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.)

Monday, July 09, 2012

IG Report On USS Memphis Cheating Scandal

To the surprise of no one, the Navy IG found that the cheating scandal on USS Memphis (SSN 691) was not evidence of a Force-wide issue. Excerpt:
U.S. Navy investigators have dismissed allegations that pervasive cheating tainted training exams administered to enlisted sailors and officers in the submarine force, according to documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The inspector general for the Atlantic submarine force opened an investigation following a complaint that originated in Groton, Conn., the home port of an attack submarine that was hit by a cheating scandal in 2010. In a letter sent to U.S. Fleet Forces Command in December, the commander for the Atlantic submarine force said the claims were unsubstantiated. It said previous episodes mentioned in the complaint were investigated and dealt with individually.
Is anyone surprised that the Navy didn't find evidence of pervasive cheating on the boats?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also heard that they declared there was no pornography or foul language onboard subs also...

7/09/2012 7:34 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I suspect that they applied a very restrictive definition of cheating. It is often hard to determine when shipmate help is too much help (whether in an answer bank or just verbal assistance). Since I haven't read the report I don't know how detailed the investigation was or how many commands were checked.

7/09/2012 7:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my experience on 4 boats and two different prototypes, and I'm still active mind you, cheating is, was and always will be rampant. Exams are just another administrative check in the box that do not mean shit. You had better barely pass them so that they seem difficult enough. They have little to do with someone's ability to safely stand watch.

7/09/2012 8:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This turns "you get what you inspect, not what you expect" on it's proverbial head.

7/09/2012 9:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


7/09/2012 9:37 PM

Anonymous 3383 said...

Unsubstantiated doesn't mean doesn't exist.

(Q: Did you ever cheat on a test?
A: Why no, Mister Investigator who would de-nuc and fire me, sir, never!)

And, of course, the Navy made no mistakes in any disciplinary action related to this. Or any action, ever.

Proctors would help (I never took a nonproctored test since BE/E), but if your base level of knowledge was "recognizing the correct answer when given", your grade would be a 2.5 "bar" to denote you barely passed. It didn't take many of those to be labeled a "rock" and not a potentially sat watchstander.

7/09/2012 11:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exams make great teaching tools, when provided "focused study topics" (ie the questions) before hand-- they provide a motivation to go study a few narrow things that would not be studied otherwise. When they're used instead like the EDM directs, to assess a completely ludicrous standard for level of knowledge, they become meaningless metrics of the command's ability to convince itself of untruths.

7/09/2012 11:40 PM

Blogger KellyJ said...

Exams in the training system as a whole have become nothing more than an admin burden. In the real world a training topic is developed with a specific level of knowledge in mind and specific learning points developed and discussed. An exam is then given to see if those points have truly been learned/memorized and a grade assigned in a consistent method. Specific retraining and testing is provided should anyone fail.
On every boat I've been on having the entire division pass a test was not an indication that training was effective, but that the test was too easy. You were REQUIRED to have X number of failures every test. This rapidly boiled down to a game where the training package was sent to the DH for approval containing the lesson plan, the test, and the retest (despite not even knowing where the weak area was). Training was conducted and test taken. Grades were then assigned usually by watch station seniority and time qualified. The non-qual Seaman and thirds rotated on who would take the failure for the team. The restest would then be given and a barely to moderately passing grade would be assigned. The package resubmitted for review and the paper-drill was done for the week. Then the REAL training would take place. The watch-to-watch training by sups and digging through books to answer the Chiefs question of the day (with special libs for the E-5 or below with the most correct answers).
Then of course came the other shoe. One of your junior guys has been busting his butt and deserves a day off. But nooooo...This kid failed too many of last quarters (made up) test scores. Can't give him a good deal. The XO may ask why he's off and not studying to pass a test (so as the Chief I just send him on some off boat work detail like taking something to Cal instead; yeah...I'd tell him to walk off the boat with a spare Simpsom, keep it for the night (home or BEQ) and make himself scarce so someone dosn't see him hanging around the base in civies and tattle to the XO).

In short, while their is still some effective and reasonable training still taking place, the testing system is nothing but a check in the correct box to keep the DH/XO satisfied. You want a realistic testing system? Test on what the actual learning objective is and stop insisting on x number of failures and perfect Bell Curve grade distribution.

