marry up the hardware with the tactics development – we’re especially working in conjunction with SMWDC – that the surface forces never had before. We’ve never had that. SMWDC does a lot of tactics development but they also do a lot of other things. The SURFDEVRON is not only tactics development, but it’s going to be the venue for rapid experimentation.

LCS Bridge

Lt. Ryan Griffith acts as the tactical action officer as Cmdr. Edward Rosso, commanding officer of the Independence variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), observes operations during a surface warfare scenario aboard the ship. Montgomery is underway in the eastern Pacific conducting routine training. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Morgan K. Nall

So you mentioned SMWDC. What can you say about what the young officers that are going there, becoming warfare tactics instructors (WTIs), and are coming up with new ideas and concepts.

It’s a low density/high demand asset. Everybody wants SMWDC now.

They are making a huge impact, especially in two areas. The WTI program, where we’re putting the warfare tactics instructors, as every year we get another hundred, and the training and the methodology that they go through is paying dividends. Every DESRON that gets a WTI says, “Oh my God, how did we do this without a WTI before?” WTIs are able to very quickly develop new TTPs, they solve real-world problems, and they get the new TTPs out to the operating forces really, really quick. That’s the first one. The second area is in the SWATT – Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training.   The aviation community always had their basic and advanced phase of training, followed by the integrated phase. The surface community went from basic phase to full integrated training with nothing in the middle. So SWATT is now the surface community’s advanced phase of training. This is high end training for the high end fight. We started with the carrier strike groups (CSGs) and we’re extending that to the expeditionary strike groups (ESGs). Now our mindset is, “you don’t go across the International Dateline unless you’ve had advanced training.” The WTIs help conduct that training, so everyone wants some of what SMWDC offers. We just completed the first FDNF-J SWATT, and the feedback we’re getting is it is incredible. It exemplifies the push from the culture of compliance to a culture of excellence. We recently held the Surface Warfare Commanders Conference, our first ever, and it was a two-day discussion of the high end fight. It was conducted at the special access program level. We had never done that before. That was followed up with the Commanders Training Symposium that was conducted at the TS-SCI level.


You’re talking really serious threats, capabilities and tactics.

Right. And for the high end fight. If we were thinking “compliance” regarding a special access program, we would want to limit the number of people that are read into that; but because we’re thinking “excellence,” now it’s, “Hey, who SHOULD be read into that.” Talking about the high end fight – fully formed – was eye opening to an incredible amount of people. That’s an example of this push to excellence. Another example is the Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual – and how we’re setting the foundations for our COs to take it and push to this excellence. Doing the commanders training symposium at the TS-SCI level is hard to do, and to be able to get those people away from their jobs to attend. But it’s the right thing to do because we have to talk about it. The Afloat Bridge Resource Management, and bringing with the CO together with a post-major command mentor. We are in great power competition again with two resurgent nations – Russia and China – and those are high end fights. This is not delivering ordnance in Afghanistan and Iraq with 100% sea control which we’ve enjoyed for the last 28 years.


Let me give you an opportunity to say something about your staff and about the surface force, about the people that you have.

We’ve got the best – hands down. Everything we’ve accomplished here in the last 14 or 15 months, it’s all the captains and commanders that did this. The crews are phenomenal on the ships, and the reason why the United States Navy is SO good is because of our concept of command. We have valued command for over 241 years. It’s the way we command that makes us so powerful and so formidable a force. Our adversaries know that our commanding officers understand mission command, and they can go out and execute the mission even if we lose all communications. They’re going to go out; they’re going to fight; they’re going to win; and they’re going to come back home. In the first P-4 message that I released when I assumed command, I said that I value command above all else. But with that, comes incredible responsibility and accountability. Because we have such a unique way that we command in the United States Navy, it comes with incredible responsibility and accountability. My job is to make sure that they have everything that they need to be successful, and they have the ability to reach back into us and say, “I need this,” and we’re pretty responsive to them.


What are your 2019 goals?

I established them in January of 2018, to remind the staff what our job is, and we’ve updated them. The three over-arching goals are exactly the same — we’re going to deploy ships that are CASREP free, and manned at 90 to 95 percent. We had ships going into the integrated phase without having finished their basic phase of training, so in 2018 we wanted all ships to complete the basic phase of training prior to COMPTUEX. We finally made it! In 2019, the goal is “all ships will be basic phase-complete prior to SWATT,” and we’re right on track meeting that. As I said, we have the sensational drive to deploy CASREP free – not on paper, in reality – because you can’t leave redundancy at the pier for the high end fight. You have to go in the high end fight with combat-ready ships and combat-ready crews. Deploying a ship with 45 CASREPs – which we had been doing – means that ship is not ready for the high end fight. We’re down to the zero, one, two, or three, and the ones and twos are things that I consciously defer to the next maintenance cycle and it has nothing to do with redundancy—it might just be a departure from specification.

VADM Brown at sea

Vice Adm. Rich Brown, commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, addresses the crew of the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) from the bridge over the ship’s intercom system. Coronado is one of eight littoral combat ships homeported in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marcus L. Stanley

So you evaluate that risk when you make that decision.

