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NEWS | March 2, 2022

NNSY Auditors Answer the Call to Support the Corporate Special Emphasis Programs

By John Finefield, NNSY Subsafe Program Director Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Functional and Certification audits of SUBSAFE, Fly-By-Wire (FBW) and Deep Submergence Scope of Certification (DSS SOC) work are an essential element of compliance verification and require trained subject matter experts qualified as auditors.

Functional Audits are designed to determine the health of the Special Emphasis Programs (SUBSAFE, FBW, DSS SOC Programs) executed at a command and provide authorization for the command to continue to execute work within the NAVSEA Special Emphasis Programs.  They are not boat specific and they assess the internal processes, procedures, and controls exercised in the performance of Special Emphasis Programs at a command.  There are two sub categories of functional audits, internal and NAVSEA.  Functional audits happen once a year (usually in the fourth quarter of the calendar year at NNSY).  At NNSY, they alternate between internal (run by the Code 200S office, in the odd calendar year) and NAVSEA (in the even calendar year).  NNSY just completed the Internal Functional Audit of NNSY's Special Emphasis Programs in December of 2021.  Functional Audits are foundational and provide the basis for successful execution of Certification Audits.

Certification Audits are boat specific and serve to ensure that the boat is safe to go to sea and conduct "Unrestricted Operations to Design Test Depth."  The Certification Audit occurs during the endgame of every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) availability.  In a major availability, there is an Internal Certification Audit, which is conducted by the shipyard and there is a NAVSEA Certification Audit, which is conducted by NAVSEA with a team of auditors from all over the community.  In a minor availability, only the shipyard Internal Audit is required.

The audit teams that execute Certification and Functional Audits are comprised of personnel from across the corporation that execute Special Emphasis Program work on a daily basis. 

NNSY is responsible for supplying auditors in support of NAVSEA audits.  Each audit requires NAVSEA 07Q to assemble a team of subject matter experts, who are also qualified and experienced auditors, from headquarters and field activities to conduct the audit.  Requirements to become a qualified NAVSEA auditor vary based on the type of audit. 

Functional Auditors:  NAVSEA Instruction 4855.35E establishes the NAVSEA Functional Audit Program and provides requirements for becoming a NAVSEA qualified functional auditor.  Becoming a qualified NAVSEA functional auditor requires the following:

Has the appropriate knowledge, skill, and at least two years of experience related to the functional area(s) for which they are being nominated

Has participated in at least two audits (internal or external) and demonstrated their ability to work well in a team setting and clearly document their audit findings

Has read and understands SUBSAFEGRAM 90, Functional Auditor Guidelines, and NAVSEA Instruction 4855.35

Has successfully completed their activity's latest SUBSAFE/DSS/FBW SCS Awareness Training

Auditors will submit a Functional Auditor Qualification Card to the SUBSAFE Program Director (SSPD), and once the SSPD approves of the auditor's application, will submit the auditor's name for consideration to participate on a NAVSEA functional audit team.

Certification Auditors:  SUBSAFEGRAM 80 (FBWGRAM 2 includes similar for NAVSEA FBW Auditor Certification) includes the requirements for the NAVSEA SUBSAFE Certification Audit (SSCA) auditor certification program. Becoming a NAVSEA SSCA trainee auditor requires the following:

At least three years of SUBSAFE Program experience

Completion of NAVSEA Certification Auditor Training

Participation in at least two internal SSCAs and demonstration of  ability to work well in a team setting and clearly document  audit findings

Submittal of a SSCA Auditor Nomination Form to the SSPD for approval; once approved, the auditor is eligible to participate on a NAVSEA SSCA audit team as a trainee 

Participation in at least two NAVSEA SSCAs as a trainee with positive evaluation from each NAVSEA 07Q Team Leader as the final step in certification