7/10/2012 12:32 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Obamacare is legal under the constitution how could anyone consider this shocking?

7/10/2012 4:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q. "Is anyone surprised...?"

A1. "It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is."

A2. Video of the above reply:

- U.S. President Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony on the Monica Lewinsky affair.

(As above.)

7/10/2012 4:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, Rickover despised the Navy's track record at "training" that amounted to little more than memorization.

True 'dat.


7/10/2012 4:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody that ever served on boats is laughing their ass off with the findings of this report.

Movie reference -> You want the truth? blah blah blah...

If SUBFOR "really" wanted positive change, this would be the area.

7/10/2012 5:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in other slightly older news, the sentencing:

7/10/2012 6:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person who did Engineering department training as a PO1 I found that. Officers do not like taking exams. They "never had time" to take them. I used to give them the test to take at their leisure and still had problems getting them back. The only way to get them back was to submit the exam matrix to the ENG with LT XXX with a blank next his name. Then it became a sleep or liberty controlling item.

Tests had to be hard, barely passable. If there were no failures the test was too easy. If there were many failures than training was not good enough.

Does ORSE still come onboard and look at previous tests and make up an exam from previous weak areas that were "upgraded" via training?

7/10/2012 6:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all the old salts, I get it. When the typical month required a test for each division, the Department and for the Supervisors, along with the associated upgrades and reexaminations, we did not do this well. While I can't speak for all the boats, my observation is that the change to one nuclear exam per month has dramatically reduced cheating. One exam (and one reexam) make it a manageable process and an event for the department. Things change over time and this time for the better.

7/10/2012 8:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While not surprised the Navy Submarine Force IG found no evidence of submarine force-wide cheating on training program, the investigators had to have their eyes and ears closed during the interviews and/or were directed as to their final finding by leadership. In my opinion, the IG took a black eye returning an unsubstantiated finding on an issue that every submarine Sailor currently serving in a position of leadership is complicit. From the XO that is getting a divisions training binder in the 11th hour prior to an inspection telling a department head to just fix it and give it back NOW to out-right generation of the set of metrics that provides the commands what they want to see and hear and not what they should.
There are a ton of questions that this investigations results opens; did the IG use such a narrow definition of cheating that precluded any finding other than unsubstantiated, was their investigation limited to a handful of cherry picked boats that had heads up notification to square their books away, etc…. The results lead us down these paths as valid reasons for the answers we see from the investigation not the expected and known results that should have been published.
While serving on seven SSNs and SSBNs during a 30 year career, I witnessed, conducted and directed cheating and/or cooking of the books for training reports due to having unattainable standards imposed on us as individuals executing the training program starting sometime in the mid 90s with the real explosion of the training binders viewed as an admin burden vice a useful tool in the late 90s. While ALL of the external inspectors and reviewers from the submarine force, groups and squadrons the units I served viewed my departments, divisions and programs I was responsible for as the best trained and with the highest operational readiness of any unit they had personally inspected, I had no qualms in having the designated failure (sucks to be you, don’t worry about it I will take care of you (and I did) type attitude from me), limiting the overall exam or specific question high scores, making a exam question un-passable, etc… when needed in the never ending routine of having a training binder that had some specific measurable metric that the current command or squadron leadership had adopted as “the way” to determine if your training program was effective.
I received my Master Training Specilist (MTS) designator in 1989 during the first of my two tours as an instructor and recertified MTS in 2002. I served as a PCO/PXO instructor from 2001 to 2004. I clearly understood how to conduct organized training and could effectively spoon feed concepts, equipment maintenance procedures and operational considerations to the smartest rocks out there but each time I returned to the boat from the previous shore tour, I was the dumbest individual in the world when it came to training because my training program did not produce a set of numbers the current command wanted. End result, I developed training programs that used the advancement exams, inspection results and other indicators as to what we could/should be training and cooked the books to give the command leadership what they wanted and was able to hit the rack each Sunday knowing that the weekly routing was put to rest.

Kelly J’s comments are spot on.

7/10/2012 8:47 AM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

My 2-cents...

Training should be handled at the squadron level, that way there's someone not on the boat who's accountable. During deployments, have a FY15/16 (or any 2 year) deployment cycle training program that the squadron sends the boat out with.

