Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Diving Into the Grounding Report (Part 2)

I finally got a chance to go through the USS San Francisco grounding Investigation Report a little closer, and I was surprised by some of the things I read (or, more specifically, didn’t read). It looks like the Navy learned the lesson from problems from posting IRs on line that they had in Iraq with the Italian agent shooting IR, so I wasn’t able to read what they had under the blacked out portions, but “reading between the lines”, it looks like a lot more was blacked out than just names (which is understandable).

Some of the more interesting things I saw included:

In Admiral Greenert’s endorsement, he states in paragraph 1.B of Encl. (1), that, “Chart 81023 contains a “discolored water” site (surrounded by a “danger line”) 2.5 nautical miles (NM) south of USS San Francisco’s intended track and 2.0 – 2.8 NM from the grounding location. The light blue coloring of this “discolored water” feature reflects a navigation hazard at 20 meters (66 feet) depth or less, leading one to conclude that a larger navigation hazard exists in deeper water, particularly at 525 feet.” I personally think that this is a little disingenuous; the light blue coloring to me would not represent a hazard known to be less than 20 meters deep, but rather a default color used when they aren’t sure of the depth. I can’t remember exactly, but I know that there are several other potential hazards listed on these charts which may also have this default “light blue color”; such hazards include possible shipwreck sites, unexploded ordnance, and the like. No sub that I know of routes themselves around the “unexploded ordnance” marks on the charts, so I’m imagining a scenario where a boat happened to be passing by a 60 year old bomb that exploded as they were passing, causing damage. Would the Sub Force then do the same thing to that ship as they are to the navigation team of the San Francisco? My guess would be “yes”. Later, he states, in para. 4.B, that “Generally speaking, “Echo series” bottom contour charts are considered the most complete and accurate charts for submerged navigation.” Again, I can’t remember for sure, but I’m pretty sure that Echo series charts (like the one San Fran was using) do show “discolored water” on them fairly frequently, so it’s not as if it’s known that you have to transfer discolored water from other charts to your Echo series chart. Sometimes the Navy finds things that are not necessarily correct on other, non-classified charts, and as long as they’re not an additional danger those charts don’t show, I don’t think the Navy goes out of their way to correct the commercial charts. Not that the San Fran shouldn’t have transferred the information, but I don’t know that many other boats would have limited their transit speed because of this information.

Throughout the document, but particularly in para. 4 on page 107, it refers to the “CO’s own Standing Orders” as if the ship, and by extension the CO, were violating requirements that the CO came up with on his own. In actuality, the CO’s Standing Orders are put out by the Sub Force; COs are free to add additional items, but I think all the items that the ship violated were those imposed by higher authority. (If I remember right, part of the TRE checklist is to ensure the CO’s Standing Orders haven’t deleted anything from the Force-wide product.) Not that this makes the violation any less real, it’s just that the tone of the report (“The CO’s own Standing Orders specifically point out the danger of reliance on a single item for safe navigation”) seems weighted towards making the ship seem more culpable.

I was interested in some things that were not blanked out with respect to external inspections on the ship, and some that seemingly remained blacked out. On page 78, para. 414, it discusses the ship’s last Tactical Readiness Examination (TRE), and mentions that the ship was evaluated as Below Average in Open Ocean Navigation. Normally, I would expect a squadron to take advantage of a subsequent Navigation Evaluation to determine if corrective actions had been taken for such a grade. On pages 79-80, the report mentions a Nav Eval, but all the comments there are blacked out, as is the overall evaluation. I wonder why the TRE area grade is considered to now be unclassified, but not the overall grade on the Nav Eval? Maybe they just don’t want to put out as unclassified things that are the opinion of just one person. Well, it turns out that that’s not true, because we see, in paragraphs 420 and 421, comments from a CDR (probably a Squadron Deputy) doing the ship’s POMCERT workup that aren’t too flattering. OK, we know that TRE grades were declassified, and since a POMCERT is basically a TRE, then I’m sure that San Fran’s POMCERT grade is included in the report as well. Nope – para. 417 on page 80 has the final grade on the POMCERT, as well as Navigation area grade, blanked out. I’m not quite sure how classification issues may come into this (TRE grades OK to publish, but not POMCERT grades) but I’m thinking it might be possible that the ship, in it’s last formal evaluation before the grounding, did better, which might call into question the abilities of the examining team(?)

