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ASNE Maintenance and Modernization Symposium

by Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener
18 October 2021 Theme: “Improving Fleet Readiness through Sustainment, Technology, and Self-Sufficiency”
Host: American Society of Naval Engineers
Location: San Diego Convention Center
Time: 0810-0910, Monday, October 18, 2021
Estimated Audience: Industry Professionals (Naval Engineers)

Good morning ladies and gentlemen; engineers and technical experts.  Glenn Hofert [Retired CAPT] and Dale Lumme [Retired CAPT] – thank you for the opportunity to share some of the Surface Force’s recent progress and highlight areas where we need the help of this group and our many supporting organizations. 

In today’s environment of strategic competition our adversaries challenge us in all domains. At sea, in development of new technology, in industrial capacity and acquisition agility.  Everyday our surface force is denying them battlespace, pressurizing their fleet and convincing them that today is not the day to start the fight. 

We are busy and the demand for ships forward to maintain pressure and service traditional missions has not slowed. Last year we deployed five Carrier Strike Groups, three Amphibious Ready Groups, ten independent ships, and nine LCS.  We integrated unmanned systems into a fleet-level exercise and used them to provide targeting data for an over-the-horizon missile engagement.  We tracked foreign navies operating near our homeland.  And we executed eleven homeport shifts to position our most relevant technology at the forefront of the competition.

Recently, one of our DDGs became a “persona non grata” of sorts to one of our competitors, because of the crew’s presence and bravado while assertively – and professionally – operating in the Indo-Pacific.  

[But even with bold crews operating globally, to prevent conflict and maintain the competitive edge we must modernize with urgency and deliberate intention.   To sustain the fight we must develop and provide expeditionary maintenance and repair capability forward while increasing industrial repair capability and capacity at home.  

This symposium’s theme is completely aligned with what we’ve been working in the Surface Force.  For us, READINESS, is maintaining the fleet we have and making more of it ready; 

READINESS is modernizing our ships and delivering new capabilities to the fight rapidly and cogently, and READINESS is embracing self-sufficiency – on our ships, in our shipyards, in our Sailors, in our civilian technicians and in our civilian repair personnel.   

But we have challenges to that readiness: despite significant focus CNO Availabilities continue to go long, pressurizing crew training and impacting our efforts to assemble more ready ships to service the increasing mission sets. 

Agile and prompt response to unplanned maintenance and repairs is hindered by an industrial capacity stretched thin and a contracting mechanism that fuels bureaucracy;

Logistics supply chains, availability of parts, unique tools and procedures are in transition but fail to adequately support self-sufficiency as I previously defined it.  So how are we addressing these challenges and what must each of us do so that together we can support a ready surface force forward in the fight. 


Sustainment – the core of readiness. Our fleet is aging and requires prescriptive action(s) to realize the full benefits of our ships and systems into the future.  

Our current sustainment model relies on highlighting cost drivers and operational risks associated with force generation in order to recommend courses of action for rapid leadership decisions.  We identify issues that can be resolved within two years by realigning or adjusting resources or policies.  We expanded that scope to include an overall management of ship-class and systems cost drivers and operational risks throughout the life cycle, with three goals in mind: (1) Preventing delivery of ship-class and systems without a funded life cycle sustainment plan, (2) identifying issues on ship-classes and systems already delivered to take corrective action,  (3) prioritizing resources needed to implement corrective actions, and     (4) implementing data-driven, analytically-based information into our decision-making processes.  We need to prioritize resources towards in-service sustainment requirements that provide persistent warfighting readiness.  

Concurrently, we must take a harder look at sustainment during the acquisition process so today’s fiscal decisions during new construction don’t lead to sustainment gaps we cannot afford in the future.  

For CNO availabilities, we’re making progress in reducing days of maintenance delay – but we’re not improving quickly enough; we have made no progress toward improving on-time completion this year.  We must learn, we must change, and we must be accountable.  

For example, we recently suffered extensive availability delays on two DDGs due to a loss of cleanliness control.  The ripple effect is still being felt.  We must share that lesson across the waterfront, government and industry.  We are transferring too much risk to the crews of our ships who should be focused on training for the fight to come.  

Concerning the supply chain, we continue to improve funding for spare parts to be placed on our ships.  With the help of better data management and engineering analysis we’re improving the quality of our parts – attacking high failure items [LCS Example], identifying critical parts, addressing obsolescence, and improving delay times on Long Lead Material.  NAVSUP and NAVSEA continue to be stalwart partners in this effort but there is much more to do. 

On the same front, SURFLANT started a Surface Maintenance Operations Center, or S-MOC, based on the Aviation Community’s model. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Naval Aviation’s A-MOC model, it started in 2018 at COMNAVAIRLANT, modeled after a commercial airline ops center.  It involves daily maintenance calls across the squadrons from all Type/Model/Series with NAVAIR, NAVSUPP, DLA, Program Offices and even OEMs on the line to solve prioritized readiness problems based on real-time data and analysis.

