Army Halts Plans to Scuttle Its Fleet of Watercraft

A crew member of the Army’s Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross (LSV 5) shoots a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun during range qualifications on the northern Arabian Gulf, March 13, 2019.  (Veronica McNabb/U.S. Army National Guard)
A crew member of the Army’s Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross (LSV 5) shoots a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun during range qualifications on the northern Arabian Gulf, March 13, 2019. (Veronica McNabb/U.S. Army National Guard)

The Army has suspended plans to shut down its watercraft units and sell many of the service's ships until a congressionally-mandated study is complete, Pentagon and Army officials have confirmed.

The July 26 decision halts the Army's longstanding plan to divest the service's watercraft assets. That effort began in earnest in early July when the Army began the disposal process of many of its logistics support vessels, landing craft and other vessels through the General Service's Administration's (GSA) public auction website, a Defense Department official told Military.com.

The development was first reported by The Drive and gCaptain.com.

The Army confirmed on Friday that it has suspended the effort.

"The Army is delaying implementation of its watercraft restructure plan, with respect to both vessels and units, until completion of an Office of the Secretary of Defense watercraft study which is expected to be concluded by the end of the fiscal year," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz said in a statement.

Back in early June, lawmakers from the House Armed Services Committee's seapower and projection forces subcommittee opposed the plan and inserted language in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Bill to limit the use of funds for the inactivation of watercraft units until the plan could be studied further.

The language directed the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the Army completes a watercraft requirements review and contract a federally-funded "research and development corporation" to review and validate the Army's ability to meet combatant commanders' watercraft requirements, according to the bill's language.

In response, the Pentagon and the Army launched a watercraft study in early June.

"This is an ongoing formal analysis between OSD, the Joint Staff, Army Headquarters and the combatant commands," according to a written statement the Army released at the time. "This will be a long-term process as we review all aspects of Army watercraft employment. The watercraft force that emerges will be more ready and capable of meeting the National Defense Strategy and combatant commander requirements."

But in early July, the Army moved forward with the plan to auction off watercraft assets, the DoD official said.

"Roughly eight specific watercraft hulls were listed; dozens more craft were teased by a banner on the GSA auction site," the DoD official said.

On July 15, Phil MacNaughton, a staff member of the HASC subcommittee, contacted the Army and expressed lawmakers' concerns that the service was making "irreversible" force structure moves before the watercraft study was complete, the DoD official said.

Eleven days later, on July, 26 Army senior leaders ordered the suspension of the watercraft divestment effort "until further direction," the official said.

The order stopped the sale of up to two logistics support vessels along with 18 LCU 2000 landing craft, up to 36 LCM-8 landing craft, 20 tugs and two floating crane barges, according to a July 29 War Zone story that also stated that action halted the inactivation of nine watercraft units.

As a result, the Army pulled all watercraft for auction off the GSA site and removed references to future auctions.

"The bottom line is, it's because the study is still going on," the DoD official said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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