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Maritime Logistics Community News : Autumn 2010
38 NAVY SUPPLY NEWSLETTER AUTUMN 2010 Recommendation 15 of this report included future submarines scheme of complement incorporating a small supply department, including a junior Supply Officer. The inclusion of a Supply Officer onboard Australian submarine is an interesting proposition and could hold many benefits for the Supply Officer branch. The submarine fleet offers the potential for up to six new sea going billets for junior Supply Officers prior to their Deputy Supply Officer (DSO) posting. Currently there is an expected five year wait for some officers between an Assistant Supply Officer (ASO) and a DSO posting. This problem will be further exacerbated by the improved training continuum producing an increasing the number of qualified Supply Officers each year. Submarine postings offer the potential to reduce deskilling of Supply Officers ashore for such an extended period of time. Young logisticians join the Navy as Supply Officers for the opportunity to practise their trade in an environment vastly different to their civilian counter parts. Few civilian logisticians get the opportunity to practise their trade near Ashmore Reef or in the Gulf of Oman. The introduction of submariner billets would cater to this desire of many junior Supply Officers and expand the experiences available. One of the more pertinent points in the Moffitt Review is the lack of logistic support onboard Australian submarines. Management of the inventory of between $6m and $10m is left to, in the words of the Moffitt review, "enthusiastic amateurs at best, reluctant and disgruntled 'pressed men' at worst." A Supply Officer can provide assistance on Naval Stores issues, tracking of urgent defects and maintenance availability support. No Major Fleet Unit (MFU) would be sent to sea without organic logistic support, so it stands to reason that the Navy's most potent weapon, the submarine, should not be sent to sea without organic logistic support. A Supply Officer onboard moves the responsibility for the submarine to be logistically safe for sea from the enthusiastic amateur to the domain of the trained professional. A further key issue from the Moffitt Review was the failure of self service administration for submariners. Anecdotally, many members of the Navy have had a negative customer experience with a support agency. The move to 'call centre' personnel administration may have created efficiencies for Defence, however this shifts the administration workload onto individuals. With no Defence Restricted Network (DRN) at sea, submariners do not have reasonable access to communicate with support agencies. In the absence of a submarine borne Writer, a good Supply Officer should be able to provide some personnel management advice. Further support can be given to the stressed divisional system onboard submarines through the Supply Officer also acting as a pseudo Commanding Officer's secretary. With the current lack of a Stores Naval sailor onboard submarines a junior Supply Officer should be able to temporarily fill this role. The Royal Navy (RN) Logistics Officers (Submariner) holds the primary role of a Control Room Watchkeeper (navigation and periscope) working six hours on, six hours off. At action stations the Supply Officer is in charge of system integrity and damage control. These roles could be undertaken by RAN submariner Supply Officers to reduce the burden on current submarine crew. Submarine Economies of scope would exist to warrant the creation of a Supply Officer minor war vessel desig course run by the Supply School annually. The RN runs a similar course at HMS RALEIGH, the Tenders Supply Officers Course. There are several issues that need to be addressed regarding Supply Officers serving onboard submarines. Arguments can be put forward that submarine service removes Supply Officers from the general Supply Community. It should be important to ensure close liaison with support agency Supply Officers such as those at Joint Logistics Command (West). Furthermore, postings to submarines may be seen as a 'dead end' stream, taking Supply Officers out of the Supply stream. Certainly, this point is less valid as the same could be said for Staff Officer positions or out of branch positions. If this was the case, then submarine service would have similar effects for Cooks or Stewards onboard submarines, but no detrimental outcomes have been widely highlighted. If Supply Officers are to be trialed on submarines in Australia, sending potential applicants to the RN to gain an understanding of the Logistics Officer (submariner) should be considered. While the larger nuclear submarines of the RN would be understandably different to the RAN, it would provide a sound starting point for the operation of Australian Supply Officer submariners. Additionally, the RAN should seriously consider the expertise of ex RN Logistic Officers (submariner), who are currently serving in the RAN, to develop and deliver Supply submariner specific training. Supply Officers used for any submarine trial should be top performers from their respective experience and seniority, and this can be identified though the Primary Qualification board process. The potential benefits to the Supply Officers, submarine Supply Departments and submarines are significant. The ability to have up to six extra sea going positions for junior Supply Officers onboard submarines is exciting to most young officers. For the submarine it means an extra Officer and logistics specialist is onboard to share some of the workload of the crew. The Moffitt Review has offered an opportunity for expansion of the Supply Officer branch, and it should be seriously considered. Supply Officers on Australian Submarines The wide ranging Submarine Workforce Sustainability Review was completed by Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt in 2009. BY SBLT CHRIS CLARKE, RAN