Ethics and Husbanding Services in 7th Fleet

    As Supply Corps officers, we do business daily with private industry, whether we are utilizing our Government Purchase Card, coordinating contracting actions, or ensuring successful husbanding services for the Navy’s port visits. We have the confidence of our leaders that we will execute our duties legally and ethically.

Sailors and Marines man the rails as the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departs Valparaiso, Chile, after a three-day port visit.  America is traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit.  The ship is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.  (Photo by MC2 Ryan Riley)

Sailors and Marines man the rails as the future amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) departs Valparaiso, Chile, after a three-day port visit. America is traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco. (Photo by MC2 Ryan Riley)

    Providing husbanding/port service to visiting U.S. Navy ships is a lucrative industry for any company that has the wherewithal and capacity to venture into this type of business. Due to ethical violations both inside the Navy and by our civilian business partners, the Navy has examined and is re-tooling its husbanding services contracts to strengthen its management oversight of the contracts and contractors. As a result, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) developed a new acquisition strategy and crafted new husbanding ordering procedures to address some of the vulnerabilities that may have been previously exploited by contractors.

    The new acquisition strategy and the new husbanding ordering procedures provide stricter controls and better oversight. As Supply Corps officers, there are several ethical considerations applicable to husbanding services to keep in mind at all times. First, to avoid any implication of ethical violations, we need to address the acceptance of gifts (whether below the $20 threshold or not); second, we need to avoid conflicts of interest; third, we need to ensure there is no disclosure of government sensitive or contractor proprietary information; and finally, we need to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

    The seven NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka Logistics Support Officers (LSO) throughout 7th Fleet have been essential to the execution of the new acquisition strategy in supporting over 150 port visits per year. They have many sea stories to use as examples of ethical dilemmas. Lt. Dave Couchman from NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Sasebo provides the perspective of a post-Submarine Supply Officer in dealing with the Husbanding Service Provider (HSP), Lt. Ian Henry from NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Chinhae reports on the actions of one of his Logistics Support Representatives (LSR), and Lt. Chun Chun Meares from NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Singapore provides a good ethics reminder that it is not always our civilian business partners that are pushing the boundaries of ethical considerations.

    Lt. Dave Couchman: My first question in any situation was and always will be: “is it legal and ethical?” On the last port call of my first of two deployments as a submarine Supply Officer, the quality of HSP support I received during that port visit was substandard. Most services requested and confirmed were either poor, not provided or provided incorrectly. The HSP was extremely difficult to contact and did not routinely stop by the ship. I had no boots on ground LSR or Deployable Contracting Officer to provide assistance, as is the model today.

    On the last day of the port visit, I was completely fed up. I had voiced my complaints to both the Commander Task Force (CTF) and the HSP. I did not have the invoices, so my stock control team prepared the DD Form 1155s based on the initial Port Cost Estimate (PCE). When the HSP finally provided the invoices, (two hours prior to departure and three hours late) they drastically differed from our initial PCEs. The ship was being charged for services not received and discharge quantities quoted by the HSP exceeded the ship’s discharge logs. I pressed the HSP on these points, at which point he became extremely defensive and questioned why I insisted on individually reviewing each closeout invoice in front of him.

    To ensure the government was paying for services it actually received, each questionable invoice was disputed and addressed with the Type Commander, his customer service survey and the Port Visit Cost Report reflected my concerns, and I immediately voiced the ethical issue to my commanding officer and the CTF.

    Lt. Ian Henry: The NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Chinhae LSR has constant interaction with the HSP to ensure support services requested by the ship are being fulfilled. Last year, an LSR was approached by the HSP and invited to free food and alcoholic drinks after work supporting one of our port visits. Although the idea of free food and alcohol is enticing for any young Sailor, and although the gift may have been below the $20 threshold, the LSR declined the invitation.

    Our LSR had recently received ethics training and recognized the ethical dilemma of receiving gifts from members of organizations who are conducting business with the Department of Defense. Bottom line, the young Sailor made the right choice to not accept the gift, ensuring no appearance of impropriety and remained ready to support the ship.

    Lt. Chun Chun Meares: During a port visit conducted within the NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Site Singapore’s contracting region, the HSP was approached by a host country military officer who requested the HSP provide cash to fund a dinner and golf outing for several host nation officials. The host country officer insisted this request was regularly granted during port visits. The HSP refused the request and reported the interaction to a U.S. Government Representative at the scene. The U.S. Government Representative quickly advised the HSP that such requirements proposed were unauthorized and should not be fulfilled. The U.S. Government Representative relayed the incident to senior military members within the host country and the host country representatives agreed to address the offending officer and reinforce their acknowledgement of U.S. Government Ethics Policies with regard to current and future port visits. Unlike the previous two sea stories above, it was the HSP that made the right decision in reporting this ethical issue.

    The above sea stories from three of the junior officers assigned as Logistics Support Officers supporting 7th Fleet port visits highlight some of the ethical dilemmas that we as Supply Officers will continue to face. Efforts made to strengthen husbanding services contracts to provide better oversight of the HSP are ongoing, but in our daily interactions with our business partners we need to ensure we are on the right side of any ethical consideration.

    There are probably as many sea stories about ethics and the HSP as there are port visits in the 7th Fleet AOR. Nevertheless, we can all take a moment to review not only these junior officer’s lessons learned, but our own as well.

    Keeping this in mind, we should always make the right decisions for the right reasons every time and as Rear Adm. Jonathan Yuen, Commander of NAVSUP and Chief of Supply Corps states, “No set of rules can substitute for the exercise of sound judgment. Ethical decision-making is vital to our ability to maintain positive, productive relationships with subordinates, higher headquarters, international partners, and the American people we so proudly serve.”

By Cmdr. Mark Sheffield, Director of Operations for NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka and Cmdr. Mark Axinto, Director of Far East Contracting for NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka