The US Navy is grappling with a worrying development. The hours its ships are spending at sea are dwindling, due to mounting maintenance costs and growing delays.
This occurrence takes place at a critical point as the country battles to match the rapid expansion of China’s naval fleet.
Report Sheds Light on the Difficulties Faced by the Navy
A report by the Government Accountability Office has revealed operating and support expenses increased by approximately $2.5 billion for 10 different ship classes.
The number of propulsion hours during which the ships were in operation or undergoing training declined over a decade that culminated in 2021. A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has shed light on the difficulties faced by the Navy in regard to maintenance issues.
These include a rise in delays, an increase in ship breakdowns, and the transfer of parts from one vessel to another to keep operations running.
The study highlights the ongoing and intensifying sustainment challenges, which have been exacerbated by previous GAO reports detailing delayed maintenance and upkeep. The GAO serves as a federal watchdog agency responsible for auditing government programs.
The Government Accountability Office says the Navy saw increased cannibalization of parts, maintenance delays and breakdowns over a 10-year period. https://t.co/BPsnABO9OX
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) February 4, 2023
According to the GAO, the prolonged nature of these issues has led to a decline in the condition of ships and a surge in the expenses associated with their repair and upkeep.
A representative from Naval Surface Forces stated the Navy acknowledges and values the recommendations put forth by the GAO with regard to enhancing maintenance delivery times.
Commander Arlo Abrahamson specified the objective is to have 75 ships that are mission-ready, out of the 164 assigned to the Surface Force, excluding aircraft carriers, sealift vessels, and submarines.
Maintenance Delays and Operational Challenges
During a recent gathering of the Surface Navy Association, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, who leads the Naval Surface Forces, underscored the importance of reaching the target of having 75 ships fully equipped for missions.
He declared, “This target serves as the backbone for all our programs and decisions and the whole force is striving to achieve this shared aim.”
The USS IWO JIMA (LHD-7) Wasp-class amphibious assault ship joining the armada or out bound navy vessels. #USNavy #USSIwoJima #LHD7 #ShipsInPics pic.twitter.com/WOg9gTATZ4
— John Morgan (@johnmorgan726) January 18, 2022
The GAO study revealed the Wasp-class amphibious assault vessels and littoral combat ships suffered the greatest number of significant “casualty incidents” that impede their ability to function properly.
On the other hand, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers experienced the most significant maintenance holdups, as reported in the study.
As the Navy faces increasing competition from China and other maritime adversaries, such as Russia, it has become increasingly concerning that maintenance delays and other operational challenges are hindering the fleet’s ability to stay competitive.
Despite the report’s findings, Diana Maurer, the director of defense capabilities and management at the GAO, expressed optimism. According to her, the Navy’s top brass is aware of the issues and is actively working to find solutions.
“It’s heartening to see that they’re not taking a passive approach,” Maurer said.