Saturday, June 24, 2017

Midget submarine attack on Sydney 31 May – 1 June 1942

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: <a href="">Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia.

The wreck of M14 being recovered. Image: Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

My mother has often told me this story of the evening of Sunday 31st May 1942:

‘It had been a normal Sunday: Church, followed by lunch, a visit to my grandparents, some radio and then suddenly, while I was taking a bath, sirens split the air, Dad turned off the lights, and I shivered in the dark.’

It’s hard to imagine an enemy so audacious that it would simply sail into Sydney Harbour and attack the city. But Sydney Harbour is peppered with the remains of nineteenth-century fortifications built to defend the city against seaborne attacks by Spain, France and Russia, which never eventuated. These included barracks, gun emplacements, munition stores and even electrically activated underwater minefields operated from Chowder Bay between 1876 and 1922. There are fortifications built during WWII, especially after war with Japan was declared at the end of 1941 when the enemy was suddenly next door, rather than half a world away.

The Japanese Type A Kō-hyōteki-class submarines that attacked Sydney in May 1942 were the same as those used in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941. They were 23 metres long, 1.8m wide, battery powered, with a crew of 2 and carried 2 muzzle loaded 450mm dia torpedoes and a 140kg scuttling charge. Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, via Wikimedia. 

We Japanese Type A Kō-hyōteki-class submarines that attacked Sydney in May 1942 were the same as those used in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941. They were 23 metres long, 1.8m wide, battery powered, with a crew of 2 and carried 2 muzzle loaded 450mm dia torpedoes and a 140kg scuttling charge. Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, via Wikimedia.

On that late May night in 1942, Sydney was being attacked by three ‘baby’ Type A Kō-hyōteki-class submarines launched from larger ‘mother’ submarines lurking just off the entrance to the harbour.

At 9 pm a baby sub M14 was detected entering the harbour by the magnetic submarine detection loop running along the ocean bed. but was ignored as simply ‘traffic’ in the busy port.

Around 9.15 pm, M14 became entangled in the almost completed torpedo and submarine boom net being built across the harbour and broke the surface. A watchman rowed out to investigate, saw the submarine and reported the situation to the patrol boat HMAS Yarroma, which in turn sent a report to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Headquarters.Yarroma and another patrol boat HMAS Lolita, were dispatched to investigate and Yarroma dropped two depth charges which failed to detonate because of the shallow water. At around 10.35 pm, unable to escape, the two Japanese submariners on board M14 used the scuttling charge included in their vessel’s armaments to sink the vessel.

M24 was the second submarine to enter the harbour. On its way, it grazed the hull of HMAS Falie, a schooner requisitioned by the RAN to patrol Sydney Harbour. M24 crossed the detector loop at 9.28 pm and then shadowed a Manly ferry as the boom net was opened to let the ferry through to Circular Quay. At 10.52 pm the submarine was spotted by a searchlight operator on the American heavy cruiser USS Chicago, which was docked at Garden Island. Chicago opened fire with a 135mm gun and M24 fled west towards the Harbour Bridge where it lay low, before returning east two hours later, ready to torpedo USS Chicago.

By 10.50pm, M21 was the third submarine to breach the harbour and was spotted by the unarmed patrol boat HMAS Lauriana. Six depth charges were unleashed by anti-submarine vessel HMAS Yandra and then M21 seemingly disappeared.

M24 re-entered the fray around 1.30am. Just off Bradley’s Head, with USS Chicago in its sights, M24 fired two torpedoes – both missing the 182 metre long Chicago. One torpedo scudded under the Dutch submarine K-IX and the converted passenger ferry HMAS Kuttabul but then detonated against the breakwater where the Kuttabul was tied up. Kuttabul was broken in two, killing 19 Australian and two British sailors, and wounding ten.

HMAS <em>Kuttabul</em> after the attack. Image: <a href="">Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia.

HMAS Kuttabul after the attack. Image: Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

The other torpedo ran aground on the shore of Garden Island without exploding. M24 submerged and left the harbour.

One torpedo ends up on the shore of Garden Island. Image: <a href='"> Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia. 

One torpedo ends up on the shore of Garden Island. Image: Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

To avoid becoming ‘sitting ducks’, HMIS Bombay, HMAS Whyalla, HMAS Canberra, USS Perkins and USS Chicago immediately prepared to leave the harbour. On their way out of the USS Chicago spotted a periscope … M21 was coming back in after recovering from the depth charge attack by Yandra.

At 3.50 am the converted passenger liner HMAS Kanimbla fired on M21 in Neutral Bay. It was sighted again in Taylor’s Bay around 5 am and HMAS Seamist dropped two depth charges. The submarine surfaced and then sunk. A barrage of 17 more depth charges followed, from HMAS Steady Hour. Inside the crippled, cramped, hot and airless submarine the crew of M21 committed suicide.

