Naval Aviation Enterprise Tackles Readiness Challenges

An F/A-18C Hornet from Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 prepares to launch from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Jan. 15, 2015, over the Atlantic Ocean.


By Naval Aviation Enterprise Public Affairs

Lance Cpl. Melisa Bacott and Chief Petty Officer Duane Monroe are on a mission, and they recognize that it will take every member of the Naval Aviation community to accomplish it. Their mission: help Naval Aviation achieve required levels of readiness as efficiently as possible

Bacott and Monroe are participants in the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE), a partnership of Naval Aviation stakeholders- Sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors -working together to advance readiness at an affordable cost. From the deck plates and flight lines up to the top levels of Naval Aviation leadership, members of the enterprise focus on ways to identify warfighting degraders and remove them so that Naval Aviation continues to be a relevant, effective and affordable warfighting force.

At every level within the NAE, people of every rank and rate identify barriers, determine how to remove them and how best to spend every dollar budgeted in order to complete the everyday tasks and processes involved in making aircraft and their flight crews ready to fly. It’s not easy, it takes work and the rewards aren’t always immediate.

“Over time, I’ve realized that [the NAE] is about finding ways to get the mission accomplished while saving money,” said Bacott, site core member, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 29 Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) Office. “It was actually very challenging to get started with, but the more I get into it, the more rewarding I find that challenge to be.”

A former aircraft mechanic, Bacott now enjoys teaching and leading other Marines as they improve their own maintenance or supply processes to better achieve readiness. She has seen how identifying and removing unnecessary or excess steps can make it easier for Marines to do their jobs.

“The majority of the projects that I see work best are workflow projects,” Bacott said, “where we are able to cut out unnecessary travel and movement-and with that you see such an improvement in productivity. We can see something that would take seven days go down to just one or two days.”

Monroe, a chief aircraft structural mechanic, agrees with the value of breaking down and improving processes. He currently serves aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as the CPI AIRSpeed leading chief petty officer.

“Everyday tasks lead to completing the mission as a whole,” he said. “It could be something as simple as improving our process for chow lines, or something more complicated like dealing with technical directives. It’s about a better way of doing things.”

In the beginning

For more than 10 years, Naval Aviation stakeholders have been collaborating as an enterprise, finding better ways of doing business. In 2004, Naval Aviation leadership saw the need for a different, more effective way of addressing readiness and resources. Their efforts became the Naval Aviation Enterprise, a partnership of Naval Aviation leaders, with a shared goal: “deliver the right force, with the right readiness, at the right cost, at the right time-today and in the future.”

The concept traces back to the late 1990s with the start of several initiatives such as: the Naval Aviation Pilot Production Improvement Program, the Aviation Maintenance and Supply Readiness Group and the Naval Aviation Readiness Integrated Improvement Program. Facing a wide range of readiness issues and a need to control the rising costs of operating while sustaining aging aircraft and equipment, leaders realized the need for a holistic, collaborative approach to solving complex problems. Initially focused solely on the Navy aspect of aviation readiness, the enterprise concept expanded to include Marine Corps aviation in 2007.


Hook, line and take-off: Marines practice skills aboard ship
Landing support specialists attach a load of tires Feb. 6, 2015, to a UH-1Y Huey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 during a helicopter support team exercise aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

Since 2004, the enterprise approach has evolved and expanded as the concept gained traction. From the beginning, NAE efforts have centered on the various types of aircraft communities-referred to as type/model/series (TMS) teams. Initially focused on just a handful of TMS teams, the enterprise approach now includes more than 20 TMS teams as well as a team focused on aircraft carrier readiness. The NAE has also expanded in terms of Naval Aviation leadership; enterprise efforts are now led and supported by a wide range of Navy and Marine Corps senior leaders involved in manning, training and equipping Naval Aviation forces.

NAE leadership has established strategic goals and objectives for the enterprise-most recently focusing on cost-wise current and future readiness, and creating a collaborative environment. Using an enterprise approach focused on data-driven decision-making, TMS teams now conduct “deep-dive” analyses into their operating and support costs-identifying barriers that leadership can help resolve and potential opportunities to reduce costs over time. Current leaders are committed to ensuring enterprise efforts target the most impactful readiness degraders and cost drivers.

