The U.S. Navy Needs 20 Years to Fix Its Shipyards
Maintenance for U.S. Navy ships is so backlogged that the problem will take decades to fix.
“The Navy has several efforts underway to improve its maintenance operations, but they will take years to implement, and will require sustained management attention and funding above current levels,” according to a Government Accountability Office report. “For example, the Navy estimates it will take 20 years to improve the infrastructure at its shipyards, 4 years to restore ship crew levels, and several years to improve maintenance planning. Until the Navy addresses these challenges, it will be hindered in its ability to rebuild readiness and prepare for the future, particularly as it grows the size of the fleet.”
A 2018 GAO report found that shipyard maintenance problems were so severe that the Navy “has been unable to begin or complete the vast majority of its attack submarine maintenance periods on time resulting in significant maintenance delays and operating and support cost expenditures.” The problem is that demand for depot-level maintenance far exceeds capacity at the four public shipyards at Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, Portsmouth and Puget Sound, as well as occasional maintenance performed at the private shipyards of General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding.
Auditors found “multiple factors that contribute to maintenance delays, including insufficient shipyard capacity, shortage of skilled personnel, and deferred maintenance during operational deployments, among others,” the GAO said in 2018. “Ships awaiting or delayed in maintenance incur operating and support costs. For example, GAO estimated that the Navy spent more than $1.5 billion in support costs from fiscal years 2008 through 2018 due to delayed maintenance for attack submarines.”
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