The Hollow Defense Debate: Admiral Gehman's
Readiness Perception Gap Re-Visited

September 14, 1998

Comment: #186

Discussion Thread:  #s 129, 172, 173, and 185


[1] John Donnelly, "Sailors' Readiness Reports Found 'Seriously Flawed,'" Defense Week, September 14, 1998, Page 1. Excerpts attached.

One of the most serious readiness problems, in my opinion, is the growing wedge of mistrust between senior officers on the one hand and junior officers and senior enlisted ranks on the other. In Comment #129, for example, I discussed Admiral Gehman's distinction between "Big R" readiness (as viewed by the senior officers) and "little r" readiness viewed by the lower ranks and how this viewpoint related to the wedge of mistrust. I urge readers to go back an review Comment #129 before reading Reference 1 to this message.

In the reference to #129, Dale Eisman of the Norfolk Pilot reported that Gehman said senior leaders see "little or no change in readiness from five years ago" at the big picture or "macro" level. When it comes to the number and capabilities of ships, planes, tanks and other military assets, the "nearly unanimous assessment is we are in good shape" compared to potential adversaries.

On the other hand, he said a "core cadre" of lower level officers and enlisted personnel "see quite a different state of affairs." at the "Little R" level [his word], that is, readiness that is measured by such factors as "the quality of life of our sailors, the ready availability of spare parts, the numbers and quality of our people, the frequency of realistic training opportunities." this perception gap

The referenced report by John Donnelly of Defense Week provides some insights into why Gehman's perception gap exists. Donnelly describes an internal Navy audit report that found that the readiness reporting system did not provide an accurate picture of readiness to senior Navy leadership. The report asserts, among other things, that some unit commanders manipulate the numbers, because they view them as scorecards on their own performance

Donnelly reports that the results of this audit, which are unclassified, were kept to a small circle of admirals since being briefed last November. Even worse, he says that the results of this audit were withheld from the civilian leadership of the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Inspector General's office, the Congress, and the press.

Read the reference closely. Perhaps Donnelly has uncovered one of the real reasons why there is a perception gap between "Big R" and "little r" readiness and a growing wedge of mistrust between the leaders and the "led."

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, the following material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1

Defense Week September 14, 1998
'Sailors' Readiness Reports Found 'Seriously Flawed'
By John Donnelly



The report's author, Jonathan Kleinwaks of the Naval Audit Service, in an internal memorandum obtained by Defense Week, summarized his findings: "Bottom line of the brief was that Navy personnel readiness reporting is seriously flawed. This is significant because the nature of the flaws are such that from the readiness reports one can't really know whether current manning is sufficient for the ships to fight."


The San Diego Union-Tribune reported this month that the Navy is short 18,000 sailors, and one in 10 jobs in the Pacific fleet is unfilled.


In the meantime, though, Inhofe, the readiness chairman, says it is "particularly troubling that naval units may report that they are ready simply because they have the required number of individuals on hand even if these individuals do not possess the required skills." The skills may be even more important than the numbers of people, he said.