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Navy identifies 80 problems with the service - and the plan for fixing them

Sep. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Navy’s innovation experiment entered its final phase mid-September, preparing to snuff out the fleet’s biggest time-wasters and to recognize those with the best ideas.

The Reduce Administrative Distractions effort, a unique campaign where officials solicited sailor ideas and allowed them to collaborate on the fixes, has identified as many as 80 problematic programs to solve, most of which fall within the realms of maintenance, training and force protection.

This is the “take action” phase.

As part of this new phase, the RAD campaign sent an email to all flag officers asking about 80 specific sailor-identified problems, so the innovators will know who they need to work with, explained Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, one of the two admirals leading the effort.

“The goal is by mid-October to come back with a plan of action and milestones,” he said.

The campaign is looking for ways to revamp the preventative maintenance program, marshaling more automation to take the load off sailors, and to take advantage of WiFi aboard ships, a possibility in the latest IT system coming to the fleet. They’re also developing a central storehouse for instructions, simplifying the recording process for training and exercises, and working on a Navy Wiki website, where sailors could share gouge on everything from gear to inspections to war-fighting.

Implementing fixes now requires that the innovation operatives work with those who operate the Navy’s myriad programs and seek cost-effective ways to implement them.

You may be thinking fixing all 80 of these problems is too good to be true, and you’re probably right. It is very possible that the RAD team won’t be able to resolve many of the distractions sailors observed, for reasons that range from red tape to the costs of implementing a new system. For example, designing a new web portal to all Navy websites — so sailors don’t have to recall dozens of passwords — may require altering websites and a contract for the new system. Similarly, automating all maintenance updates would staffing changes and the purchase of tens of thousands of tablet computers that could display the updates. Those changes may be a long way off.

Each fix will have its own timetable. As they scrutinize the list further, Shelanski said he is confident some of these ideas can fixed by late October. Others will take a year or more.

“So let’s say it’s a very technical solution. The solution may take a year,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Some of them already have programs that are in progress. And with the budget the way it is, unfortunately, many of the programs have taken hits. But we’ll see.”

Shelanksi said they’ve compiled a list of the 15 top innovators and are working on prizes, including cash, to reward them for saving the Navy time and money. He expects to announce their names in the next few weeks.

And Shelanski says the program is only getting started. They have 1,220 other distractions to tackle and will be focusing on those next. Meanwhile, the IdeaScale website will continue gathering sailor ideas for another round of fixes.

“The idea for RAD is at least address all of the 1,300 distractions that we know about, find an owner to fix them, get a plan in place to fix it and track the solution to make sure we’re actually solving these problems,” Shelanski said. “I hope to have several actually solved by the end of October.”

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