The attack continued early on the 8th June, two of the Japanese ‘mother’ submarines returned. I24 briefly shelled Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and I21 shelled Newcastle, aiming for the BHP steelworks there.

M21 being raised. Image: <a href=""> Australian War Memorial</a>, via Wikimedia. 

M21 being raised. Image:  Australian War Memorial, via Wikimedia.

The wrecks of M14 and M21 were recovered on the 8th June and pieced together to make up one submarine which toured NSW, Victoria and South Australia to raise funds for wartime charities. The composite submarine is now displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Souvenirs purportedly made from the wrecks, and postcards were soon in circulation among a populace both intrigued and terrified by this brush with the war in the Pacific.

The ashes of the four Japanese submariners recovered from the wrecks were repatriated to Japan on board Kamakura Maru in October 1942.

In 2006 a group of seven amateur scuba divers found the submarine sitting upright on the seabed 55 metres below sea level and approximately 5 kilometres east of Bungan Head, about 18km north of Sydney Harbour.

You can find out more about M24 and it’s current management plan at NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

— Richard Wood,  USA Programs Manager.

Explore more stories of War and Peace in the Pacific during World War II in our feature stories, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Bombing of Darwin and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

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GAO-17-461, Defense Infrastructure: Additional Data and Guidance Needed for Alternatively Financed Energy Projects, June 20, 2017

What GAO Found

The military services have used alternative financing arrangements—entering into about 38 private-sector contracts annually from 2005 through 2016—to improve energy efficiency, save money, and meet energy goals. However, the military services have not collected and provided the Department of Defense (DOD) complete and accurate data, such as total contract costs and savings. For example, GAO was unable to identify and the military services could not provide total contract costs for 196 of the 446 alternatively financed energy projects since 2005. Furthermore, some data provided on select projects did not include the level of accuracy needed for planning and budgeting purposes. According to officials, the military services did not always have complete and accurate data because authority for entering into these projects has been decentralized and data have not been consistently maintained. As such, neither the military departments, which include the military services, nor DOD have complete and accurate data on the universe of these projects. Without complete and accurate data on all alternatively financed energy projects, decision makers will not have the information needed for effective project oversight or insight into future budgetary implications of the projects, including impacts on utility budgets.

DOD's alternatively financed energy projects that GAO reviewed reported achieving expected savings. Specifically, GAO's review of 13 operational alternatively financed energy projects found that all 13 projects reported achieving their expected savings. However, the military services have varying approaches for verifying whether projected savings were achieved for all utility energy service contracts (UESC)—an arrangement in which a utility arranges financing to cover the project's costs, which are then repaid by the agency over the contract term. DOD guidance requires the military services to track estimated and verified savings and measurement and verification information for all energy projects, but DOD's guidance is inconsistent with more recent Office of Management and Budget guidance. This inconsistency and DOD's interpretation of Office of Management and Budget guidance have resulted in the military departments developing varying approaches for verifying savings of UESC projects. Without clear guidance from DOD on how the military services should be taking steps to verify savings associated with UESC projects, the military services will continue to interpret guidance differently and are likely to take inconsistent approaches to verifying the savings of UESC projects spanning potentially a 25-year duration.

DOD and military service officials identified benefits and disadvantages, as well as other potential costs, of using alternative arrangements to finance energy projects rather than using up-front appropriations. According to officials, benefits include the ability to fund projects that would not otherwise be funded due to budgetary constraints, to complete projects more quickly, and to have expert personnel available to implement and manage such projects. However, officials also identified disadvantages, including higher costs and the risks associated with long-term financial obligations. In addition, GAO found that some potential costs for these alternatively financed energy projects, such as costs associated with operation and maintenance and repair and replacement of equipment, add to overall project costs and may not be included in the total contract payments.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD, the largest energy consumer in the federal government, has been addressing its power needs by diversifying its power resources, reducing demand, and implementing conservation projects. To address its goals for energy projects, DOD also has been using alternative financing from private-sector contracts rather than relying solely on annual federal appropriations to fund projects upfront.

The House and Senate reports accompanying their respective bills for the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 included provisions that GAO review DOD's alternatively financed energy projects. This report (1) evaluates the military services' use of alternative financing arrangements since 2005 and data collected and provided to DOD on those projects; (2) assesses reported project savings and verification of reported performance, and (3) describes benefits and disadvantages and potential other costs of using alternative financing rather than up-front appropriations. GAO analyzed and reviewed DOD data, relevant guidance, and project documentation; interviewed cognizant officials; and reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of projects.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the military services collect and provide DOD complete and accurate data on all alternatively financed energy projects and that DOD update its guidance to clarify requirements for verifying UESC savings. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and nonconcurred with the second. GAO continues to believe its recommendation is valid, as discussed in this report.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or

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GAO-17-449, Supply Chain Management: DOD Could More Efficiently Use Its Distribution Centers, June 21, 2017

What GAO Found

GAO found that since fiscal year 2009, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)—the largest logistics combat support agency for the Department of Defense (DOD)—had reduced costs and maintained fairly constant prices for commodities, such as repair parts, clothing, and food. When developing annual budgets, DLA has generally underestimated revenue from the sales of commodities. The underestimated revenue contributed to gains that were applied to future year prices in the form of reductions, and helped offset inflationary increases in material costs.