NNSY has a total of 32 active auditors, including 27 SUBSAFE Certification Auditors, 3 FBW Certification Auditors, 25 Functional Auditors and 1 DSS SOC surveyor; many NNSY auditors are cross qualified amongst the four disciplines.  Over their careers these 32 auditors have completed 630 weeks of auditing, totaling more than 12 years in support of the program away from their families and their day jobs.  These are NNSY's subject matter experts and many serve as members of the NNSY SUBSAFE Improvement Committee and are dedicated and willing to take their craft on the road in support of NNSY's programs and the NAVSEA enterprise.  They exemplify NNSY's C.O.R.E. values and are ready and willing to provide expert advice and guidance on the execution of Special Emphasis Program work.

NNSY auditors have been instrumental over the last 18-plus months in meeting the call of NAVSEA to continue to execute mission critical Functional and Certification audits, working remotely, and traveling both locally and outside the area.  NNSY provided extensive support of USS Helena (SSN 725), supporting six separate efforts to evaluate work performed by Huntington Ingalls Industries, with a total of 15 different NNSY auditors performing 28 weeks of auditing in support of returning the boat safely to the Fleet.  In addition to Helena, NNSY auditors supported 17 Certification Audits with 59 weeks of audit support, 15 Functional Audits with 21 weeks of audit support, 3 DSS SOC Audits with three weeks of audit support and two new activity qualification audits with two weeks of audit support.

NAVSEA 07QB Deputy Director Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance Wayne Rolland said, “NAVSEA 07Q greatly appreciates Norfolk Naval Shipyard's effort in supporting the vast majority of audits in the Tidewater area throughout the COVID pandemic.  During periods of travel restriction, NAVSEA relied heavily on NNSY subject matter experts to execute critical Functional and Certification audits in the area, supporting the ability of all local activities to continue critical SUBSAFE work.  NNSY's support and leadership greatly assisted NAVSEA 07Q in the development and creation of the first-ever fully remote audit of activities.  While not a preferred method, NAVSEA's ability to execute remote audits sustained the certification of multiple activities and assets through the pandemic, demonstrating that execution of the SUBSAFE mission is one of the top priorities for the Navy.” 

Participants in SUBSAFE, Deep Submergence, and Fly By Wire audits will meet some of the Navy's most knowledgeable subject matter experts from the public and private shipyards, surface and undersea warfare centers, NAVSEA Technical Warrant Holders, and program office representatives.  The knowledge, contacts and learning gained through the audit experience is unmatched.  You will uncover your strengths and fill in your weaknesses.  Often the experience will show you a different approach or method to solve problems you are experiencing and advance program execution at your own command.  The contacts you gain will become invaluable, as you will meet both audit team members, personnel at other commands who are working though the same challenges you are facing, and quickly realize that help is only a phone call away.  Soon people will start reaching out to you!  The audit experience is challenging and will take you outside of your comfort zone, but will develop public speaking skills, provide opportunities to have “hard conversations” outside of your normal work environment and will accelerate your development as leader within the NAVSEA corporation.  There is no better development opportunity available to you, so consider taking your skills on the road to support the NAVSEA enterprise SUBSAFE, Fly By Wire and Deep Submergence Scope of Certification audit programs.

Cdr. Jesse Nice, Director Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance, said,  “Participation as a NAVSEA auditor during a Functional or Certification audit is one of the best ways that I have seen in my career to get experts in different fields from different activities to rapidly share knowledge and perspectives, spreading best practices across the enterprise. Nobel Physicist Dr. Richard Feynman discussed the power of teaching to master a subject.  I offer that if you can go to an activity doing similar work with different--sometimes very different--processes and effectively audit them, you are on the road to mastery of the requirements and practices in your field.  That journey to mastery starts as soon as you put your hand up to become a NAVSEA auditor, and if you don't get selected the first time, don't stop putting your name in!  We carefully select our teams to ensure the right combination of talent to provide the host activity an effective audit, and a productive experience for all involved.”