GAO Again Critical of U.S. Navy Maintenance Performance

Credit: U.S. Navy
Credit: U.S. Navy

Published Mar 1, 2020 5:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has again criticized the U.S. Navy's vessel maintenance performance saying the Navy has persistently underestimated the time and work required to maintain its ships based overseas. 

The report follows one issued last year which warned that "persistent and substantial" delays in vessel maintenance threaten the U.S. Navy's ability to sustain readiness. 

In its latest report, the GAO notes that the overseas ships it analyzed were in maintenance a total of 3,475 days longer than planned in the period FY 2014 through 2018. Maintenance on surface ships based overseas took longer than planned for 50 of the 71 maintenance periods - or about 70 percent - started during fiscal years 2014 through 2018. More than half of these maintenance delays lasted a month or longer. Various factors contribute to delays, such as discovery that unanticipated additional repairs were needed, missed planning milestones and shortages of key staff. 

The Navy maintains the 38 surface ships based in Japan, Spain and Bahrain through a mix of Navy-operated facilities and private contractors. It uses different maintenance approaches at each location depending on the number and type of ships based there and the Navy and private contractor industrial base available. For example, to support the 12 surface ships based in Yokosuka, Japan, the Navy uses both private contractors and its Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center, which is subsidized by the government of Japan. In Rota, Spain, the Navy relies on one Spanish contractor to maintain the four ships based at that location.

The Navy developed a new maintenance approach for ships in Japan but has not assessed the risks associated with this approach or analyzed the overseas maintenance requirements for a growing fleet, says the GAO. The new maintenance approach calls for ships to obtain all required maintenance in the U.S. before and after going overseas, among other things. 

The Navy decided to implement this approach in Japan based on use of the approach in Spain where ships have experienced few maintenance delays. However, the Navy has not assessed the risks posed by differences between the operating environments in Spain and Japan or by shortfalls in maintenance capacity at U.S. facilities. 

The Navy also plans to replace aging ships in Bahrain as it grows the fleet to 355 ships, but it did not analyze or include overseas maintenance requirements in its long-range plan. 

The GAO has recommended that the Secretary of the Navy assign responsibility to an entity to conduct a single, comprehensive systematic analysis of overseas surface ship maintenance delays.

The report is available here.