Lastly, a comment from Eagle1's post on this issue is interesting (Eagle1 has added a couple of good updates to his original post, so if you haven't seen it in the last couple of days, it's worth going back to):

"(T)here were no factors beyond the ship's control which caused , or dramatically affected, circumstances that led to the grounding." Read para 74 on page 121 - looks like the Admiral did not read his own report."

Eagle1 posts the referenced part of the report:
"74.(U) The omission of the reported navigation hazard on the E2202 directly contributed to the grounding in that it is reasonable to assume that had the feature been added to the E2202, it would have influenced the CSG-7 SUBNOTE generation process and provided the SAN FRANCISCO's navigation team another opportunity to identify the navigation hazard near their track. (references omitted)"

Overall, the report does go into many problems outside the ship, including the numerous violations of CTF 74 SOP by the SubGru Seven Operations Department. Hopefully the proposed corrective actions included within this report will go a long way towards preventing a similar tragedy, but I can’t help but feel that this unclassified release of the report was edited to make the San Fran navigation team seem like an anomaly, rather than representative of the state of navigation throughout the fleet in January 2005. Reading the report would make it seem to a layman that there were a host of things wrong with the ship, but I bet that had a team gone down to any attack boat and done the same kind of review, they would have found a similar number of deficiencies. My belief, which is unchanged after reading the report, is that the San Francisco did no worse in responding to the situation they were placed in than would a majority of the boats of the Force, and I continue to ask: Is pulling the black marble a criminal offense?

Staying at PD...


Blogger Vigilis said...

A fair analysis. We must note that the 711's punishments underscore sound learning points for ALL future crews:

Use your soundings as if only 40 % of the ocean has been charted accurately (per Scrips Oceanographic) and as if things could change at any time (common sense, again?).

As the Navy cutsback on its ships and sailors over coming years, do not expect HQ staff to be able to lend up-to-date information (other than your basic mission). HQ staff will never be able to relieve a CO of his basic responsibility for navigational safety, nor will any such attempt ever be made.

Finally, unlike airline pilots, subs never have the option of VFR. They must use every other tool available and their fathometer religiously.

5/10/2005 8:25 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Nits to pick...

I think you're reading too much into the minutia of the report. In re classification, it is likely that the PAO and N2 declassed the minimum necessary to put out a report so that the conspiracy mongers and weirdos can't get too crazy (cf. Kursk this week, where moonbattery is a major tenet of a British documentary on French TV). Looking at the process of how that got out there (seen it), it's too fast and too lean to do much skullduggery. Recommend shaving with Occam's razor.

Classified brief is on tour right now. Didn't see it--was checking in to the new job--so I can continue to blather.

Your "blue water" thing ignores the large distance, greater than the surface ship guy's guesstimate, required to be used to avoid shoal water.

Not so sure CSG7 is so much to blame here. Been on both sides, so I know a little whereof I speak. Email me and I'll send details of what I know.

The damning things to me were there on the ship. You ever walk on one of those boats where things look good on the surface, but get underway for a couple of days and find the rot below the pretty surface?

5/10/2005 9:37 PM

Anonymous said...

None of the reports I have read address to very important items.
1. Submarine officers are being forced to do a "joint" tour out of rate before the CO tour, deminishing there training.
2. Quartermaster rating have been removed from submarines to save a few dollars but cost $80,000,000 here. NavET's now pretending to be QM's.

5/11/2005 9:11 AM

Blogger Chap said...

They don't matter that much. what a submarine CO does in one shore tour is no big deal--and that requirement is before making admiral. If you want to compare, sub COs in the 1970s did continuous sea tours--and how many fewer groundings did we have then?

None fewer; in fact, we had more.

