Lieutenant Joseph M. Thompson’s article entitled SUB-SCOL 2000: A Multi-Tiered Approach to Traning for the Next Century raises some interesting issues regarding how we should train in the next century. The article challenges us to think about how we conduct our business at SUBSCOL, our plans for the future, and the perception of the fleet on the quality of our product. The Submarine Force’s strengths always have been the quality of our boats, our computer processing technology, and our personnel. Recent sound quieting advances by our former adversary, as Lieutenant Thompson noted, have eroded our advantage, and the opening of international trade markets has put our technological processing advantage in bum’s way. What remains is the quality of our personnel, and the effectiveness of our training is an important aspect of that quality. The premise that SUBSCOL is not as efficient or effective as it could be is flawed-especially in light of Lieutenant Thompson’s proposed changes. There is always room for improvement and the Submarine Force continually evaluates the training pipelines, but more on that later. Given the limited training funds and educational technologies, this paper will illustrate why the current process is the best fit.
Although Lieutenant Thompson’s proposed multi-tier program bears some similarity to the approach used at the Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS), there ue key differences and several defects with his proposal. First-and-foremost, the Submarine Force’s thrust is to provide just in time training on Submarine W ufare at the apprentice, journeyman, and two master levels. Additionally, an effort is made to assist the apprentice level (SOBC) and journeyman level (SOAC) students with their upcoming qualifications-Contact Coordinator/Diving Officer of the Watch and Command Qualifications, respectively. Next, the issue of pipeline length (i.e., how long the trainee is kept from the fleet) must be considered, as well as the associated impact on the cost of the training. Finally, numerous costs mentioned in Lieutenant Thompson’s plan are not fully evaluated. The cost of additional instructors to conduct the added training in home ports, the cost of additional training equipment to allow training on each different ship’s set of equipment, and the cost of Yard Patrol Craft (YPs) have to be evaluated and the cost tradeoffs considered.
Let us consider each area mentioned above. Submarining is the name and submarine warfare is the game-regardless of whether you are a fast attack or a boomer sailor. It would therefore follow that our core competency is submarine warfare, and since the officer corps is interchangeable from one platform to another, they all must have the same relative knowledge level or foundation blocks. With this concept in mind, SUBSCOL has focused its main training thrust at this area. We also cover the basic department bead skills that every Command Duty Officer, Executive Officer and Commanding Officer will need (e.g., navigation and combat systems fundamentals) and build from there. Since every officer is exposed to essentially continuous nuclear training, SUBSCOL does not have to provide any significant training on engineering skills (self study is encouraged, routinely under utilized, and the resources are available on request). In order to achieve the various levels of submarine warfare training, we believe it is necessary to teach some basic level concepts (e.g., mental gym, sonar fundamentals, target motion analysis, etc.). We also must teach the theory/guidance contained in the Naval Warfare Publications (NWPs) and then familiarize the students with the basic fundamentals of the Combat Control Systems. Time has demonstrated to the warfare and nuclear power training pipelines that you do not have to train on equipment identical to that of your future ship to get concepts and fundamentals across to the student.
During the course of instruction a number of order modifications (ORDMODs) occur. We see about seven ORDMODs per 40 students in the average SOBC class and about three per eighteen students in the average SOAC class. An important difference, however, is SOBCs have their orders when they arrive, and the SOACs only have a letter of intent. SOAC students do not get their orders until they are about half way through their training, and our experience indicates that frequently about 40 percent to SO percent of the actual orders (seven to ten students in addition to the three noted above) are different from the letters of intent. The key point is flexibility in detailing, which implies that all of the officers should have the same basic submarine warfare skills so they are interchangeable from one ship or job to another at any point in their career. The rebuttal to this thought is that the multi-tiered approach would compensate for the order modifications because the specific training is in the home port. While this statement might sound good, it fails to account for the fact that many modifications come at the last minute and could contribute to unpredictable student loading, which is a big problem for any school. It is for this reason, that SSBN specific training is conducted following SOAC/SOBC to provide the officer with the specific additional information they need to perform their next job.
SUBSCOL is committed to taking as long as required to complete the training deemed necessary, but we also are driven by the goal to do it as quickly (i.e., efficiently) as possible in order to get trainees to the fleet. All training facilities were tasked recently to review their pipeline courses with the goal of reducing them by 20 percent. This concept runs contrary to LT Thompson’s plan, which would lengthen all of the training pipelines to accomplish platform specific training and assignment specific training. There is no free lunch, and his plan has several bidden costs. First, submarine will spend more time in the training pipelines, which has both a dollar cost and an impact on shipboard manning. The cost of training a SOAC student is approximately $42,000, which would equate to $8,400 per training month. We teach approximately 290 SOBC students annually and 120 SOAC students per year. If we add one month to the pipeline, we incur an additional cost of $2.4 million for SOBC (the monthly cost for SOAC approximates that of SOBC) and $1.0 million for SOAC. The multi-tiered approach adds two to four months to SOBC and one to three months to SOAC. For every man year· spent in training, there is one less man year available for fleet use. Stated differently, as the total inventory of officers in training increases, sea tours would have to increase (assuming the total number of officers remained constant).
