Surface Forces: October 25, 1999


The Navy is looking for "smart ship" solutions that would allow them to reduce the size of crews on warships. Part of this is through automation, replacing manpower with technology. Part of this is through ending the "conscription mentality" wherein the WWII Navy had plenty of people and looked for ways to keep them busy. The result has been no end of tedious and monotonous jobs with low levels of job satisfaction. The Navy wants to improve its water-tight doors (which use 1950s technology and would be easier to operate if modern designs were used), replace its current paint with a non-chipping formula (ending the tradition that new sailors spend their first three months on board chipping paint), and replace its current floors with new PRC flooring that requires very little maintenance. The ultimate goal is to reduce crews by 1/4, and even up to 1/2 on aircraft carriers. This requires a lower payroll, a smaller training establishment, and puts fewer people in harm's way. The Navy refuses to even think about the greatest manpower savings it could make, i.e., to replace its manpower-intensive food service system with more packaged foods. The thought of sailors having to eat MREs for lunch is simply unacceptable. There is, however, a considerable amount of concern that "smart ships" might not have enough "extra warm bodies" to conduct damage control operations if the ship is damaged in combat.--Stephen V Cole


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