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Home : Safety Promotions : News
NEWS | Jan. 31, 2024

NAVSAFECOM Continues Risk Assurance Assessments Across Enterprise

By Rebecca Coleman, Naval Safety Command Safety Promotions-Public Affairs

Nearly two years since the Naval Safety Command (NAVSAFECOM) began its assurance assessment process across the naval enterprise, it has completed over 20 Echelon II/III risk assurance assessments, continuing its focus on risk identification, communication and accountability at the appropriate level across the Navy and Marine Corps.
Coming full circle, a team of subject matter experts from the command’s Assurance Directorate recently conducted its first follow-on assessment, visiting Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. NAVSAFECOM is tasked by the chief of naval operations with evaluating commands’ ability to comply with established policies and processes and to ensure the assessed command is managing, mitigating and communicating risk effectively. This entails assessing whether commands are accurately identifying risk, communicating risk and taking accountability of risk at the appropriate level.
“Before the first assessment in 2022, the NECC commander had recently assumed command and it was encouraging to see that the processes he implemented after our first visit were reflected as positive risk management tools in our second visit,” said Capt. Christopher Roberto, team lead for the second visit. “The second assessment went smoothly as a result of the NECC staff’s superb communication and eagerness to provide information.”
“I’m proud of my team and the effort they invested to get us to where we are today,” said Rear Adm. Brad Andros, NECC commander. “Our command now identifies risk, communicates risk and assigns risk to the correct risk owner far more effectively due to the transparency of our conversations, small process improvements and embracing the Get Real, Get Better culture shift.”
“Get Real, Get Better is about fostering a culture that rewards honesty, humility and transparency so we can problem-solve together and embrace continuous improvement among our ranks,” Andros said. “This is what drives warfighting advantage in an era of strategic competition. Because of processes like the assurance assessment, I know we are better prepared to propel our force generation forward as a type command, so when the Navy’s expeditionary combat forces are sent into combat, we win.”
Andros noted the 2022 assessment team helped his organization develop and implement better methods to identify, communicate and account for risk across his entire type command, comprising different expeditionary warfare communities, each with unique cultures.
“Establishing aligned processes across the different warfare communities has only benefited our command and our forces,” he added.
Over the past year and a half, the Naval Safety Command’s risk assurance assessments across all levels, from the unit to the major command level, have come a long way in raising risk awareness and understanding the importance of establishing self-assessing and self-correcting processes and behaviors.
“Organizations most often expect the scope of our assessment will most heavily focus on occupational safety and health,” Roberto said. While the assessment teams do look at this area, it is a minor piece of their risk assurance endgame.
“The processes we look at can be anywhere in an organization and often involve factors beyond a unit’s control,” Roberto noted. “In those cases, we assess a unit’s mitigation strategies, but they are often surprised when we comment on external risk areas in our reports.”
The team leader said, “Regardless of whether a commander can fund or fix a risk area, the fact it exists will stress an organization’s ability to meet mission and prevent unnecessary harm to personnel and equipment.”
Once an organization is scheduled for assessment, Roberto said the assurance assessment team assembles and gets to work. “Generally, there are four phases to each assessment,” he said. “In the first phase, we conduct administrative preparation that includes schedules, introductions, security and access requirements, account establishment, and we also generate questions for the record for leadership.”
The second phase consists of collecting and reviewing command-related data and directives. During the third phase, the team interviews staff members and leaders during the assessment week, with the last phase consisting of post-visit follow-up and report preparation.
“We would like to complete all analysis by the last day of an assessment visit but sometimes there are matters that require further data collection or coordination with outside entities, so this may extend an assessment period’s activities by as much as 10 days,” Roberto said.
Roberto acknowledged communication within the team is key. “Team members do not hesitate to share their findings with each other and with the assessed organization as items are uncovered,” he said. “We often use our team members for a second opinion or validation of results. Many times, a command directorate will point out their known risk assurance shortcomings and we do not hesitate to look across directorates for similar behaviors or processes. Chasing each potential risk area to the appropriate depth will always require cross-communication among team members and staffs.”
The Assurance Directorate also has the benefit of getting an outside perspective for their assessments.
“We bring our United Kingdom partner [Lt. Cmdr. James Newbury] on almost every visit,” Roberto said. “Aside from his expertise as an aviation maintenance and engineering officer, he often identifies processes that seem normal to us, but are cumbersome and overly complex when viewed through his lens. The Royal Navy is a much smaller and leaner force and we could do well to learn lessons in efficiency from their experts.”
Andros offered the following advice to commands facing their first assurance assessments: “Be transparent. Be candid and be forthcoming.”
“We greatly appreciate the time and dedicated effort the Naval Safety Command team has invested in our command and the Navy’s Expeditionary Combat Force,” Andros said. “We are better prepared to fight and win our nation’s wars because of their risk assurance assessment process.”
Ultimately, Roberto believes the inherent value the Assurance Directorate provides is that it shines a spotlight on issues that are prevalent across the naval enterprise so leaders at the highest levels can consider those issues when formulating resourcing or other priorities.
“The risk areas we identify are rarely easily ‘fixed’ or mitigated and often require a multi-echelon risk management approach. So long as we can enhance the identification, communication and accounting of risk, we will offer a valuable tool to commanders.”