You might have had me nodding in agreement if you mentioned something about the amount of sea time a CO gets before putting on the sheriff's badge these days, or focus on the process used in this one case to make the navigation better, but complaining about the joint requirement is a red herring.

As for the rating merger, I didn't like it myself--it only makes sense looking at it from a particular position in the Bureau, and added a burden onto the ships when it was implemented--but let's ask instead what standards changed on the ship. Is it easier to qualify QM or ANAV?


5/11/2005 2:03 PM

Anonymous QM3(SS) said...

I got out when the merger happened, so I can't say for sure if the crossrating had much effect. However, I do remember a lot of quals for BCEF, Nav Watch, Duty ICman and junk like that which did distract me from concentrating on my QM duties. That theory is highly probable, I'd have to say. I do recall reading somewhere that the gyro, umm I guess the upgrade from esgn, was opperating fine, there were no complaints about helm error, and I heard of no significant set and drift, nor could I imagine any. If I remember correctly, these factors would lead me to believe the qm was probably using constant position uncertainty instead of fix expansion. I've never heard of constant posuncrad being more than 2nm or so. If it was, then they should have been using fix expansion. Anyway, if they were inside of the box, or circle actually, when the collision occured, it seems to me that the navigation practices used by all sub qm's is faulted. What's the point of position uncertainty?

5/17/2005 8:05 PM

Blogger QM2 said...

Follow up to post - 2. Quartermaster rating have been removed from submarines to save a few dollars but cost $80,000,000 here. NavET's now pretending to be QM's.

Good point, but to be fair this really is more a training issue then the merger of 2 very similar rates. Piloting a sub out of Charleston and troubleshooting a failed electrical board in the Navset are obviously 2 separate things.

QM's are trained to meticulously maintain charts with a vengeance of passion whether it’s an update from Notice to Mariners or scanning each chart for hazards. Before we moved out of an operating area we new which charts needed to be validated for hazards and then double checked by another QM.

Once a hazard was identified there are documented processes to follow based on the type and depth of the hazard/obstruction. And for this example of a 66 foot shallow shoal or hill would have received a bolded one mile circle around the obstruction, then a 5, 10, 15 mile and 25 mile big bold RED w/ black hash marks circle.

Once the OOD crossed into the 25 mile demarcation the QM would have made a log entry, asked the OOD to sign the entry (acknowledging his action and proper notification by the QM), not initial, and given the time of day personally delivered the activity to the Navigator. This is QM 101 stuff, the type of training received by the NavET’s isn’t comprehensive enough to address basic navigation and Hazard management when under way.

It’s taken QM’s 166 years to master this type of navigation, the transition and timing from QM to NavET was too aggressive and frankly reckless.

5/18/2005 1:44 PM

Anonymous QM3(SS) said...

I agree with agressive and dangerous. One of the great accomplishments from the Clinton administration. Phasing out QM's, brilliant. I believe I called that and "kinder, gentler military" JARTGO back then. (Just Another Reason To Get Out) Isn't Kinder, Gentler Military and oxymoron?

5/18/2005 8:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read both the classified and redacted versions of the report and your analysis is right on. As a matter of fact, the 711 navigation grade for POMCERT is as high as could be assigned. That clearly presented a problem for the Navy because it was their intent to show that 711 screwed up and that there is/was no systemic or fleet-wide problem. Unfortunately for the Navy spin doctors, the facts seem to indicate otherwise. If the problems were confined to the crew of 711, the massive re-training effort currently underway wouldn't be required. In fact, the investigation revealed that most personnel--including flag officers and investigators--didn't understand numerous aspects of how ECHO charts are created and their lack of consistency regarding the inclusion of hazards. While I continue to love the submarine force I served for almost three decades (including command of an SSN), I'm saddened by the behavior of our current leaders. Commander Mooney stood tall and took responsibility for mistakes made aboard 711. Why won't those responsible for mistakes made ashore stand up and do the same. Their behavior is dishonorable and a stain on our proud history.

5/23/2005 7:53 PM

Anonymous Julie said...

It won't truly have success, I consider this way.

9/19/2012 8:09 AM


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