When we consider the other costs associated with Lieutenant Thompson’s plan, the problems truly become staggering. To support homeport training facilities, their manning will have to be increased. While it can be argued that this will be offset somewhat by SUBSCOL presumably being able to decrease their manning (assuming the teaching load will decrease), it is not a one-to-one trade. Each site will have to be manned to support peat loading. Furthermore, each site essentially will have to be a clone of SUBSCOL’a Combat Systems Branch. The efficiencies of a centralized organization will be lost, and at approximately $78K per officer instructor ($3SK for enlisted). the increased manning will be quite expensive. In addition to manning, significant amounts of training equipment will have to be acquired to model the nine plus variations of the Combat Control Systems that are currendy in the fleet. While technology that emulates these systems will be significance less than their $50 million average price tag, it will not be free. If the additional equipment does not fit in the existing facilities, then additional infrastructure must be located or created, which is usually a non-starter under the current fiscal climate. Finally. there are maintenance considerations for the systems. Some maintenance force, in the form of contractors or additional sailors, will have to be available to get the work done on a not-to-interfere basis with the mission essential training.
Other costs also must be considered. Would we preclude a homeport change based on lack of training equipment in the new location? How would we account for ships in overhaul who need the training facilities more than most-would we only overhaul at a yard with the correct training equipment nearby, or would we be forever updating the training facilities? YPs were deleted from the curriculum at SWOS due to cost. The fact that the Navy has contracted out tugboat services in many ports is indicative of how costly it is to operate these small ships. Instead of YPs, the Submarine Force is investigating the feasibility of using virtual reality systems to accomplish this underway training. These systems should have a life cycle cost orders of magnitude less than the YPs, which will allow us to cost effectively train on ship handling and fused watch section surfaced operations.
The proposed multi-tiered approach ~ to be based on the concept that there are SSNs and SSBNs and no variation within these two groups-a fact that is very far from the truth. At least seven variations of SSN Combat Control Systems exist without considering engineering changes or other upgrades/perturbations. Although SSBNs have fewer variations, they are not all alike. When you have a trainer that is applicable to only a few ships (e.g., CCS-MK2/BQQ-5E). The utilization of that trainer goes way down making it more expensive per capita to operate and therefore more difficult to justify. We needed to build at least six SSN 21s to justify the cost of all planned training equipment. Most of the equipment was canceled when the ship elm was reduced to its current numbers. Instruction in each homeport will generate small classes, which in tum will lead to trainer utilization that is not cost effective and thus makes this option unrealistic.
What will be the source of watch standing manpower to man all the Fire Control Party stations when training a small number of students? A nominal SUBSCOL class size of 18 SOAC students split between six home ports to train on their ship specific equipment would only yield three of the necessary watchstations. We do not face th1a issue now because the SOAC class size allows us to man all approach and attack positions with students. The normal response to the previous question is from the waterfront, but u the number of available SSNs/SSBNa decrease, the number of assets next to the pier will make this process hard. Even now it can be difficult at times to The the training support you need from the waterfront.
Currently, Submarine and WSS Training Requirements Reviews (SITRRs) are conducted periodically to assess effective nesa within a Jiveo training pipeline. These SITRRs hue their decisions on survey results received from the fleet (both department heads and Commanding Officers are surveyed), fleet representation (including the TYCOMs) at the review meeting, and the cumulative experience of senior training personnel from the key training commands. Three of these reviews have been conducted for officer training since 1992 and all concluded that while some fine tuning/strengthening of specific topics was required the training currently conducted best meets the needs of the fleet. With regards to more department head training, the surveys indicated a need for some expansion, but only minor changes have been incorporated (e.1., security mannager training for Navigators). Nothing was identified to be deleted and many of the suggested additions were nice to have but within the capability of the ship to provide. There wu a general reluctance to lengthen the course for the cost reasons cited above. Of final note, feedback seems to suggest that the well advertised dichotomy between Pacific Fleet and Atlantic Fleet procedures is being addressed adequately. Some minor differences (most of them related to water space management) exist, and every effort is being made to discuss the significant issues. Currently, most of the major differences have been eliminated, which is really the correct approach.
The Submarine Force and SUBSCOL continue to evaluate our officer pipeline curriculum and make adjustments based on feedback from the fleet and consideration of limited training dollars. We continue to support and stimulate innovation in our students through various avenues, including writing for THE SUBMARINE REVIEW. Students may forget what they have learned from a lack of dally use, but there should be no need to unlearn any of the information provided at SUBSCOL. Given the budget dollars available for training today, the distinct probability that these budgets will be leaner in the coming years, and the success of the program to date, there does not seem to be any advantage gained from shifting to a multi-tiered approach.