S-MOC is also standing up on the West Coast and is fueled by an analytics model developed by OUR Surface Analytics Group using readily available data to determine corrective action at the appropriate level – analyzing existing data streams from the fleet to produce more ships ready for tasking.

So, what can we, including all of you, do to help improve surface ship sustainment? 

(CNO Avails) Integrated Production Schedules:  We MUST start every availability with a fully integrated production schedule.  Make and validate the plan BEFORE the avail starts and expeditiously update the schedule when growth or new work arises.  Put the work in the schedule while an RCC is being settled, particularly work that could impact overall production schedule.   We can’t measure progress without a plan that fully integrates AIT work towards modernization and the related decision points.  We have an executable plan only when AIT work is fully integrated by the Lead Maintenance Activity. We have provided the time and we have the tools, so now I need help from all of you to figure out why we are not able to complete this absolutely critical tool for ON TIME COMPLETION. I welcome your thoughts on why this seems to be so elusive.  

Capacity and Capability: Man to the plan with qualified personnel, with robust supervision on the deck plate.  We as a TEAM must invest in capability and where we are insufficient in capacity, AND we must continue to invest in Talent Management.  In our Sailors’ skills and the proficiency of our tradesmen and women.  It is something we should do together.

Technical Rigor:  We need Quality Control in-stride, not just Quality Assurance at the end.  We need our experts to identify issues before they impact ships schedules.  This is a change I will continue to strongly advocate for – there is a cost but it is one we are already paying for in days of maintenance delay, re-work and impacts to operational schedules.

Engineering Reviews and Contract Cycle Times:  We must decrease engineering review and contract cycle times that result in extension and delays in returning ships to sea. 

Not all RCCs are created equal. We must understand which ones are the most impactful to availability duration and raise their adjudication to the appropriate level for prompt action.  This an old song and one well within this group’s collective ability to archive for good. 

Proprietary Information: It’s preventing our Sailors from fully understanding and working on their systems, and delaying our ships’ returning to operational readiness.  We need the procedures, parts, tools and knowledge in the hands of Sailors to maintain these systems at sea.

You can only imagine our frustration when we are told a ship forward is not a priority for repair.  I applaud those of you who are working diligently with us on this issue; others must quickly follow.

Investing In Sailors and Contractors [TALENT MANAGEMENT]:  Our many complex and specialized systems require a SOPHISTICATED level of knowledge, even between versions of the same systems.  We need your help in training maintainers, military and contractors alike, to provide a readily available resource pool for complex and specialized systems: DDG-1000, LCS, and SEWIP are good examples.

All of this supports the current fleet, but we also must give careful and precise thought to the planning, support, and sustainment of our next generation of ships.  Neither the current nor the future fleet should overshadow the sustainment of the other – we must maintain course while building the future force.

On that note, advancing technology increases our warfighting capability and our ability to sustain the fleet, and there’s ample opportunity to further increase that impact.  


Software improvements are moving at a break-neck pace.  Software for Combat Systems, Machine Control Systems, and Simulators are so complex and integrated with our systems that the roll-out and testing challenges us well beyond the scope we planned.  “Plug and play” …isn’t.  We must follow industry’s lead in “continuous development, continuous integration” (CD/CI), pursue more segmented development of our Software which will allow us to stop holding our ships hostage as they wait for the complete load rather than receiving a very capable load to be updated later. RADM Small and RDML Okano are leading these efforts and they are critical to the upcoming modernization of our DDGs. We must also increase our land based testing capacity; using our ships as a software development test platform [DDG 1000] denies us of ships ready for tasking. 

We’re also starting to incorporate technology that assists Sailors in troubleshooting equipment, even at sea, like the Augmented Reality Remote Maintenance Support Service, or “Arms” (ARRMSS).

ARRMSS is a wearable technology that uses goggles and headset to connect Fleet maintainers with shore-side subject matter experts through audio, video, chat, hologram interaction, and file exchanges through a SATCOM link.  It enables Sailors to work on their equipment while tech support watches, talks them through procedures, and even points out objects in frame or projects images into the Sailor’s view.

Innovations like this are exactly the type of thing that can enable our ships to maintain readiness anywhere in the world, saving time and resources otherwise spent on flying techs out to ships for urgent repairs, and building Sailors’ knowledge and experience, which will be critical as we rapidly expand the size and complexity of our Surface Force.

Another realm where we’re pursuing big change is Condition Based Maintenance, or CBM.  CBM resides within the ship and provides real time direction to Sailors on what to fix and when.  We are leveraging the commercial industry’s best practices to fix the right thing, at the right time, with the right Sailor.  

Our newest ship class, FFG-62 CONSTELLATION, will have the latest CBM+ technology installed as part of the construction pipeline.  The Mission Readiness Support System will provide current readiness maintenance needs and forecast future readiness based on prognostic and AI diagnostic software.  This is a game-changing system that will forecast ship readiness by warfare area while pinpointing problems and appropriate maintenance solutions.