Just like RL-div. I've always though RL-div on a 688 should be handled like the CT's-- riders sent from SUBPAC or SUBLANT. That way, the best ELT's are doing things the same way on every boat, and have the same training.

7/10/2012 10:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day, one East Coast Engineer used the ship's schedule as his long range training plan, directly contrary to the then-existing training guidance. During inspections, that was always the first "hit".

The inspection team would ask him why he did it that way, and he would explain that it worked. Because that boat did expcetionally well on inspections, that "hit" typically was deleted from the inspection report.

Three key elements: (1) the Engineer had the balls to try it; (2) the CO had his back; and (3) it worked. And part of it working was the crew perceiving it as the smart way to do business.

7/10/2012 10:09 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

You think the "three week" fire investigation on the USS Miami will be more honest...well, until I got in their heads...

Do you think the extended fire investigation will be any different than OIG report on training?

I just trying to get the Navy to list all the fires on US submarines in the last 25 years like the Brits did. You know the Brits were looking at the USS Miami fire in coming up with that article, as is most nation's nuclear Navies since Portsmouth. Some think I colluded with the Brits to egg on our Navy to get them to report on our fires?

You got to know FOIAS have been requested....

I admire VADM Richardson letter written three weeks after the fire about integrity and honor issues...he gets it.

7/10/2012 11:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have lost our way.

The same issue continues to occasionally gurgle to the surface - only to be quickly stomped back down below out of sight.

We have a cheating problem. Why? We have unrealistic expectations for our exams....we dictacte a certain passing percentage and failing percentage??!! WTF? Are we King Canute?

We have lost our way. And no one quite knows how to get us out of the quagmire we are in.

This could have been the beginning of the end and been the start of changing the system but alas we seem content with the status quo.

By the way, I look forward to reading the April issue of Vanity Fair for the article on the Lost Decade at Microsoft and how their management process of "stacked ranking" doomed them. I suspect I will see many uncomfortable parallels with the forced testing standards within the submarine community.


7/10/2012 12:21 PM

Blogger Curt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/10/2012 2:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As most have said, the IG didn't look too hard. A lot of people must have lied to the IG.

All of my boats were pretty much as KellyJ described, forward, aft, enlisted, officer. However, things might have changed since 2007 when I retired.

How about the ALABAMA Blue ORSE cheating scandal in early 2006? Officers, Chiefs and junior enlisted went down for that one.

7/10/2012 6:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

60 years of nuclear power, 60 years of cheating on the CTE. E-4 to 0-10; they all did it. Active duty 25 (and counting) years - all sea duty - took and failed many CTE's. Very disappointing, but not surprising, that out senior leadership is so full of shit.

7/10/2012 7:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ORSE exams are complete crap. Unrealistic expectations with the unwritten requirement that the test average had to be between a 3.0 and 3.3. ORSE and eng dept. examinations are gamed.

For heavens sake you don't write down all initial conditions, prerequisites, immediate actions, supplemental actions, warnings, precautions, and other casualties that can occur, then you will not get a good grade on the question.

I love the submarine force but ORSE is complete horse shit.

Ive got an idea, lets combined ORSE and TRE for a 3 day exercise that demonstrates how well a boat can fight and operate its ship during a battle?!?!!?

It would never happen though because the scenario makes too much sense. The boat would only be inspected once a year and that would give the boat too much free time to go out and train for its upcoming mission/deployment or work on qualifications.

7/10/2012 9:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a LT on shore duty that is heading back for SOAC in a few months, I'd like to put my two cents in.

When I first showed up on generic east coast 688 in 2007, exam cheating and fudging exam score to get the right numbers was rampant. I remember getting my BEQ exam and initial qual exams in a folder to take over a weekend when no one was around. Many other lapses and cheating in the exam program were witnessed and even participated in (looking back now, I should have had a bit more integrity/courage but i went along with the culture). Never on an ORSE exam, though.

Fast forward to 2009-2010 when I was leaving the boat. Everyone took proctored exams all the time. I never saw any gouge that wasn't officially put out by the EDMC and EDTA. Same went with the forward end of the boat, etc.

