The COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges that threatened the executability of the Navy’s Special Emphasis Program audits managed by NAVSEA’s Submarine Safety (SUBSAFE) and Deep Submergence Systems (DSS) Program Office (NAVSEA 07Q) in ways that could not have been foreseen.  Soon after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was significantly curtailed and eventually ceased and NAVSEA 07Q faced the challenge of modifying their audit schedule and format drastically.  The Patrona support team eagerly supported NAVSEA 07Q by coordinating schedule changes, providing detailed schedule updates, preparing calendar presentations, coordinating twice weekly telcons on the topic, and creating correspondence to the Deputy Commander, Undersea Warfare detailing the schedule adjustments.  Ultimately Patrona’s support enabled NAVSEA 07Q to execute a new audit schedule that supported the fleet’s operational needs and ensured compliance with the program’s high standards for quality, while complying with the requirements and restrictions necessary to protect the health and safety of personnel from COVID-19.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, most audits/surveys were accomplished remotely or through a hybrid version requiring only a few auditors on-site to review records.  The Patrona team was challenged with executing audits in this new format with no precedence and very little time to fully develop the concept of operations and processes.  Patrona had to work closely with NAVSEA 07Q to develop the procedures and processes necessary to enable audit team members in multiple CONUS and OCONUS geographic locations, to work collaboratively and effectively.  Patrona established dedicated bridge lines during these audits to host daily and impromptu meetings to facilitate communications and ensure alignment between the audited activity, the audit team, and audit team leadership.  Patrona also established a virtual reference “library” containing audit and resource material for auditors to access remotely.  For audits that included on-site auditors, Patrona researched, maintained, communicated, and tracked real-time COVID travel requirements and restrictions.  Patrona tracked these dynamically changing requirements from the initial scheduling of the audit, as the team departed and arrived on-site, through the team’s return home.  Patrona captured lessons learned, developed and presented best practice improvements to NAVSEA 07Q for implementation on future remote and hybrid format audits.  Patrona was praised by the customer for our innovation and agility that was essential to the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall success of the remote audits.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic over the past year, Patrona charged forward providing innovative first-of-a-kind solutions to support remote auditing while ensuring the collaborative atmosphere necessary to attain high quality results with no compromise to SUBSAFE, DSS/Scope of Certification, and Fly by Wire Program requirements.  These new approaches required our team to be agile, adaptive and innovative, while remaining disciplined and focused.  Patrona ensured NAVSEA 07Q received high quality products in a timely fashion, enabling the Navy to safely operate its submarines and deep submergence assets with the requisite levels of confidence and assurance.