The government's watchdog is calling out the Navy for continuing to underman its ships years after the official demise of "optimal manning" initiatives that stripped sailors off ships but didn't adequately address the workload.
The Navy isn't measuring or monitoring its in-port workload, including duty section security watch requirements and other tasking, because the Navy assumes the workload will always be higher at sea, according to the Government Accountability Office. But officers and enlisted personnel for 12 crews interviewed by GAO all reported being overworked in port.
"Sailors consistently said that there were fewer crew members in port than during deployment, because sailors were attending training and taking leave, or because the Navy was prioritizing the manning of ships on deployment over ships in port," the report read. "Both officers and enlisted personnel told us that ship crews are stressed and overburdened during in-port periods because they must stand watch and cover the workload of multiple sailors.
"Crew members told us that when they returned from deployment, this additional workload placed a strain on them and their families, affecting crew member morale."
Some departments told the GAO that their workload was the same at sea as it was in port, but they had fewer people to do it when they were in port. The Navy only began studying in-port workloads in December, and is scheduled to complete a report this summer, the report said.
"Without identifying the manpower needed to execute in-port workload, the Navy risks overworking its sailors during in-port periods and having this workload executed without the appropriate number and mix of sailors, which in turn may affect ship readiness, safety, and sailor morale," the report said.
The report also found that the Navy doesn't have an accurate handle on how much work sailors can accomplish in any given week and all-but says the Navy's got it wrong. The Navy has restored some billets since ending optimal manning, but retained its benchmark 70-hour workweek. The report found that the Navy increased the standard workweek from 67 to 70 hours during optimal manning and it has not adjusted downward, meaning they are probably still underestimating how many sailors the ship actually needs.
"The Navy’s manpower requirements process does not account for growing in-port workload, which is distributed among fewer crew members than when ships are at sea," the report reads.
Despite changing assumptions about the need for more sailors on ships, the Navy hasn't changed its underlying analysis of how many sailors it needs, something GAO recommends changing. The GAO said the Navy needs to get a handle on its manpower needs before it thinks about growing the fleet.
In responsive comments, the Navy concurred with all the main points of the report.