As we construct new ships like LAW and FFG-62, their systems must include more sensors and the capability to perform CBM+ at the edge – meaning onboard the ship, and not in the cloud.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are tools that can completely transform the effectiveness of human processes.  So I’ve challenged the team to embrace data analytics to assess and prioritize our readiness efforts.  What resulted is the Surface Force Readiness Dashboard.

With this concept, we embrace data in a way that provides a full picture of ship readiness across the OFRP at any point, and is accessible in one location.  This tool shows us which ships need assistance to get to a level of full mission readiness, allowing us to specifically prioritize the necessary resources to get them there.

Data has transformed how we approach readiness – we’re shifting from time-late and tedious document updates to an interactive dashboard that shows current metrics pulled from various Fleet-produced data streams.  It cuts down the time we spend trying to pinpoint problems and allows us to focus more directly on issues preventing ships from reaching their max readiness. Using a data based analytical approach is something we also hope to see in the ship repair industry. 

Task Force Hopper is a newly established Surface Analytics Group which will focus on AI/ML applications across the Surface Warfare Enterprise to improve our readiness and effectiveness in a measurable way.

To build this effort, we’re searching for the AI/ML skillsets within our organization so we can get the Navy’s resident talent onto this project.  There are junior officers out there with degrees, and sometimes professional experience, in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – that’s an area where we previously failed to recognize the potential importance within our organization’s processes.  Now we need to seek out those skillsets and get those individuals working toward these process improvements.

Starting with “low lift, high impact” AI/ML applications, this task force is setting forth to own and manage the massive amounts of data created by our Surface Force in a way that can be harnessed for our benefit – helping Sailors and industry alike.

We need your help to get – and remain – at the front edge of Artificial Intelligence.  Help us standardize terms used across the Navy and industry partnership, to better catalogue and apply the troves of data we produce and consume. Help us develop the talent within our organizations and help us refine and simplify our processes as we modernize this area of the Surface Force.


Sustainment and Technology are important staples in this conversation about improving readiness, and together they feed Self-Sufficiency.  Our long-term sustainment efforts must bring ships to higher levels of readiness so they can then be maintained by Sailors.  And our technological advances must ease the burden, simplify the management, increase the efficiency and accelerate the process of maintaining those ships. 

I recently visited NPS for a graduation ceremony and while I was there I was able to speak to students about some of their exciting research.  For instance, they are working with 3-D printers to give Sailors more opportunity to complete local repairs.  A capability like this makes the fleet less reliant on supply chains and puts equipment status back in the hands of our Sailors, which can help us expand on existing programs like 2M. 

We’re revamping the 2M programs aboard our ships to stimulate Sailors’ repair capabilities and innovation onboard – it’s crucial to our tactical capability and frees up resources to invest elsewhere.  

Self-sufficiency is absolutely key to maintaining warfighting readiness.  When we go to war, we won’t be able to fly engineers and techs out to ships to work on equipment. Just look at our experience during the pandemic – in a peacetime scenario, our ability to move people and parts was severely impacted, and Sailors stepped up to maintain their ships at sea for extended periods of time.  It shined a light on some areas that required greater preparation, yet confirmed our Sailors are not only capable, but eager to get the job done.

As we move forward, we’re focusing on self-sufficiency as a Total Force Concept – it’s imperative that Sailors have the access to the knowledge, tools, and parts needed to keep our ships steaming READY INTO HARM’S WAY.  

The key enablers for maintaining Self-Sufficiency are an engaged Chain of Command, properly trained personnel, tools and equipment, technical documents, and supply support.  I own those elements and we are ruthlessly pursuing improvements in each area.   

But this is where proprietary items or the lack of unique parts and tools really impact us.  I mentioned before, we need industry’s help to secure the elements to enable Sailors to identify issues, troubleshoot, determine root causes, document problems and repair issues.  Sailors need access to the procedures, parts, tools and knowledge to maintain their systems at sea.  We need your teams to promptly and persistently work side-by-side with Sailors to train them and provide them with the proper tools for success. Without that, we lose a critical element in maintaining our readiness for the fight.


So is it all doom and gloom? NO.

I watch us, OUR Teams, execute complex repairs that no other country in the world can do. When we are focused on the task, we excel – that should be our standard just like the standards we hold our people accountable to. We’re improving the maintenance process – but I challenge us as a unified team, military and civilian alike, to focus on improving with a sense of urgency, with efficiency, and with a clear picture of the future impacts. 

Maintenance is a constant in the Navy.  We will always need to do it, do it well and do it in places we probably have not thought of – if we don’t – WE WILL LOSE!  As our pace of operations increases and our Fleet grows, it’s ever-more imperative we have agile, simple, and sustainable maintenance processes in place to support the Fleet.   

Thank you for your time; I’ll now open the floor to your questions.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490
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Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490

This is an official
U.S. Navy website

U.S. Pacific Fleet
2841 Rendova Rd
San Diego, CA

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