GAO also found that since fiscal year 2011, DLA had reduced costs for distribution services (e.g., the processing and storing of inventory) by about 25 percent through the use of existing authorities to reduce infrastructure. However, DLA has often increased annual prices for distribution services by more than 10 percent due, in part, to a declining workload. DLA has generally overestimated revenue from the sales of distribution services. The overestimated revenue contributed to losses as well as to price increases in subsequent years as DLA sought to recover those losses.

DOD has taken steps to increase the use of DLA's 17 U.S. distribution centers to improve efficiency of DLA's operations, but additional opportunities for efficiencies exist across DOD's network of approximately 256 U.S. distribution centers. In January 2017, DOD revised guidance to require storage of government-owned inventory at DLA's distribution centers instead of at privately owned storage when both are located in the same geographic area to reduce costs. DOD has also identified inefficiencies in the provision of its distribution services. Specifically, the military departments, along with DLA, provided distribution services using U.S. distribution centers that often were in close proximity to or located on the same installation. To address inefficiencies, DOD established a program to, among other things, decrease the number of U.S. distribution centers. In October 2014, DOD discontinued the program without implementing its plan to reduce the number of distribution centers. Though DLA has been able to use existing authorities to realign functions and demolish some facilities to gain efficiencies at its distribution centers, DOD officials told us the department needs Base Realignment and Closure authority—a process whereby Congress authorizes an independent federal commission to review and determine whether to forward to the President for approval DOD's proposals to realign and close military installations—to address any additional inefficiencies. GAO found, however, that DOD had not assessed the extent to which the department could further use its existing authorities to minimize unnecessary overlap or duplication in its network of distribution centers. Without assessing the use of its existing authorities, inefficiencies in DOD's network of U.S. distribution centers that the department has previously identified may remain.

Why GAO Did This Study

In fiscal year 2015, DLA generated $23 billion in revenues from supply chain management sales to the military departments and other customers, such as federal agencies. These sales included commodities and distribution services provided through the Defense-wide Working Capital Fund, a revolving fund.

Senate Report 114-255 and House Report 114-537 included provisions for GAO to evaluate DLA's costs to provide commodities and services using the Defense-wide Working Capital Fund. This report identifies trends in the costs and annual prices that DLA has charged for commodities and distribution services; and evaluates the extent to which DOD has taken steps to more efficiently use its network of U.S. distribution centers. GAO analyzed the most currently available DLA cost data, estimated and actual revenue, and prices for commodities and distribution services since fiscal year 2009; reviewed DOD documentation; and interviewed knowledgeable DOD officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD assess and direct the implementation of actions, as appropriate, that can be taken using existing authorities to close, realign, or dispose of existing infrastructure to more efficiently use the department's network of U.S. distribution centers. DOD concurred with the recommendation.

For more information, contact Andrew J Von Ah at (213) 830-1011 or

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GAO-17-384, Veterans Affairs: Improved Management Processes Are Necessary for IT Systems That Better Support Health Care, June 21, 2017

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GAO-17-568, Army Weapon System Requirements: Need to Address Workforce Shortfalls to Make Necessary Improvements, June 22, 2017

