Revision of the Navy Insensitive Munition policy

Previous • Next

Adm. Watkins issued the first revision of the Navy IM policy on 13 May 1986.74 This document was drafted by Cdr. Lou Athow in OPNAV (OP-354) and Mr. Clarence Wenzel, the IM “Programmatics” manager in NAVSEA.

This was the first of three revisions to the Navy IM policy. Each revision, in some way, reflected the opposition of the major weapon program offices to the Navy IM policy and the difficulty encountered by OPNAV in imposing compliance. This revision was issued some two years after the policy was approved but still, practically no one in the weapon program offices believed that the IM policy issued by Adm. Watkins would endure. This opinion was reflected clearly in weapon procurement documents.

The first revision of the policy statement modified the IM requirements. It imposed new requirements for reporting progress, compliance with the IM goals, and obtaining waivers to the IM requirements. In part, the revision reads as follows:

“All U.S. Navy Munitions, in its [sic] end item configuration, will be designed to minimize the effects of unplanned stimuli. They will incorporate insensitive energetic materials which meet or improve upon published insensitivity standards. Mitigation devices will also be used, where appropriate, to decrease vulnerability of the munition to unplanned stimuli…”

The revised IM policy document acknowledged that meeting the IM technical requirements might not always be possible and issued the following guidance and requirements:

“… Transition to insensitive munitions may be impeded by lack of technology, prohibitive costs, or urgent operational requirements. Approval of the Ship Characteristics and Improvement Board, SCIB, is required for any departure from the Navy’s policy on insensitive munitions.

  1. The Insensitive Munitions Coordinating Group will forward waiver requests to the OPNAV Insensitive Munitions Council. A technical assessment, Weapon Systems Explosive Safety Review Board evaluation (if any), and Coordinating Group recommendation must accompany the request.
  2. The Council will review the recommendation and technical assessment. They will forward the request to the SCIB along with their operational assessment and recommendation.
  3. The SCIB will decide whether or not to grant a waiver. The results of the SCIB’s decision will be returned to the OPNAV Insensitive Munitions Council and Insensitive Munitions Coordinating Group. All waivers must be reviewed annually to verify that the conditions under which the waiver was granted are still valid.
  4. Each office of primary responsibility shall submit a Plan of Action and Milestones and necessary fiscal data submissions which implement this policy to the Insensitive Munitions Coordinating Group.”

This revised IM Policy instruction recognized, for the first time, that technology might not be available to meet all of the IM technical requirements for all Navy munitions by 1995. A formal waiver process was required to accommodate this problem and to assure continued support for the policy. Also the waiver, since it would be reviewed every year, would keep pressure on the weapon program offices to continue seeking means of improving the sensitivity characteristics their weapons.

On 11 August 1986, VAdm. Bill Rowden, the COMNAVSEA issued the first revision of the Technical Requirements for Insensitive Munitions instruction.75 The major change in this instruction was the acknowledgment that “the transition to insensitive munitions status could be impeded by lack of technology, prohibitive costs, or urgent operational need”.

To accommodate these impediments, the NAVSEA instruction defined a process to petition the Insensitive Munitions Coordinating Group and the Insensitive Munition Council for waivers. This procedure would be used when the IM technical requirements could not be met by using the available technology. The goal of complete transition to insensitive munitions by 1995 was again emphasized.

Previous • Next

74OPNAVINST 8010.13A, OP-354, Ser. 00/6U300146, U.S. Navy Policy on Insensitive Munitions, dated 13 May 1986.
75NAVSEAINST 8010.5A, Technical Requirements for Insensitive Munitions, Ser. 06G4/240 dated 11 August 1986.