Top Priority: Fixing Readiness
Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command
Since taking command of NAVAIR in October, Vice Adm. Grosklags has focused NAVAIR’s talent and resources toward two strategic imperatives: improving current readiness and increasing the speed of new capabilities to the fleet.
If you were to ask the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), Air Boss or the Deputy Commandant of Aviation to name the two biggest challenges facing our Navy and Marine Corps today, they will tell you the same thing: improving the current state of readiness and staying ahead of our potential adversaries.
There is absolutely no air gap between us. We are completely aligned and ready to do what it takes to ensure our fleet is “Ready to Fight Tonight” and will have the “Capabilities and Capacity to Win the Future.”
In January, a week after release of his new “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” CNO Adm. John Richardson visited NAVAIR for briefs and a town hall meeting. He told us NAVAIR’s two strategic imperatives (readiness and speed) line up perfectly with the goals and structure of his Design.
In his words, “There’s a very close alignment, particularly with respect to prioritizing readiness of the fleet today and the work that NAVAIR does returning aircraft to the flight line.”
CMC Lt. Gen. Robert Neller has a similar focus for the Corps: expanding readiness efforts, training and simulation, people and integration with naval and joint forces. In his words, “We must continue to improve our readiness for today’s fight, while at the same time ensuring we remain relevant for the conflicts we know will come in the future.”
And to echo the Air Boss, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, we have the expertise and resolve to attack naval aviation’s challenges. We are working with the CNO and CMC for added support and authorities. With full alignment of leadership, we will succeed.
So with that said, allow me to elaborate on NAVAIR’s efforts to improve current readiness and increase the speed of new capability to the fleet.
Readiness at Risk
Today, there are far too many shadows on the ramp that the fleet can’t fly. Of the 25 type/model/series (TMS) aircraft in the fleet today, only five communities have the required number of Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA) ready to fly on any given day. Far too often, our squadron commanding officers are being forced to make tradeoffs, to accept additional risk, in the training and operational employment of their aircraft and aircrew.
This condition is unsustainable. As Naval Aviation’s primary provider organization, it is imperative that NAVAIR use all available resources and authorities we control to address RBA shortfalls across every community. Fixing today’s readiness is at the top of NAVAIR’s priority list.
Every Naval Aviation aircraft program office has developed an RBA Recovery Playbook. These TMS playbooks are helping us prioritize our efforts toward the most urgent and important readiness issues. In this way, we can make the best use of our existing resources—people and funding—to get fleet readiness back on track—FAST. We have talent to do this. Here’s just one example:
Fleet Readiness Center East artisans and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 Marines are maximizing the integrated maintenance concept, lessening pit stop times of aircraft and boosting Marine Corps readiness. Preliminary reports indicate turnaround time for V-22 maintenance has been dramatically reduced from 300 to 89 days, and the aircraft are being returned with no discrepancies to squadrons from the depot.
Our first four RBA recovery projects are geared toward fundamental engineering and logistics work; improving the condition of product data (such as repair manuals, bill of materials and technical publications) to enable us to shift from a reactive mode, to a more proactive and preemptive maintenance and sustainment posture. In a number of cases we have, and will continue to, move some of our most talented folks off previously assigned tasking to accelerate these targeted sustainment efforts.
When it comes to readiness, we must also keep a keen eye on the future. Programs which are ending production are fine-tuning their sustainment plans to ensure they finish production lines in a strong position. Our H-60 Seahawk program is working this now, ensuring all product data is available when the line shuts down so we have the technical data packages we’ll need to keep them ready. Our F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler programs are doing the same thing.
Speed to the Fleet
As mentioned earlier, NAVAIR’s second strategic imperative is increasing the speed of new capabilities to the fleet.
Our adversaries are gaining on us. They’re outpacing our acquisition cycle; developing new technologies and leveraging commercial technologies against us, sometimes faster than we can respond. In CNO’s words, “Our margin of technical superiority is thin.” It’s time we turned the table.
We will do this in multiple ways: through smaller, empowered program teams protected from bureaucratic layers and reviews; by incentivizing creativity, innovation and experimentation; and by accepting and balancing additional risk. The fleet is depending on us to weigh the options and balance our traditional assessments of cost, schedule and performance risk against the risk our Sailors and Marines face when they don’t have the capability or capacity needed in time to make a difference.
“We must – and we will – capitalize on our rapid response capabilities and successes and apply them more broadly – not just for urgent fleet requests, but for everything we produce, to the maximum extent possible.”
NAVAIR has positioned key capabilities within its Warfare and Fleet Readiness Centers to engineer, prototype, build, install, test and deliver one-time or low volume production solutions for programs of record, urgent fleet needs and external customer requirements. Collectively referred to as “AIRWorks,” these teams are tailoring traditional acquisition processes for speed, and leveraging in-house government talent and infrastructure capabilities to field solutions faster, often at reduced cost.
We are working to bring this same accelerated approach to our traditional programs of record; focusing on smaller, highly empowered teams with the authority to manage the engineering and requirements trade space “real time.” These program teams will be “unburdened” from our traditional thousands of derived requirements, leveraging a capabilities-based approach to design, development and test that focuses on the few requirements truly critical to the warfighter. Speed of decision making, acceptance of less than perfect performance and an acknowledgement and management of risk are foundational elements of this approach.
We must—and we will—capitalize on our rapid response capabilities and successes and apply them more broadly—not just for urgent fleet requests, but for everything we produce. We need rapid to become the rule, vice the exception—our Sailors and Marines are counting on it.
We absolutely know how to do this. Recently, we delivered an advanced payload for the RQ-21 Blackjack unmanned air system two years ahead of schedule and in time for the first deployment of the RQ-21 with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. That means capability in the hands of our Marines BEFORE the other guy has it or has the time to develop a counter to it. Again, this type of story must become the rule vice the exception.
To lead an organization I have been part of for a large part of my 30-plus year career is a great opportunity for me. NAVAIR employees are conscientious, dedicated, motivated and passionate about their work. They work long hours and will move heaven and earth to fix fleet problems. It’s important for our Sailors and Marines to know we’ve got your back. Whether it’s a readiness issue or a system performance concern, NAVAIR will work with Navy and Marine Corps leaders to find a solution.
Together, we will make sure Naval Aviation is Ready to Fight Tonight and that our Sailors and Marines have the Capability and Capacity to Win the Future.
Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags is a native of DeKalb, Illinois. After being designated a naval aviator in October 1983, he immediately reported to Training Squadron (VT) 3 at North Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, as a T-34C Mentor flight instructor.
Grosklags served operational tours with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadrons (HSL) 34 and 42, where he flew the SH-2F Seasprite and SH-60B Seahawk, respectively. Grosklags made multiple deployments with USS John Hancock (DD 981), USS Donald B. Beary (FF 1085), USS Comte de Grasse (DD 974) and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55). He later served as both executive and commanding officer of Helicopter Training Squadron (HT) 18.
Grosklags’ acquisition tours include engineering test pilot and assignments as MH-60R Seahawk assistant program manager for systems engineering; H-60 assistant program manager for test and evaluation; MH-60R deputy program manager; and ultimately as program manager for Multi-Mission Helicopters (PMA-299), during which time the MH-60R was successfully introduced to the fleet. Grosklags also served as operations officer and subsequently as deputy program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)).
Grosklags has served flag tours as commander, Fleet Readiness Centers; Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) assistant commander for Logistics and Industrial Operation; NAVAIR vice commander, PEO(A); and principal military deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition). In October 2015, he assumed responsibilities as commander, NAVAIR.
Grosklags graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 99, and holds a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He has more than 5,000 military flight hours in numerous types of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.