What GAO Found Since 2011, the Army has taken a number of actions to improve its requirements development process for major defense acquisition programs. For example, the Army has established teams of research analysts at its Centers of Excellence—where requirements are generated—to provide greater analytical support. Further, it has instituted knowledge reviews to provide Army leadership the opportunity to make informed decisions early in a major defense acquisition program. Additionally, the Army Chief of Staff, as a result of this review conducted pursuant to section 801 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, has elevated and modified the role and composition of the Army Requirements Oversight Council. However, the Army is still determining the methodologies and metrics to assess the council's performance and its effectiveness. Even with these actions, GAO found that the Army is unable to ensure requirements for major defense acquisition programs are well-informed and feasible, as its requirements development workforce is declining. The requirements development workforce has decreased by 22 percent since 2008, with some requirements development centers reporting more significant reductions. The current status of the requirements development workforce is driven in part by the Army's prioritization of readiness amid funding constraints. Federal standards for internal controls state that management should establish the organizational structure necessary to achieve its objectives and periodically evaluate this structure. Until the Army comprehensively assesses the needs of its requirements development workforce—to include research analysts, systems engineers, and others—it will continue to lack the necessary foundation for viable major acquisition programs. Army Requirements Development Workforce GAO's analysis of nine Army weapon acquisition programs illustrates that the un-executable requirements and negative program outcomes, which a 2011 Army commissioned report described, continue to exist. GAO's best practices work identifies the factor that separates successful from unsuccessful programs as the presence of requirements informed by early, robust systems engineering analyses. Of the nine programs GAO reviewed those that lacked such analyses generally faced developmental challenges. Why GAO Did This Study Over the past decade, the Army spent over $20 billion annually to develop and acquire weapon systems, yet it canceled many of them due, in part, to the realization that requirements would not be met. In 2011, the Secretary of the Army commissioned a report (called the Decker-Wagner report) to identify why the Army has experienced a poor acquisition track record. One contributing factor identified in the report was poorly developed requirements. GAO was asked to review the Army's process for developing weapon system requirements. This report (1) identifies what actions the Army has taken to improve its requirements development process since 2011; (2) evaluates the extent to which the Army ensures that requirements are well-informed and feasible: and (3) provides information on the current status of nine major defense programs. GAO reviewed the Decker-Wagner report and actions taken; reviewed Army requirements policy documentation and interviewed officials; assessed the composition of the requirements development workforce; and analyzed a non-generalizable sample of nine case studies of major defense acquisition programs, selected based on their acquisition phase. What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that the Secretary of the Army conduct an assessment of the requirements development workforce needed to support the requirements process. The Army concurred with this recommendation. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or

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GAO-17-457, Army Contracting: Leadership Lacks Information Needed To Evaluate and Improve Operations, June 22, 2017

What GAO Found

Top Army leaders conduct department-wide contracting reviews, but they have not consistently evaluated the efficiency and effectiveness of the department's contracting operations. Instead, they have primarily focused on efforts to obligate funds before they expire, as well as competition rates and small business participation. In 2014, one of the Army's key strategic planning documents established that contracting operations should adhere to schedule, cost, and performance objectives, but Army leaders have not established the timeliness, cost savings, and contractor quality metrics needed to evaluate contracting operations against such objectives. Without adequate metrics, Army leaders will not have the information needed to determine whether Army contracting operations are meeting the department's objectives. Since 2012, Army leaders, including successive Assistant Secretaries of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) (ASA(ALT)), have acknowledged a need for improvements in contracting and have taken positive intermittent steps, but GAO found that these leaders did not sustain the efforts or—alternately—provide a rationale for not doing so. GAO has previously found that leadership must provide clear and consistent rationales to effectively drive organizational transformations. If Army leadership does not document its rationale for key decisions, the Army's contracting organizations may be missing critical information to effectively improve operations going forward.

Top Army leaders have not evaluated the effects of major organizational changes on contracting operations despite repeatedly changing reporting relationships across contracting organizations since 2008, when the Secretary of the Army created the Army Contracting Command. The number of changes has increased since 2012, with five major changes in 2016.

Number of Major Organizational Changes Affecting Army Contracting Operations, 2008-2016

Number of Major Organizational Changes Affecting Army Contracting Operations, 2008-2016

Some Army leaders made organizational changes to centralize contracting decision-making, while others made changes intended to improve support to field operations. When Army leaders made these changes, they did not establish measurable objectives in accordance with federal standards for internal control, and officials from eight different Army organizations told GAO that the numerous changes disrupted contracting operations and caused confusion. Further, GAO found that disagreements over the associated risks and benefits have increased tensions among officials in the ASA(ALT) office and at the Army Materiel Command (AMC). In the absence of measurable objectives and authoritative data, it is unclear whether the benefits of the changes outweighed the costs to implement them.

Why GAO Did This Study

In recent years, GAO and other organizations have raised concerns about Army contracting operations, which directly affect a wide range of Army activities. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Army obligated more than $74 billion through contract actions.

GAO was asked to examine the Army's contracting operations. This report assesses the extent to which Army leaders have evaluated (1) the efficiency and effectiveness of contracting operations and (2) the effects of organizational changes on contracting operations.

