In this file photo, guided-missile destroyers steam in formation during exercise Valiant Shield in the Pacific. (Photo by U.S. Navy/MC1 Trevor Welsh)
SAN DIEGO - Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces has ordered Ready For Sea Assessments (RFSA) for all surface warships. Surface combatants forward deployed to Japan are being assessed first through a review of critical mission areas for each ship.
The RFSAs began last month with a focus on evaluating the foundational skills necessary to operate surface warships safely, as well as assess the critical mission areas of navigation, propulsion, steering, communications and damage control. The intent is to evaluate the ship’s readiness, and if necessary, develop a remedial plan to fix any gaps.
“I have absolute confidence that our crews are working very hard to care for their ships and to meet operational requirements. These assessments are about taking an honest, hard look at how we do business and adjusting, as required, to remain the world’s preeminent naval force, uniquely capable of operating in the waters of the world’s oceans,” said Rowden.
Seven ships have already completed RFSA, and two other forward deployed ships are currently undergoing assessment. The initial focus is on the cruisers and destroyers forward deployed to Japan and then expanding to other ships operating in the Western Pacific, followed by the rest of the force.
“Every day, we owe it to our Sailors and their families to explore opportunities to mitigate risk where we can – from immediate daily fundamentals to instituting complex organizational change,” said Rowden.
Assessments will be conducted over a period of two days. The first day will be conducted in port and focus on administrative items, including proper manning, qualifications, watchbills, training plans, and equipment checks. The second day consists of an at-sea assessment on propulsion and navigations drills, watchteam proficiency, and other critical at-sea evolutions. Ships that do not pass the administrative review on day one will not be allowed to go to sea for the second part of the evaluation.
The assessments aim to accurately determine the readiness of each ship and deliver improved confidence in the surface fleet's ability to execute its core competencies.
The RFSA guidance was included as a part of a series of messages, known as “Warfighting Serials”, that Rowden has released providing guidance on improving the readiness of the Surface Force.
Rowden is taking a steadfast stance on ensuring ships receive the appropriate amount of time to conduct training and certifications prior to deployment, increase ownership of the processes in place, and create a culture of standardization across the surface community, and the fleet as a whole.
Following an operational pause which allowed for reviews of procedures and processes, Rowden recognized the need to shore up the confidence and competence in the Surface Navy. He promulgated guidance in Warfighting Serial #13, Confidence and Competence, to the Surface Force directing a concerted focus on the basics upon which safe navigation rests. Commanders were directed to take specific actions, like taking greater heed of the manning, maintenance, training, and certification pillars to ensure increased safety and readiness of their units and ships – at sea and in port.
"As professionals, there comes a time when we must pause, self-reflect, assess, and determine if course corrections are required. For surface warriors at all individual command levels, that time is now,” Rowden wrote in Confidence and Competence.