As a mission increases in complexity, risk grows exponentially. It is nearly impossible for any one individual to solely identify, evaluate and mitigate all the risks in complex or unknown situations. Going to sea is a dangerous and complex evolution. When you add in complex and sophisticated missions, weapons and operations, it adds an entirely different layer of complexity and strain on an already hazardous environment.
Without the right tools, preparation and a properly coordinated team, seemingly benign events can have unforeseen results- simply as a result of human error.
There are 83 surface combatants homeported along the West Coast and Hawaii, as well as the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Japan and Western Pacific. One of the ways our U.S. Navy Sailors can mitigate risks and the dangers of being at sea is by practicing sound shipboard operating principals (SSOPs). By following these core pillars and supporting processes, Sailors will be able to create a path to success in everything they do, at sea or on shore
The six pillars are formality, procedural compliance, level of knowledge, questioning attitude, forceful backup and integrity, focus on human performance and create the foundation for highly effective commands. Used together, these six principles form the bedrock on which the Surface Force implements the three operating methods: operational risk management (ORM); plan, brief, execute, and debrief (PBED); and hazard reporting.
- Formality in day to day operations is evidenced by clear concise orders and verbatim repeating of commands to eliminate the potential for misinterpretation.
- Well-trained and disciplined operators follow procedures thoughtfully, vice blindly, and understand the expected system response when taking an action. Successful supervisors and operators ensure procedures are readily available, frequently referenced, and strictly adhered to.
- Sailors should use critical thinking skills and exercise vigilance in everything they do. Asking ‘what is wrong with this picture’ is a key query from a questioning attitude.
- When forceful backup is employed effectively, unclear orders are questioned and clarified.
- Integrity means doing the right thing even when nobody is watching, on and off duty.
- Risk management does not mean risk avoidance; it means Sailors should work through to minimize risk.
- PBED is the day-to-day practice used to ensure ORM is in place.
- Hazard reporting is, first, hazard identification, asking ‘what could go wrong here’, then informing those who need to know.
It is the responsibility of every member of the Surface Force to use SSOPs and safety standards and procedures in place, and use the PBED method for training, operations, and maintenance; apply ORM to all they do, on and off duty; and maintain a questioning attitude and provide forceful backup to ensure risk mitigation efforts are maximized to prevent loss and damage. Sailors must also maintain proficiencies and qualifications to ensure appropriate levels of knowledge support the safety and success of afloat operations, demand formality during operational communications to ensure procedural compliance, model and enforce integrity in every situation, and report mishaps and near misses to their chain of command.
Sailors should not only comply with SSOPs, but look to enforce SSOPs when applicable.