GAO reviewed reports on Army contracting commissioned by the Secretary of the Army and an ASA(ALT); ASA(ALT) memos; Army guidance reorganizing AMC; and Army-wide contracting oversight briefings from fiscal years 2015 and 2016. GAO also interviewed personnel in the Office of the ASA(ALT), at AMC, and other contracting organizations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making eight recommendations to improve the Army's contracting operations such as: developing metrics to assess contracting operations for timeliness, cost savings, and contractor quality; documenting rationales for key decisions; and establishing measurable objectives to assess the effects of organizational changes on contracting operations. The Army generally concurred with GAO's recommendations, but did not agree to establish a contractor quality metric because contracting organizations cannot control all variables that affect quality. GAO continues to believe this action is needed as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or

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GAO-17-523R, Defense Management: DOD Has Taken Initial Steps to Formulate an Organizational Strategy, but These Efforts Are Not Complete, June 23, 2017

Why GAO Did This Study

Section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 directed the Secretary of Defense to, among other things, formulate an organizational strategy for DOD that identifies the critical objectives and other outputs which span multiple functional boundaries and would benefit from the use of cross-functional teams to ensure collaboration and integration across the department. Section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 also included a provision for GAO, not later than 6 months after the date of enactment, December 23, 2016, and every 6 months thereafter through December 31, 2019, to submit to the defense committees a report setting forth a comprehensive assessment of the actions that DOD has taken pursuant to section 911 during each 6-month period, and cumulatively since enactment.

This report describes the extent to which DOD has implemented section 911 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 during the first 6-month reporting period--December 23, 2016, through June 23, 2017. GAO reviewed DOD planning documents to implement the requirements and interviewed officials from the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer as well as subject-matter experts.

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps in three areas to begin implementing the requirements of section 911 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. In particular, the act required DOD to, among other things, (1) provide training to individuals, who have been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, on leadership, modern organizational practice, collaboration, and the operation of cross-functional teams within 3 months of appointment; (2) award a contract to study how to best implement cross-functional teams in DOD; and (3) develop and issue an organizational strategy. First, DOD has begun exploring options for providing training focused on the required elements to those individuals nominated by the President to positions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and confirmed by the Senate. According to DOD officials, DOD is planning to use existing training as well as develop additional training--in conjunction with subject matter experts--to meet this requirement. Second, DOD awarded a contract for the study on leading practices for cross-functional teams on June 9, 2017, after the required date of March 15, 2017. According to DOD officials, budgetary constraints resulting from the delay in enacting a defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 hampered the ability of the department to award this contract by the required date, as there were not sufficient funds available to be obligated for the full estimated contract price without negatively impacting existing contractual commitments that rely on the same funding sources. DOD will deliver the results of the study to Congress in August 2017, after the required date of July 15, 2017 because of the delay in awarding the contract. Third, DOD officials stated that the Secretary of Defense is taking initial steps to develop an organizational strategy for the department and expects the strategy to be completed by September 1, 2017.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations at this time.

For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at 213-830-1011 or

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GAO-17-428, Operational Contract Support: Actions Needed to Enhance Capabilities in the Pacific Region, June 23, 2017

What GAO Found

U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) does not fully account for contractor personnel in a steady-state, or peacetime, environment and lacks a process to vet foreign vendors. Department of Defense (DOD) guidance requires the accounting of certain contractor personnel during contingency operations, but is unclear for steady-state environments. PACOM issued limited guidance in November 2016 to address accountability processes in contingency and steady-state environments, and PACOM and some of its components use multiple mechanisms to account for contractor personnel, resulting in inconsistencies in the numbers of contractor personnel accounted for, which could present difficulties in an emergency or contingency operation. Additionally, PACOM lacks a foreign vendor vetting process due to a lack of DOD guidance identifying what vendor vetting processes should be established at combatant commands. PACOM has taken some action on vendor vetting, such as including vetting in exercises and screening some contractor personnel, but it lacks a process that includes details, such as under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established. DOD guidance specifying under what circumstances a vetting cell should be established would better position PACOM to avoid contracting with the enemy in high-threat areas.

PACOM established an interim operational contract support (OCS) organizational structure through a pilot program that ends in June 2017. PACOM officials stated that, upon completion of the pilot, they intend to establish the structure as an enduring OCS capability within the command's logistics directorate. The intent is to provide the combatant command, subordinate unified commands, and service components a central entity to integrate OCS across joint functions, such as directorates dealing with personnel or intelligence. However, service component officials stated that PACOM's OCS organizational structure might have been more effective if it engaged all joint staff functions, including directorates beyond logistics. DOD, Joint Staff, and PACOM guidance identify the important role that directorates beyond logistics should play as stakeholders in OCS. Similarly, GAO has previously reported on the challenges DOD has faced integrating OCS in functional areas beyond logistics. By considering ways to expand its OCS organizational structure beyond the logistics directorate and better integrate the equities of other directorates, PACOM could be better positioned to build on the progress made during the pilot program.