Right. If I have two sides of the SigPro and one side is down, I’m not deferring that – that’s going to be fixed before that ship goes. If I have six fire pumps – all six are going to be working before the ship goes. Because if you have four of six fire pumps, as soon as you clear the sea buoy, what’s going to happen? So what I want to do is leave with six, so when I clear the sea buoy, and now I’m down to five of six, we can deal with that. Here’s the sea change. A ship won’t cross the international dateline if they’re leaving redundancy. If they have a combat systems casualty that’s reducing their level of combat readiness, we fix it before we send them over. That is hard, hard work. We’ve been criticized for the number of times we’ve cannibalized a part from one ship to get something over to one who needs it more. But if we take a part off of a ship, we’ll replace it when the new part comes, whether its two weeks or two months. Either way, we’re always replacing it. Some of those cannibalized parts may be long-lead items, so if I have a ship that has just returned from deployment and it’s in a 15-month maintenance availability, I’m pulling the part off the ship.


Do you closely track that “configuration management,” so you know where everything is?

We have it very closely tracked and everybody gets paid back. And when they come out, it’s their turn. We look at sparing very closely, as well. But even if we get sparing 100% right, things are going break that we don’t have a part for.


But we’ve had DDGs and CGs and these ships around long enough we should know what level we need to have spares for.

We have a good sense, but, you know, you get stuff that breaks that you didn’t expect to break.


What can you tell me about the Maritime Skills Logbook?

We got that out fast. We considered all kinds of high-tech solutions. I actually had to say, “No.” Because I needed the officers to pull the thing out, look at it often, and initial it. The JOs love it. They’re trying to get as much time as they can on the bridge so they can log one more hour. And the COs are completely involved in it. My Force Master Chief was underway on a ship and was up in the CO’s cabin, and sends me a picture–it’s all the JOs’ log books, because he was doing the quarterly review on them. That’s huge. That’s just the professionalization of our community. The logbook starts on

Day 1 in BDOC, because the log book records your simulator time.


So all their simulator time counts?

All of it. And so then when they go to their ship, and they go into the NSSTs (Navigation, Seamanship and Ship Handling Trainer), they log it and it all counts.

When the officer’s leaving the ship, the CO tallies it all up –all the watches, special evolutions, simulator time—and it goes in the officer’s file.   We have to run this for five years or so before I even know what the data is telling us. We need metrics. But it’s too soon for the logbook. We can measure things such as progression from BDOC to ADOC to department head, as an example, or I use the SWOS Command Assessment that I started in 2013 when I was CO of SWOS–those officers are just showing up now in 2019. It takes time. With all these changes that we put into the career path, with the 10 assessments, the three “go / go-no” assessments, the first year a CO shows up on board and goes, “I relieve you sir,” that’s had the entire training continuum – BDOC, OOD Phase I, OOD Phase 2, ADOC, department head, SWOS Command Assessment, Surface Commander’s Course, PCO Go / No Go assessment will be 2035. And that doesn’t include the major command assessment. So this is a long game. This is not a quick fix.

Some people missed the point of what we were doing when we did the OOD assessments. We did the OOD assessments because we wanted to baseline it. We didn’t go and do the OOD assessments on the best OODs; we did the OOD assessments on guys that had recently received their letter for like two weeks. We were able to create a normal distribution Bell-curve of performance, from “significant problems, to some problems, to no problems.” That got translated into, Oh, half the surface force doesn’t know how to drive ships. That isn’t the case. They weren’t unsafe, and there was not a direct correlation between safety and problems. But we did that so we could move that Bell curve. That’s how we developed the OOD Phase 1 and Phase 2 course, based on that information. And then in 2020 we’re doing a JOOD course. Which is a 4-week version of the OOD course that will hit in ’21, but we didn’t want to wait until ’21. And when we have a number of graduates of the JOOD course, and those officers will have their OOD letters, we’ll do the OOD assessment again, with the same scenarios, same test questions, because what we want to see is “Did we move the curve?” This is not just an assessment of the officers; it’s also the assessment of “is our training actually producing what we think it produces?”


I can’t imagine going to a ship without having had this course.

I don’t let ensigns go to the ships anymore prior to BDOC. A CO is going to think the ensigns should be standing watch in the pilot house, but I don’t send the ensign there until he or she is qualified to stand that watch, then I’ve removed that pressure off the CO. That’s why I did it. And the other reason why is I want the ensign showing up with the full tool bag when they walk across the corded area.


And some confidence.

And they have that, because they will have gone through BDOC, and the COVE ship handling training. They learn, “Hey, how do you maneuver your ship around the pier?” They learn relative motion, CPAs, and making calls. The JOOD course, which will become the OOD Phase 1 course, puts them in medium density traffic, high intensity situations, and they do it over and over and over again. And we talk about in extremis extraction – when the ship is in extremis, you have to be able to extract the ship. Officers can be in extremis and not realize it. We have to train them what extremis looks like. And you have to train what extremis looks like before it’s a 40 yard CPA. Step one is to recognize that the ship is in extremis. Step two is know how to get the ship out of extremis. It’s a two-step process. You can’t do that on a real ship. You can’t do that on a YP. You can only do that in a simulator over and over and over again.

We’ve been doing that in our LCS simulators, and we’re training very competent watch standers. So we’re going to repeat that process for LSDs, LPDs, CGs, DDGs, LHAs, LHDs, mine sweeps, and PCs.


So this is the log book? This won’t fit in my pocket.

You can have that one. We got plenty of them.


Thank you. I’ll start filling out. Can I backdate it?



Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...