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Navy seeks RAD ideas to cut admin work

Jul. 5, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Navy has launched a website where sailors and officers can share ideas for cutting down the slog of administrative work that keeps the fleet from putting war fighting first.

The initiative is called Reducing Administrative Distractions — or RAD. It’s cute, but the name does speak to the site’s ultimate goal — drawing radical ideas from across the service that can lead to real change in how work gets done.

Officials are keeping an open mind and are counting on everyone from junior sailors to commanding officers to weigh in. And here’s the fun part: You can read all the other suggestions and vote on them. Give an enthusiastic “thumbs up” for the ideas you support and a fat “thumbs down” for the stinkers.

The most favored ideas will probably get the most attention, and some sailors may even net a little spending cash for their efforts.

You can access the RAD website at http://navyrad.ideascale.com. All active-duty sailors, reservists and civilian employees are eligible to sign up. The Navy encourages you to use an anonymous handle, but you don’t have to. Administrators will be the only ones with access to some of your biographical information. Your identity will not be publicly revealed unless you give your consent.

“Tell us what procedures, instructions, inspections, training or other administrative distractions are keeping you from being effective,” the RAD website instructs sailors.

Leaders are hoping thousands of sailors participate, said Rear Adm. Herman Shelanski, a leader on the RAD team.

“It will give us a good indication ... what’s really making our sailors mad,” he said, plus set a course of actionable items in the weeks to come.

The website is run by IdeaScale, a software company specializing in crowdsourcing. It recently had a soft launch, with a small pool of users invited to join. As of June 27, there were already 37 issues raised.

“We don’t need more stinking BADGES!” reads one post from “Midwatch.”

“My boss must carry seven badges at work. ... Why do we not have a single card for all Navy security?” he asked.

Another post takes issue with the CPO 365 program for petty officers first class. “CPO 365 has placed an enormous amount of administrative distractions from E-6 to E-9s,” the post’s author writes. “Although the program is designed to continue to grow and mature those petty officers first class to become chief petty officers, the additional administrative actions are a distraction and the time away from various training is not practical — especially when it is for training that should be practiced daily.”

Other ideas range from cutting down some of the databases sailors must access to growing the storage capacity for Microsoft Outlook accounts.

The RAD team plans to gather its first round of ideas and complaints — as well as proposed solutions — through July.

They will target any “quick kills” — problems that may be easy and cheap to fix — but they will also select long-term improvements. A plan of these more involved fixes is expected by the end of August, with actions being taken by the end of September. Then the whole process can start again.

RAD was born after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert heard complaints from the fleet they were spending too much time on administrative tasks and not enough time on his No. 1 tenet of “war fighting first.” He ordered Adm. John Richardson, director of the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program, to gather a diverse team of brainpower to lead this initiative.

While they are still working out details, Shelanski said he hopes to secure funds to reward the generators of the top 10 ideas. He would like to award $1,000 prizes for the top three ideas. The rest of the top 10 would each earn $500.

In a cruel twist, securing funds through the Navy’s Military Cash Awards Program isn’t easy, Shelanski said. “The paperwork to get money for it is horrendous.”

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