Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Next They Came for the Submarines ...

Last week we covered over at USNIBlog, again, an issue that must be dragged out in to the light at every opportunity; our basic failure to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers' investment.

We have been shooting-up-the-horse so long we have lost the bubble on what it takes to properly maintain and support the fleet we have, much less one any larger. 

Maintenance and support are not sexy, but are absolutely critical to making sure we get the useful and effective life out of what we have, and your fleet is ready for war when it comes.

It takes a long view and a mature, professional mindset. It takes leaders to properly prioritize programs, and those who have the purse strings, the maturity to fund at appropriate levels.

Though the foundation of this problem goes back further, the last decade and a half have been specially horrible. Look at what happened to our shipyards, depots, and older ships (SPRUANCE & OHP) in their dotage. While we demand a longer life from ships in the outyears, we are not investing in their material condition today to make that a realistic option for an effective fleet. We want them deployed now, but do not respect the requirements for refit.

The latest example is from an area that information does not usually make it in to open source often; the submarine community;
From 2008 to 2018, most of the planned repairs for the Navy’s fleet of about 50 nuclear attack submarines have started late and run long resulting in a combined 10,363 days of maintenance delays and idle time.
“The Navy expects the maintenance backlogs at the public shipyards to continue. We estimate that, as a result of these backlogs, the Navy will incur approximately $266 million in operating and support costs in Fiscal year 2018 constant dollars for idle submarines from Fiscal year 2018 through Fiscal year 2023, as well as additional depot maintenance delays.”
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the ranking member on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee,...“While demand for our undersea fleet and its unique capabilities continues to rise as reflected in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, delays in maintaining our existing fleet are exacerbating the growing shortfall in our submarine force structure,”
“Although the Navy has shifted about 8 million man-hours in attack submarine maintenance to private shipyards over the past five years, it has done so sporadically, having decided to do so in some cases only after experiencing lengthy periods of idle time,” read the report. “According to private shipyard officials, the sporadic shifts in workload have resulted in repair workload gaps that have disrupted private shipyard workforce, performance, and capital investment—creating costs that are ultimately borne in part by the Navy.”
I know it is not a fun or sexy topic that will create a lot of clicks or panel invitations, but we need to accept a few things:

1. No one is going to fund our 355 ship navy unless you want to adopt PLAN SALAMANDER for our ground forces and NATO posture so that funding and be diverted to sea.
2. We need to be willing to not build X number of warships so we can properly re-capitalize our shipyard, drydock, and depot level support commands.

A smaller, better maintained and ready navy will defeat a larger gaggle of poorly trained and equipped rust buckets any day.

I know this is not a surprise to many, but at the end of the day it always ends up on the cutting room floor. For a long time, this problem has been pointed out ... yet pushed to the back of the room.


Simple; the fetish for short term PPT fodder supporting personal gain now, vice longer term best practices for proper stewardship of the fleet of the future benefit of others.

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