While the NAE membership and methods have evolved over the years, the primary focus has remained: delivering Naval Aviation warfighting readiness.

“Naval Aviation leaders continue to focus on warfighting first and on generating the necessary readiness in an efficient and cost-effective way,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF)/Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNAP) and NAE co-leader. “The enterprise construct promotes collaboration across commands and service branches and enables us to work together to find solutions to Navy and Marine Corps’ toughest readiness challenges.”

The enterprise construct is based on a triad with three key elements: fleet requirements, providers and resource sponsors. (See Figure 1: Naval Aviation Enterprise Diagram). At each triad end point, there are senior leaders with overarching responsibilities within Naval Aviation. Fleet requirements are set by Shoemaker, whose position is often referred to as “Air Boss,” and Marine Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Aviation. Although there are many providers, the primary provider is NAVAIR, led by Vice Adm. David Dunaway, commander, Naval Air Systems Command. Finally, the fleet requirements are funded by the resource sponsors that include multiple organizations within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Headquarters Marine Corps.


NAE Diagram_FIN
Figure 1: Naval Aviation Enterprise Diagram


“The strength of the enterprise is based upon its unity of effort,” Shoemaker said. “If there is a problem in the fleet, and the operators raise that issue to NAE leaders, we can have a direct dialogue with the resource providers or sponsors who can work the solution.”

Leaders see this teamwork in action through the NAE briefing cycle, in which representatives from each aircraft community brief the Air Board-an NAE leadership body composed of Naval Aviation flag and general officers and senior executive service civilians.

“During 2014 alone, we had 21 different teams highlight 81 major readiness degraders,” said Russ Scott, director of the NAE Current Readiness Cross-Functional Team. “Sharing this information as an enterprise helps Naval Aviation leadership understand what is currently being done to solve problems and also helps identify barriers that need to be escalated up the chain of command for resolution.”

Through the enterprise partnership, Navy and Marine Corps leaders have worked together to resolve or lessen the negative impact of some of Naval Aviation’s toughest problems. These challenges span the full continuum, and nothing is off the table. Examples include:

  • Reducing the time to reliably replenish a key part
  • Ensuring the right people with the right Navy enlisted classification are assigned to the right squadron
  • Reducing the cost per flight hour for a TMS
  • Increasing the throughput of a Fleet Readiness Center with added artisans and engineers
  • Investing in initiatives that have a high return on investment in the future
  • Strengthening performance-based logistics contracts to maximize availability at the best cost
  • Maximizing flight hours available for training

“A lot of the work we do is focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the processes that drive TMS teams’ readiness in the form of personnel, equipment, supplies, training and ordnance readiness resources,” Scott said, “and then working with stakeholders from across Naval Aviation to figure out how to move the right ‘levers’ and get readiness levels where they need to be.”

The NAE is hands-on as they tackle problems. Leaders get a first-hand look at challenges and CPI/AIRSpeed successes during “Boots” events. These leadership site visits, named “Boots on Deck” when held aboard ships or “Boots on the Ground” when held at shore-based locations, are opportunities for leaders to hear directly from Sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors. During each event, personnel from the host unit present issues-sometimes referred to as “head-hurters”-that require greater leadership engagement or assistance. These head-hurters can span a variety of readiness issues, from parts and supplies to training to proper manning. Through an enterprise approach, the highlighted issues become action items that leaders from across Naval Aviation commit to resolving.

Integrating Change

Looking forward, the NAE’s continued success depends largely on the active participation of Naval Aviation stakeholders at every level. From the flight line and deck plate levels up to the flag and general officer levels, it is a team effort to identify, target and fix the most impactful readiness degraders and cost drivers.

Monroe and Bacott believe that more people should join in the efforts to achieve the NAE mission, and they have some advice for stakeholders just getting involved in CPI and enterprise efforts:

“I used to be a squadron organizational-level guy, and this was all new to me,” Monroe said. “I had to readjust how I thought and look at the big picture. I tell people: ‘Don’t make judgments immediately. Allow the process to happen. Embrace it, and you might be surprised with the outcome.’”

“The best thing we can do is make sure everyone is properly educated and get more people hands-on in the process,” Bacott said. “Once everyone is truly educated about the Naval Aviation Enterprise, there’s not going to be any stopping what we can achieve.”

To find out more about the NAE, visit