Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Unfunded Priorities ... or a Deeper Story?

I may have to add Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to my list of navalist leaders of merit on The Hill.

My first reaction was to be mad that I had not made this point first ... but I will gladly enjoy this exceptionally important point being made by a Senator to the CNO in such a public manner;

Via Caitlin Kenney at Defense News;

“I think this committee wants to make sure we're providing our warfighters with the necessary funding to ensure that the equipment they're using is adequately maintained. It's pretty basic,” Tester told Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations; and Gen. David Berger, Marine Corps commandant. “That means getting the necessary spare parts and safety equipment up front, not after something like this happens.”

He noted that the Navy and Marine Corps’ unfunded priorities lists—items that service leaders want but not enough to devote part of this year’s budget to—include some categories of spare parts for warships, F/A-18 fighter jets, MH-60S helicopters, and more.

Tester wondered why spare parts would be on the unfunded priorities lists “when this seems pretty basic, at least to my perspective, as to making sure that we're keeping folks safe and effective in the field.”

Let's take a moment to go back to the summer of 2017 ... a half decade ago. We, yes we, drowned 17 of our Sailors in their berthing because our senior leadership did not man, train, or equip our Navy properly. 

As we discussed in detail at the time, just prior to the incident our Navy was bragging - on one of the ships nonetheless - that the already undermanned ship was in addition to doing not just its regular required maintenance, but depot level maintenance as well because ... depot level maintenance facilities wouldn't/couldn't do it. Both ships were think with missing parts, broken equipment, untrained watchstanders. Basic stuff.

Equipment was CASREP'd all over the place on those ships as well as others in the fleet. Those who have been at sea also know not everything is CASREP'd that should be. More parts are always needed than the reports say.

... and yet, here we are in 2022 and the CNO has to be confronted by a Senator that - hey - shouldn't you take care of what you have first before you ask for more?

Any homeowner knows that before you head on that Hawaiian vacation you need to patch the leaking roof, replace the broken water heater, unclog the girls' shower drain ... the basic stuff.

You also don't but a new car because the old one is running rough because you've skipped two regular oil changes and scheduled maintenance because you wanted to buy a new boat instead. 

Etc ... etc ... but it isn't as sexy, is it?

“So that's why in both our budget, with the secretary's help, and also in my unfunded list, we're trying to get back to where we need to be,” Gilday said. “You can't fool the fleet, you can't fool sailors, they know when they don't have the stuff that they need. And so, in our trips out to the fleet we've heard loud and clear that supply parts have been a problem. The GAO report confirmed that for us, and so we're trying to make things right with respect to spares.”

Those comments, Tester said, indicates to him that the spare parts should not have been placed on the Navy’s unfunded list.

“Sir, it's a valid point,” Gilday acknowledged.

Yes, yes it is. It isn't a new point either.

BZ to Senator Tester. 

May he, Senator Cotton, Representatives Gallagher, Luria, Banks, Waltz and more who show they understand the maladministration of our Navy keep the hard questions - the pointed questions - to our senior uniformed and civilian leadership. 

Make their actions worthy of the Navy they lead.

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