PACOM has integrated OCS into key planning documents, as required by guidance, by developing OCS annexes for 6 of its 11 operational, concept, and campaign plans. Officials added that they will continue to update the remaining plans as planning cycles and resources allow. However, the annex appendixes generally lack key details, such as contractor management and support estimates. PACOM officials told GAO that such details are determined through requirements development at the service component commands, but challenges exist related to these issues due to unclear guidance. Without guidance that clarifies the requirements-development process for OCS annexes, PACOM will continue to lack important details that are needed to determine OCS requirements for operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

A key element of DOD military strategy since 2012 has been a rebalance of U.S. presence and capabilities toward the Asia-Pacific region, PACOM's area of responsibility. U.S. military personnel in this region rely on contracted services to provide support to military operations. PACOM's humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts in response to a May 2015 earthquake in Nepal highlighted the importance of OCS in the Asia-Pacific region.

GAO was asked to assess PACOM's processes to plan for, manage, and oversee contractors that support military operations in the Asia-Pacific region. This report assesses the extent to which PACOM (1) has accounted for contractor personnel and has a process to vet foreign vendors; (2) has established an organizational structure to manage and oversee OCS; and (3) has integrated OCS into key planning documents. GAO reviewed documents and data, interviewed relevant officials involved in OCS activities in the region, and analyzed OCS annexes to certain plans.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOD and PACOM develop or update guidance related to contractor personnel accountability, vendor vetting, and OCS organizational structure; and that PACOM develop guidance that clarifies requirements development for plans. DOD concurred with two recommendations and partially concurred with four. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are valid, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or

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GAO-17-480, VA Health Care: Improvements Needed in Data and Monitoring of Clinical Productivity and Efficiency, May 23, 2017

What GAO Found

In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented clinical productivity metrics to measure physician providers' time and effort to deliver procedures. VA also developed statistical models to track clinical efficiency at VA medical centers (VAMC). Data collected under the metrics and models are used to identify sub-optimal clinical productivity and inefficiency at VAMCs. GAO found that contrary to federal internal control standards for information, VA's metrics and models may not provide quality information because the information is incomplete and may not accurately reflect clinical productivity and efficiency. GAO identified limitations with VA's metrics and models that limit VA's ability to assess whether resources are being used effectively. Specifically,

  • Productivity metrics are not complete because they do not account for all providers or clinical services. Due to data systems limitations, the metrics do not capture all types of providers who deliver care at VAMCs, including contract physicians and advanced practice providers, such as nurse practitioners, serving as sole-providers. In addition, the metrics do not capture providers' workload evaluating and managing hospitalized patients.
  • Productivity metrics may not accurately reflect the intensity of clinical workload. A 2016 VA audit shows that VA providers do not always accurately code the intensity of—that is, the amount of effort needed to perform— clinical procedures or services. As a result, VA's productivity metrics may not accurately reflect provider productivity, as differences between providers may represent coding inaccuracies rather than true productivity differences.
  • Productivity metrics may not accurately reflect providers' clinical staffing levels. Officials at five of the six selected VAMCs GAO visited reported that providers do not always accurately record the amount of time they spend performing clinical duties, as distinct from other duties.
  • Efficiency models may also be adversely affected by inaccurate workload and staffing data. To the extent that the intensity and amount of providers' clinical workload are inaccurately recorded, some of VA's efficiency models examining VAMC utilization and expenditures may also be inaccurate. For example, the model that examines administrative efficiency requires accurate data on the amount of time VA providers spend on administrative tasks; if the time providers allocate to clinical, administrative, and other tasks is incorrect, the model may overstate or understate administrative efficiency.

GAO found that VA Central Office has taken steps to help VAMCs monitor provider productivity by developing a comprehensive analytical tool VAMCs can use to identify the drivers of low productivity. While VAMCs are required to monitor VA's productivity metrics, GAO found that VA does not require VAMCs to monitor VA's efficiency models. Further, VA does not systematically oversee VAMCs' efforts to monitor clinical productivity and efficiency. As a result, VA cannot systematically identify best practices to address low productivity and inefficiency as well as determine the factors VAMCs commonly identify as contributing to low productivity and inefficiency. This approach is inconsistent with federal standards for internal control related to monitoring.

Why GAO Did This Study

VA has faced challenges managing its budget and ensuring veterans' access to health care, generating congressional interest in asking GAO to examine VA's use of its productivity and efficiency metrics.

This report assesses (1) whether VA's clinical productivity metrics and efficiency models provide complete and accurate information on provider productivity and VAMC efficiency, and (2) VA's efforts to monitor and improve clinical productivity and efficiency.

GAO reviewed VA documentation, such as policies and guidance, and 2015 data on clinical productivity and efficiency, the most recent data available. GAO also interviewed VA Central Office officials about VA's metrics and models and monitoring efforts. GAO visited six VAMCs and their corresponding Veterans Integrated Service Networks, selected based on geographic diversity, variation of facility complexity, and differences in productivity and efficiency levels. GAO examined VA's efforts to monitor and improve clinical productivity and efficiency in the context of federal standards for internal control related to information and monitoring.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making four recommendations to improve the completeness and accuracy of VA's productivity metrics and efficiency models and to strengthen VA's oversight of VAMCs' use of these metrics and models. VA concurred or concurred in principle with GAO's recommendations and described its plans to implement them.

