The Navy's Readiness Woes


Hope ya'll didn't miss this. The U.S. Navy's ship and sub fleet seems to be in rough shape according to lawmakers and Navy officials. Lean management and staffing techniques aimed at doing more for less money have taken their toll on the fleet, leaving 22-percent of Navy vessels with a degraded ability to serve in the first half of 2011; 24-percent of the fleet was in similar straights last year. In 2009, that number was 12-percent.

From DoDBuzz:

Over the past five years and beyond, Navy inspections have found that a growing number of the Navy’s surface warships aren’t ready to fight: The ships are in bad physical shape, carry broken equipment, insufficient spare parts, and can’t even rely upon their advanced weapons and sensors. But despite years of embarrassing reports in the press and harangues from Congress and top DoD officials, the fleet has been slow to recover, given the wide range of causes for its woes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the “running government like a business” craze swept the Pentagon, top leaders rewarded commanders who could get the job done for less money, which then sparked a flurry of inter-related decisions that had the net effect of reducing the readiness of the surface Navy:
In fact, roughly 40 to 50-percent of Navy ships aren't mission capable due to at least one piece of onboard "mission essential" equipment failing. Mission essential equipment "could include anti-air defenses, radar, satellite communications, or engines," according to the office of Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes.

Meanwhile, naval aviation is also missing deployment ready goals due to aircraft maintenance issues.

All of this may be forcing the sea service to miss missions writes Buzz after a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday where Vice Adm. Bill Burke, the Navy’s top maintenance officer; and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, head of Naval Sea Systems Command discussed these problems:

McCoy and Burke repeated that the Navy is “stretched” by the number of forces it must provide to combatant commanders, who Burke said want more carriers, aircraft and submarines than the Navy can deploy in answer. Burke, a submariner, said that combatant commanders want between 16 and 18 nuclear attack submarines at any one time, but the Navy only has enough to deploy 10. He and McCoy said the Navy wasn’t forcing commanders to miss missions, but that the rate of operations today was affecting the surface fleet’s ability to do maintenance and could hurt the service lives of its ships. Overall, the admirals warned, today’s operational tempo is “unsustainable.”

But Forbes alluded to a classified report from the combatant commanders that he suggested found the Navy was forcing them to miss missions, although he said he and the witnesses couldn’t talk about it in open session. Forbes also blasted the Navy’s decision to under-fund its depot maintenance for ships and aircraft, a calculated risk by service officials to defer work in order to afford other priorities. Forbes hinted at a high “cannibalization” rate in the surface force, alluding to the practice in which crews’ swap their ships’ equipment when inspectors are due so they aren’t dinged for non-functional gear. Although surface sailors quietly talk about this practice among themselves, it’s very seldom broached publicly, and the Navy brass denies it happens.

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