I attribute the change in culture to a few things. First, a new CO ensured that the rules were followed and had realistic expectations. Second a new EDMC genuinely cared about the quality of the training program and didn't look at it as a paper drill(more effort was required, but the results were apparent). Lastly and maybe most importantly, the Hampton incident with ELT issues hit hard in the middle of my time. Squadron hit the integrity drum hard and we were concerned that the s**t would roll downhill to everyone in every program.

I realized after about two years onboard that no exam or failure of said exam was worth any stupid punishment that would jeopardize my future. So, I studied, passed most but failed a few as did the rest of the JO's, took the retakes and soldiered on. After PNEO and with more time on the pond, I had to study less and stopped failing altogether (as expected)

Long story short, there are thousands of things wrong with the training program and the ridiculous requirements placed on submariners, but if you decide to hold a standard it can be held and the culture can be transformed.

Bottom line, I witnessed a shift from cheating to the right way without a significant amount of pain and suffering. You just have to get over the mantra that since its always been that way it can't change. I'm not trying to sound holier than thou, I just want at least one comment that show we can turn the corner.

7/10/2012 10:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:53:

Thanks for your comments. As a post JO on shore duty that will head to SOAC in a couple of years I can relate to your experience.

With the proper leadership and realistic expectations cheating can be minimized.
On my boat the study topics and weak areas were posted well in advance. If you studied then you would do well because the questions were reasonable. We didn't have to worry about having too few failures...enough people would not study or were too junior to really grasp the material.

We did well on ORSE so I guess we did something right. We weren't perfect, and I'm sure that some people cheated, but that will always happen. The point is not to make it where people feel that they HAVE to cheat to do well.

7/11/2012 10:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cheating was not pervasive for some very good reasons:

Primary reason - On Memphis about 10% of crew were lost to disciplinary measures involving an outright cheating ring.

Secondary reason - The denominator of the disciplined percentage included the entire crew, not just nucs subject to testing.

In summary, the localized "outright cheating" resulted in little, if any, actual harm directly attributable to the slackers.

Any questions?

7/11/2012 11:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sailors in today's Navy do not cheat any more or any less than the sailors before them. They definitely don't lie and cheat any more than the politicians running this country.

The people who are inspecting, investigating and even punishing the sailors caught cheating today are guilty of doing it in their past but just didn’t caught. If you read this and say “bullshit” then you need to sit down relax and remember how it was when you were a young officer or sailor. It’s no different than Congress questioning a sports figure on using drugs when we all know that our politicians are as crooked as you can get.

7/11/2012 6:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I realized after about two years onboard that no exam or failure of said exam was worth any stupid punishment that would jeopardize my future. "

This is the truth here.

As a rule, the submarine force is full of incredibly smart guys who have always aced exams. As a result, there's a culture of "I can't fail this exam" that exists.

But, at the end of the day, we all have too much to do to spend a lot of time studying. Too much maintenance, watch standing, planning, and leading going on to make sure I've got every topic covered for the next CTE.

But rather than going in to the exam saying "well, I didn't get a chance to study, so here's what I got..." some people feel the need to cheat because heaven forbid they don't do well on a test that means ... what exactly?? oh yeah, nothing.

doesn't affect your pay.
Doesn't affect your advancement.

Maybe affects your liberty a little as you have to take a re-exam. big friggin deal.

As others have said, they have little to do with your worth as a sailor and as an operator. They're just a measure of your mastery of the information. If you've got it, awesome. If you don't, fine ... just get better.

But the hour it takes for the re-exam is not worth losing your career over.

7/11/2012 6:53 PM

Anonymous MentalJim said...

IG report makes me LOL.

7/11/2012 8:03 PM

Anonymous Trained said...

You do sit darkened. It is so not much about IG....they inspectors what are facts only but wrong that some how 'a different application of different definition of cheating'. Simple, not possible, word has 1 definition only so your point is defunked. Now, also, as well it ill thinking to think a test is too hard or soft. It is, this job, hard science, such that test to it is hard. Only science is fact so youcnnot make it hard or soft. your point defunked another one. Look, if, cheats on test is happening then many more problems would be on going not gone. Point, fact, these are true, INSPECTOR inspecting FACTS found nothing, all defunking your points that are NOT FACTS but SARCASMATIC> this testing is, WORKING, and is, one of the legs up in our stool keeping things safe. There.

7/12/2012 7:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Trained 7:08 - WTF? How about basic sentence structure and language shippy. If not, then STFU!

