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Navy Wants Less Variance in its Equipment


The Navy has launched a new pilot program to save money and streamline the acquisition process by increasing commonality of parts, technologies and processes, service officials said.

The multi-pronged effort is primarily aimed at reducing what the Navy calls variance – the use of different parts and technical configurations for systems and products which could instead use more of the same materials, Rear Adm. Thomas Kearney, Deputy Commander, Acquisition and Commonality, told in an interview.

This translates into work on finding more common parts for valves for nuclear submarines, motors, controllers and water tight doors for ships, among other things, he added. The idea is to save money for the Navy while simultaneously improving the acquisition process by making it more efficient.

“We do have a long term objective and it is to reach a 50-percent reduction in variance by 2020. More commonality is less variance. By having less variance, it is easier for the fleet to train their people on things, it is easier to maintain a logistics trail and it is easier to maintain ships,” Kearney said.

Although the new directorate at Naval Sea Systems Command is looking at improving training of program managers and streamlining processes such as welding procedures, the major thrust of the initiative is looking at equipment and technology.

“An example would be in motors. We have 4,500 types of motors in the Navy that we use. When we look technically at the requirements, we have about 1,500 different motors needed. That is an example of an area where we have room for improving commonality,” Kearney said.

One of the current pilot programs in this new acquisition and commonality directorate involves an effort to examine water tight doors for ships, he added.

“How can we save money by making our water tight doors more common? There will still be differences in technical requirements but we’re working to look at shrinking the pool of choices to be more common,” Kearney explained.

In addition, part of the commonality push is to identify and combine similar initiatives which already exist within the Navy’s acquisition community.

“We have found numerous efforts toward commonality that we unaware of each other’s existence and now they are aware so we can get a lot of synergy there and a lot of forward momentum,” he said.

Part of the processes push is to establish a common set of steps for key activities such as welding in order to improve efficiency, reduce redundancies and save money while maintaining quality, Kearney added.

“We want to maintain competition with industry but make it easier and less expensive to design and build the ships,” he said.

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