For more information, contact Randall B. Williamson at (202) 512-7114 or

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Air Force Thunderbird plane involved in 'mishap' in Ohio

One of the famed Air Force Thunderbirds that was practicing for an air show at an Ohio airport had a "mishap upon landing" on Friday, Fox News confirmed.

Two people who were flying in the jet have been taken to a hospital. The airport director said the plane's occupants were conscious at the time, but the extent of any injuries was not immediately known.

The Thunderbirds were "conducting a familiarization flight" in preparation for the annual Vectren Dayton Air Show.

The jet, a Thunderbird F-16, flipped over on the runway, according to FOX 8. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said it received a report of an incident in Dayton at 12:31 p.m. The nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base dispatched a rescue crew to the scene.

The Sheriff's Office said two occupants were reportedly still inside the aircraft on the runway.

Weather in the Dayton area was reported to have been bad Friday, as remnants of tropical storm Cindy pushed through that part of southwest Ohio.

Fox News' Chad Pergram and Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Battleship Texas, Barely Hanging on — Closes, Reopens, & Hunkers Down for Tropical Storm Cindy

We have been following the continued slow disintegration of the historically rich, but budget poor, Battleship Texas for several years now. The over 100 year old battleship is the oldest remaining dreadnought battleship and only one of six surviving ships to have served in both World War I and World War II.  She is also continually on the verge of sinking at her berth in the Buffalo Bayou in Harris County, Texas.  

Recently, the Houston Chronicle reported, Battleship Texas closed until further notice, crews working to repair leaks. A week later,  the headline was more cheerful — Battleship Texas Leaks Fixed, Retired Ship Reopens Saturday.  Now, the media is reporting that the grand old ship is hunkering down for Tropical Storm Cindy, which is heading her way.

None of this is new. Back in 2012, we posted — Update: 100 Year Old Battleship Texas Shutdown Indefinitely by Leaks.  The good news is that all that is needed to save the old ship is money. That may also be the bad news.

Battleship Texas: 100 Years (Narrated by Lyle Lovett)

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Investigators Believe USS Fitzgerald Crew Fought Flooding For An Hour Before Distress Call Reached Help.

USS Fitzgerald pier side at the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan

The crew of the guided-missile destroyer that was struck by a merchant ship on Friday off the coast of Japan fought to save the ship for an hour before the first calls went out for help, Japanese investigators now believe.

According to the current operational theory of Japanese investigators, the deadly collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and the Philippine-flagged merchant ship ACX Crystal knocked out the destroyer’s communications for an hour, while the four-times-larger merchant ship was unaware of what it hit until it doubled back and found the damaged warship, two sources familiar with the ongoing Japanese investigation told USNI News on Wednesday.

Investigators now think Crystal was transiting to Tokyo on autopilot with an inattentive or asleep crew when the merchant vessel struck a glancing blow on the destroyer’s starboard side at about 1:30 AM local time on Friday. When the crew of Crystal realized they had hit something, the ship performed a U-turn in the shipping lane and sped back to the initial site of the collision at 18 knots, discovered Fitzgerald, and radioed a distress call to authorities at about 2:30 AM. U.S. Navy officials initially said the collision occurred at around the time of the distress call at 2:30 AM.

ACX Crystal off of Japan following the collision with the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) on June 17, 2017. Kyodo Photo

Meanwhile, when Crystal’s port bow hit Fitzgerald, the warship was performing a normal transit off the coast of Japan, USNI News understands. Above the waterline, the flared bow of Crystal caved in several spaces in the superstructure, including the stateroom of commanding officer Cmdr. Bryce Benson.

The impact not only ripped a hole in the steel superstructure in the stateroom but also shifted the contents and shape of the steel so Benson was “squeezed out the hull and was outside the skin of the ship,” a sailor familiar with the damage to the ship told USNI News.
“He’s lucky to be alive.”

View of the stateroom of Cmdr. Bryce Benson after the collision with ACX Crystal.

Fitzgerald sailors had to bend back the door of the stateroom to pluck Benson from the side of the ship and bring him inside. He and two other sailors were later evacuated from the ship via a Japanese helicopter to a Navy hospital at Yokosuka.

Pictures of Benson’s stateroom from the door show the steel bent back to reveal open air, and a photo of the ship’s exterior pier-side shows almost the entire stateroom was crushed.

