Surface Forces: January 30, 2004

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Two years ago, the U.S. Navy began the Optimal Manning Experiment. The objective was to reduce crew size. The crews of selected ships were  asked to rearrange the jobs and schedules on their ships so that fewer sailors were needed. But the changes could not increase the workload for the remaining sailors, or reduce the ships ability to fight. The experiment took place on three ships; The amphibious ship Boxer (LHD 4), the destroyer Milius (DDG 69) and the cruiser Mobile Bay (CG 53). The reductions averaged about ten percent. The amphibious ship, with a crew of nearly a thousand, was able to cut a hundred sailors from their roster. The destroyer cut enlisted sailor strength from 290 to 237. The cruiser, with a slightly larger crew than the destroyer, cut 30 sailors. The Optimal Manning program looked at every job and ignored the usual, "because we've always done it that way," justification for each job and the way it was done. Many sailors and petty officers already had ideas on how their jobs could be done more easily. Technical experts were available to determine if equipment could be used in different ways, or not getting as much attention as in the past. Some administrative jobs, it was decided, could be done back at the port. This was a result of better communications. Today, it's possible for a sailor on a ship to pick up a phone and call someone else anywhere on the planet. All ships now have Internet access via a satellite connection.

The cuts were made on these ships, and a year later, the sailors agree that it works. And they like having more living space. The navy is now applying the Optimal Manning experiment to submarines and aviation units.

 


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