7/12/2012 8:58 AM

Anonymous qmss/anav/ret said...

@Trained 7:08
"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

7/12/2012 9:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Trained 7:08" is the guy that would be the "designated failure" in my traing program. And judging by that paragraph of nothing, I doubt anyone would ever question why!

7/12/2012 11:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good laugh, "trained". Your little diatribe should be preserved for all eternity. I hereby nominate your post for "Best of TSSBP".

7/12/2012 12:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im glad im not "Trained.

7/12/2012 12:54 PM

Anonymous mark/MM1(ss) said...

My guess is that "Trained" is not a native speaker of English, certainly has never served on a US Submarine, and with no understanding of what Engineering dept exams test, and most of all, possessor of a really, really shitty translation program.

7/12/2012 5:18 PM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Trained sounds like he's trying real hard to sell Internet crap from India.

And sad that tests are more admin checking the box than checking LOK, but this is what's going to happen when you have fewer and fewer boats covering more and more mission requirements.

7/12/2012 7:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've worked with the Chinese a lot over the past two years; @ 7:08 definitely writes like a Chinese national.

7/12/2012 7:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with anonymous at 1053 and 1035. The sub force has made a lot of good changes in the last half decade wrt exams. As someone who graded ORSE exams on a 688, there was no guidance to doctor scores... enough sailors blew off studying the failed questions binder that it wasn't necessary. If you take the time to develop training exams with good questions, you can have an honest program. That's a big if though and requires an eng/edmc/edta who care enough to make it happen.

You can see the shift with the current gen of edmcs. Less emphasis on oolies from an OI and more emphasis on system knowledge.

As far as passing that buck to squadron, anyone who has taken force exam bank tests up forward knows that's a terrible idea.

7/12/2012 8:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the definition of cheating?

We all probably can agree that looking at the key, a reference, or another person's exam while taking a test is cheating, but there is also a large gray area besides those instances.

Is it cheating if you study someone's qual exam, and through no fault of your own the lazy EDTA/division exam guy uses the same exam every time? If you do think that's cheating, then what do you think about the fact that NR gives PNEOs the question bank for their Engineer's Exam or that most people study for standardized tests using past exams? Did we all cheat in 10th grade on the SATs, then?

How much 'key interpretation' is too much? Most Sailors are 'too busy' to actually update those things to be accurate, and we didn't get hired for our exam-writing abilities, so at what point does 'grading for understanding' become outright cheating?

At what point does it become cheating when a proctor clarifies a poorly written or poorly keyed question for the test taker?

7/13/2012 2:50 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Suspect charged with arson for sub Miami fire

By Sam Fellman - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jul 23, 2012 10:43:55 EDT

Federal authorities on Monday charged a Portsmouth, N.H., man with “willfully and maliciously” setting the devastating May 23 fire onboard the attack submarine Miami at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

Casey James Fury was set to appear later in the day in U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, on two counts related to the fire aboard the sub and the burning of nearby building materials, a court clerk said.

The fire raged out of control for hours, causing $400 million in damages. The Navy is now weighing whether to save the Los Angeles-class boat.

7/23/2012 9:22 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

It's suspicious as hell isn't it, with me updating my blog yesterday. The Navy and Feds gave me a heads up they got the "sub saboteur" and he will be charged tomorrow?

They did what I asked. How they first framed this, how can you trust anything the Navy says.

7/23/2012 9:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was fresh out of prototype when I reported to the boat and had my LPO give me a "study guide"...along with a stern warning that if I didn't pass exams that I would be put on report for lacking qualification effort. Prototype sends the mixed message of integrity being the foundation of the watchstanding principles while reinforcing "don't let knowledge stand in the way of qualifying." As for the guy who threatened mast if i didn't cheat, he was later caught cheating on the EWS exam (by a JO straight of of prototype) and lost rank, lost 1/2 months pay for two months, lost his security clearance, had to repay his enlistment bonus, and then was kicked out of the Navy for "Commission of a Serious Offense."

9/01/2012 5:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on the boat for two years, and I was treated differently then the rest of the crew and my quals always took longer than the other nubs. Now I understand! I was an outcast for doing the right thing!

Never the less, I loved the Memphis...but she has been made into toasters, so its no big deal.

7/31/2013 9:32 AM


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