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Maritime Logistics Community News : Summer 2010
5 NAVY SUPPLY NEWSLETTER SUMMER 2010 B.L. WEST RADM AO RAN [RETD] Letter to The Editor Dear Commodore Richards, In your message to Navy Supply Autumn 2010 edition, you ask for thoughts on four topics coming to the front of the SAC's forward work program. I should like to comment on the first topic you raised, viz: "Do Supply Officers need deep ILS skills and experience? If so, how many are needed, where would they be employed and how and when should training be delivered in the career continuum?" It is difficult to know in what context you see Supply Officers exercising deep ILS skills and experience -- perhaps that is the real question. ILS, per se, is a project management discipline where the emphasis is on integration of a support system's constituent capabilities and associated support elements to achieve a project's objectives. Even given the range of support elements involved and their similarity with standard ILS elements, it could not be argued that Supply Officers are best suited to ILS and that ILS, per se, should thus be included in a Supply Officer's career continuum. But is this any less true of the career continuum of other Naval, Service and civilian Officers, senior sailors and personnel? There is no doubt that SU officers, by their specialisation, are familiar with the in-service support of naval assets but may, in the normal course, have limited understanding of its derivation. It is argued that effective project management requires "deep" ILS skills and experience. The qualifications an officer or senior sailor requires to be involved usefully in projects under DMO or Capability Development Group management is, I assume, clearly specified and scrutinised before inclusion in an integrated project team. Capital acquisition usually places demands on an officer's career well outside the normal expectations/ demands of his initial specialisation and experience [a fact true of many postings]. It may be that Navy Career Development associates ILS skills and experience more related to a wide range of duties now considered appropriate for SU officers than as a specific project management discipline which requires another set of professional competence and skills -- many of which are engineering based with a strong mathematical, technical and IT background. The experience gained by SU officers in the normal course of such a wide range of duties would without doubt be of value in project management but principally as an asset for the Capability Manager on which to sponsor his requirements and later to measure the output of project and contract performance. In these circumstances, the SU officer is providing advice based on the demands of his normal training and experience and the value of his advice will be reflected in his experience rather than any deep expertise in ILS in project management [although it would no doubt be handy in understanding its output]. But, if we are talking about ILS as a Project Management discipline and task, then deep ILS skills are best developed as a part of an officer's initial graduate education or later as graduate or post graduate work. As to deep experience, this comes only with practice and is thus a factor in "career continuum". Just where these deep skills and experience fit into a worthwhile career for SU officers, is of course, the problem for these officers and for the Navy as a fighting service and Defence capability manager. Here lies the problem, as it always has. For many years now, much has been said about establishing a project management career progression. It was to be a mid-career onwards specialisation. It was not envisaged as an exclusive specialisation. Officers could move in and out of it as suited their careers and those that managed them. But the basic qualification required by the specialisation was high where career experience was only one factor, important nevertheless. The issue thus boils down to the number of "specialist" ILS officers the Navy must have on tap to meet its commitment to capital acquisition and how this number is spread amongst the officer and senior sailor establishments. Ideally, their initial academic qualifications should facilitate a temporary or permanent transfer to a project management specialisation in due course and that these qualifications should be added to as experience and the career continuum would demand. The selection of SU officers to transition to project management will thus determine the extent and type of deep training each officer might require. Personnel management and a close examination of the Service Capital Programs should give an indication of the impact on the overall SU career continuum. However, if the SAC believes that the SU Officer in the normal course of his current duties needs some of the skills required of a dedicated ILS Officer in a Capital Project, which would not be unreasonable in matters of deep inventory management for example, then these numbers should be added to the overall requirements for the project management specialisation and would justify seeking specific qualifications for an officer's entry to the SU specialisation. Overall, I would suggest that Project Management be an "alternative" in the SU officer's [and senior sailor's] career continuum which the SAC may wish to support or not. But if the SAC wishes to support it, then it must be prepared to examine carefully the basic [entry] qualifications required of its SU officers and set these in place at the start of the Career continuum, with flexibility later to build on these and the numbers so qualified, as the Capital Program and requirements for effective in-service support demand. Not all SU Officers and senior sailors would see project management and deep ILS activity as attractive or a must to reach the top of any particular career tree. Nor should they and neither should it be. But the SAC should ensure that it has put in place from the start the choice of skills on which to draw. Being the first RAN ILS officer in a Capital project on the cusp of the introduction of Project Management to the Navy, I am glad that the Fourth Naval Member at the time decided to give this task to Supply and Secretariat officer after it had been turned down by the Navy's Supply Branch. It made all the difference to his career. Commodore, it is a circular argument; it always has been. If the SAC can justify and believes your officers want deep ILS skills and training, see that they get it [even if you can only give it to a few]; the Navy, the Specialisation and its personnel all stand to benefit immeasurably thereby. But, I suspect there remains a worthwhile and satisfying career in the SU specialisation without the allure of project management. Yours sincerely