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Repair Backlog Illustrates Navy’s Readiness Challenge

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Unread 10.19.19, 09:26 AM
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Repair Backlog Illustrates Navy’s Readiness Challenge

On 10.18.19 09:13 AM posted by Emma Watkins

A maintenance backlog that causes mission-critical vessels to face delayed repairs puts the U.S. Navy’s ability to project power globally at risk, and if not addressed soon by Congress and the Defense Department, could leave the Navy dangerously unprepared to meet challenges around the world.

The Navy plays a major role in protecting U.S. strategic interests abroad and provides hard power to back up diplomacy and keep sea routes open. But because of aging facilities and fluctuating worker counts, only 16% of the Navy’s guided-missile destroyer fleet completed scheduled repairs on time last year.

And guided-missile destroyers are highpriorities because they can conduct both offensive and defensive missions.

But the lack of readiness is pervasive across the fleet. The Navy’s maintenance backlog grew by 41% from 2012-2017, and the condition of available shipyards continued to deteriorate.

For example, shipyard facilities “now include at least four dozen buildings—comprising 1.2 million square feet of space—that are condemned, uninhabitable, or otherwise unusable for ship repairs or any other work.”

Shockingly, the Navy had only 22 dry docksand sub-tenders in 2019, whereas in 1988 it had immediate access to roughly “50 dry docks, marine railways,and lifts.”

Although the Navy uses both public andprivate shipyards, it likely will need to lean more on private industry to catchup. In 2018, the Navy put outa call for “dry docks that are either notcertified for use by the service or are certified and underutilized,” hoping tofind new ways to alleviate the problem.

Currently, only four dry docks are availableto service the entire West Coast. A dry dock is a fundamental capability thatprovides the ability to make repairs to ships that are possible only when theship is removed from the water.

Deterrence rests on the concept thatpotential opponents such as China and Russia perceive the U.S. as strong and ableto deliver an overwhelming response to any offensive action. As it stands now,the Navy risks losing its ability to deter China in the South and East ChinaSeas as China’s naval component, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, continuesto modernize and grow.

Given Iran’s recent hostile acts in theStrait of Hormuz, U.S. naval strength also is necessary to deter and defendagainst Iranian aggression, such as its recent seizure of tankers.

Some progress has been made. The Navy hasestablished a new position, the deputy assistant secretaryfor sustainment,to help ships move through their maintenance cycles more smoothly.

Naval Sea Systems Command increased the number of destroyers finishing their repairs on time to as much as 40% in 2019.

But consistent staffing remains a problem.

The Navy has a troublesome practice ofawarding contracts too close to the actual start of construction, leavingcompanies and their personnel unprepared to hit the ground running. Toalleviate this issue, it has begun awarding contracts as many as 120 days ahead of time to allowbusinesses to prepare.

Even with small improvements and increased attention, more must be done, and quickly. The Pentagon and policymakers must make the maintenance of our sea vessels a priority, or they risk jeopardizing the Navy’s ability to protect our interests.

The post Repair Backlog Illustrates Navy’s Readiness Challenge appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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