Meanwhile, below decks, the glancing blow of Crystal’s bulbous bow had ripped a 10-feet-by-10-feet to 14-feet-by-14-feet hole below the waterline of the ship, flooding a machinery space the berthing area that was home to about half of the crew, the sailor said.

Over the weekend, U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin confirmed the spaces that were affected by the collision.

Diagram of USS Fitzgerald showing where damage from ACX Crystal occurred.

“Three compartments were severely damaged,” Aucoin said at the Saturday press conference.
“One machinery room and two berthing areas — berthing areas for 116 of the crew.”

The seven sailors who died aboard were sealed in the berthing area behind a watertight door as the ship’s company fought to keep the ship afloat, according to a description of events the Navy told the family of Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., according to The Associated Press
It’s yet unclear if the ship’s watch had time to sound the collision alarm or call general quarters before Crystal hit the destroyer.

In addition to the damage to the spaces, the collision knocked out Fitzgeraldcommunications for the better part of an hour. At about the same time the crew was able to reactivate their backup Iridium satellite communications to radio for help, Crystal arrived on the scene and called in its own distress call, the sailor told USNI News.

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. USNI News Image

A photo compilation depicting the seven sailors who died during June 17, 2017 collision between a merchant ship and the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald. USNI News Image

U.S. Navy investigators are being tight-lipped about details of the investigation, even inside the service. However, information USNI News learned from the Japan Coast Guard investigation indicates Fitzgerald was operating normally when the collision occurred, raising questions more questions regarding why Benson wasn’t on the bridge when a contact was so close to the destroyer.

On Monday, U.S 7th Fleet began a flag officer-led Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation to determine the facts of the collision, as well as a separate U.S. Navy safety investigation. The U.S. Coast Guard will take lead in a maritime casualty investigation.

As for the ship, five days after collision active damage control efforts are ongoing to prevent further damage to the hull. The force of Crystal’s impact combined with the flood not only dented but twisted the ship’s hull. Crews are continuing to pump water in and out of the ship to keep Fitzgerald stable.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. US Navy Photo

Naval Sea Systems Command is now assessing if the ship can be repaired in Japan or would have to be transported to the U.S. for repairs.

While investigation and repairs are ongoing, the ship’s crew has been given time away from the ship in an attempt to recover from the collision. The burden of ships’ watches is being shared by other crews on the Yokosuka waterfront, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
Both Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steve Giordano both visited Yokosuka to speak with Fitzgerald sailors and their families.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

U.S. Coast Guard Interviews ACX Crystal Crew After Warship Collision

Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal, damaged after colliding with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgeraldis, is seen off Shimoda, Japan in this photo by the Japan Coast Guard June 17, 2017. Japan Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS


By Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka TOKYO, June 20 (Reuters) – The United States Coast Guard will on Tuesday start interviewing the crew of a Philippines-flagged container ship which collided with a U.S. warship in Japanese waters killing seven American sailors.

The U.S. coast guard investigation is one several into the incident on Saturday involving the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal. The cause of the collision at night and in clear weather is not known.

"We are scheduled to interview the crew members," said U.S. Lieutenant Scott Carr told Reuters, referring the crew of the merchant ship. The USS Fitzgerald crew will also be interviewed.

The U.S. coast guard, which is undertaking the investigation on behalf of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, will gather electronic data and ship tracking information from the USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal.

The investigation will also look into a time discrepancy in the ACX Crystal's initial report of the incident south of Tokyo Bay, said Scott. "There is a contradiction. It will be part of the investigation," Carr said.

The Japan Coast Guard has already spoken to the Filipino crew and is also probing the inconsistency. It is in talks with the U.S. Navy for access to its crew members and data from the destroyer, a spokesman for the organization said.

The U.S. Navy did not immediately respond when asked if it would release tracking data to the Japan Coast Guard.

The ACX Crystal reported the collision at 2:25 a.m. (1725 GMT) prompting Japanese authorities to initially log the incident at 2:20 a.m.

The Japan Coast Guard subsequently revised the time to 1:30 a.m. meaning the container ship waited 55 minutes before contacting the coast guard, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows the merchant ship chartered by Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, made a complete U-turn between 12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m. on June 17.

The Fitzgerald did not contact local authorities. The Japan Coast Guard radioed it after receiving the first report of the collision.

Many of the crew on the U.S. ship were asleep when the collision tore a gash under the waterline on the warship's starboard side, flooding two crew compartments, the radio room and the auxiliary machine room.

When asked on Sunday if the damage indicated the U.S. ship could have been at fault, Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin declined to speculate on the cause.

Complicating the inquiries could be issues of jurisdiction. Although the collision occurred in Japanese waters, international maritime rules, could allow the U.S. Navy to claim some authority over the investigations.

The incident was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen's Aden harbor in 2000, when 17 sailors were killed and 39 injured

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Michael Perry)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

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