In a rare–and long overdue–victory for strategic realists, the normally business-first Military Sealift Command (MSC) has abruptly cancelled plans for the JHSV fleet to be operated by civilian contractors.
The Green-Eyeshade crowd–the annoying folks who think that war should be run like a modern, “lean” and “just-in-time” business–lost big today.
I couldn’t be happier.
What’s amazing about this sudden shift in direction is that the RFP to “contract out” half the JHSV fleet was due today (Tuesday, 3 June), and many–MANY–companies were busy putting the final touches on their grant submissions.
There are a lot of folks in the sealift world who are going to wake up Tuesday with a hangover.
I reproduce the cancellation notice in full just for the record. It’s stunning:
To all Prospective Offerors:
Yesterday, Commander, Military Sealift Command (COMSC) held a meeting with the Military Sealift Command senior leadership team to discuss the way ahead for manning the U.S. Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV). As a result of that meeting, COMSC made the decision to man the entire fleet of 10 ships with civil service mariners.
This reverses a decision made in 2010 to man half of the JHSV fleet with civil service mariners and the other half with contract mariners. That original decision was based on MSC’s expectation that the JHSV mission would be mostly limited to intra-theater lift.
The demand signal MSC is now receiving from our Navy and Marine Corps leadership will likely expand the JHSV mission beyond just intra- theater lift. The recent deployment of USNS SPEARHEAD (JHSV 1) to Europe and Africa and the plans for its follow-on operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility are evidence of the fact that the mission sets for JHSV will only increase across the spectrum of military operations.
It is our belief at MSC that the civil service mariner construct will best allow our Navy the flexibility it needs to execute these future missions and streamline management of the JHSV programs by providing a single line of logistics, maintenance, and crewing management.
MSC is keenly aware of the time and effort that those in industry devoted to crafting offers against the RFP for JHSV contract operation. We are deeply grateful for your interest in and support of this Command’s mission and thank you for your service to this Command, to our Navy, and to our DoD.
Thank you for your continued service to this command, to our Navy, and to our Nation.
I sure feel sorry for the folks who have wasted a lot of time on this. But this last-second move to give the JHSV fleet entirely to CIVMARS is great news, particularly for somebody who has been screaming to people over how in the heck the MSC was going to manage “mission creep” for….gosh….years now.
Here I was in a 2010 Proceedings article, worrying about MSC mission creep:
“…These efficiently run ships are proving to be enormously useful. As America’s combatant fleet dwindles, CLF vessels are already winning wider mission portfolios and completing tasks that go beyond the traditional alongside-replenishment brief. But this mission creep, however helpful it may be, comes with serious risk…
….Is the logistics fleet capable of facing the threats of 2020? What will happen when multi-mission logistical vessels are committed to fractious regions, requiring additional self-defense fittings or a larger, combat-ready crew? We do not have an adequate answer.”
So I’m thrilled…it is great to see MSC Commander Rear Admiral Shannon is recognizing that his ships have missions beyond the old-school delivery of “beans, bullets and black oil.” America’s super-efficient, “third” Navy is getting the message, and, hopefully, this chronically under-appreciated “Rodney Dangerfield” civil-spec Navy is getting excited about the their future.
What does it mean?
First, the MSC needs to get their staffing and recruitment figured out. They’re already a tad strained, so I expect they’ll need a little more help recruiting folks.
Second, I expect similar staffing changes for the Commando Ship–the commando-carrier M/V Cragside, and the future MLP/AFSBs.
Third, the JHSV is going to be seeing lots of modifications–I’ve mentioned a new Sea State 3 ramp, and an RFI for a new crane, capable of launching and recovering manned small boats, just came over the transom. It’ll be hard to do given the persnickety weight distribution requirements for high-speed craft, but, hey, the ship can sacrifice a knot or two without major problems.
Now, I don’t know if all these modifications will make the MSC and the JHSV Program Office run a-foul of the DOT&E test-it-to-death crowd….The JHSV Program Office has been very (very) savvy at holding both the JHSV Gold Platers (and yes, I’m guilty) as well as the DOT&E folks at bay by screaming at every opportunity “THIS SHIP IS FOR LOGISTICS ONLY. LOGISTICS! GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!!” We shall see if the Program Office decides to cozy up to those folks eager to super-size the JHSV, or if they just stick to handing over the completed “baseline” JHSV over to MSC for subsequent modifications. I hope the latter.
And finally, I think it is high time for either the Surface Navy folks to recognize the MSC’s growing role in warfare, and invite their MSC CIVMAR brethren to the top table, or, if Surface Navy doesn’t want to play, it’s time for the CIVMARS to go off an start having their own annual convo to help get their arms around the big changes that are coming for America’s third-largest–and most efficient–Navy.