Poor training, impenetrable bureaucracy and cultural resignation have caused a spike in the number of technical problems and a dip in the operational performance of the Aegis system, considered the crown jewel of the U.S. surface force, according to members of a “fleet review panel” tasked with assessing the surface fleet. And if that’s the situation with Aegis — which includes warships’ iconic, hexagonal SPY-1 radar arrays — the panel wondered what that could mean for other, lower-profile equipment.
“The SPY radar has historically been the best supported system in the surface Navy, and coincidentally supports one of the most critical Navy missions today: ballistic-missile defense. Yet SPY manpower, parts, training and performance are in decline.” If that’s the case, the report said, “it can be assumed that less important systems could well be in worse material condition.”
One of the biggest issues:
It’s too much work navigating the Navy bureaucracy to order replacement parts, and, as such, crews have grown to accept “degradation,” Balisle’s panel found. For example, ships are not ordering replacement voltage regulators, the report said, which SPY radars need to help manage their prodigious power consumption. Crews aren’t ordering them because technicians can’t get the money to buy spares, so commanders are knowingly taking a risk in operating their systems without replacements.
“The technicians can’t get the money to buy spare parts,” the report said. “They haven’t been trained to the requirement. They can’t go to their supervisor because, in the case of the DDGs, they likely are the supervisor. They can’t repair the radar through no fault of their own, but over time, the nonresponsiveness of the Navy system, the acceptance of the SPY degradation by the Navy system and their seniors, officers and chiefs alike, will breed [if not already] a culture that tolerates poor system performance.