GAO Report: Actions needed to improve Navy Readiness

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GAO Report: Actions needed to improve Navy Readiness
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    NAVY READINESS    Actions Needed to  Address Persistent Maintenance, Training, and Other Challenges  Affecting the Fleet Statement of John H. Pendleton, Director, Defense Capabilities and Management Testimony Before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate For Release on Delivery Expected at 10 : 0 0 a.m. ET   Tuesday, September 19, 2017 GAO-17-809T United States Government Accountability Office    United States Government Accountability Office Highlights of  GAO-17-809T, a testimony before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate September 19, 2017 NAVY READINESS Actions Needed to Address Persistent Maintenance, Training, and Other Challenges Affecting the Fleet What GAO Found GAO’s prior work shows that the Navy has increased deployment lengths, shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet high operational demands, which has resulted in declining ship conditions and a worsening trend in overall readiness. The Navy has stated that high demand for presence has put pressure on a fleet that is stretched thin across the globe. Some of the concerns that GAO has highlighted include: ã   Degraded readiness of ships homeported overseas : Since 2006, the Navy has doubled the number of ships based overseas. Overseas basing provides additional forward presence and rapid crisis response, but GAO found in May 2015 that there were no dedicated training periods built into the operational schedules of the cruisers and destroyers based in Japan. As a result, the crews of these ships did not have all of their needed training and certifications. Based on updated data, GAO found that, as of June 2017, 37 percent of the warfare certifications for cruiser and destroyer crews based in Japan—including certifications for seamanship—had expired. This represents more than a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired warfare certifications for these ships since GAO’s May 2015 report. The Navy has made plans to revise operational schedules to provide dedicated training time for overseas-based ships, but this schedule has not yet been implemented. ã   Crew size reductions contribute to sailor overwork and safety risks: GAO found in May 2017 that reductions to crew sizes the Navy made in the early 2000s were not analytically supported and may now be creating safety risks. The Navy has reversed some of those changes but continues to use a workweek standard that does not reflect the actual time sailors spend working and does not account for in-port workload—both of which have contributed to some sailors working over 100 hours a week. ã   Inability to complete maintenance on time:  Navy recovery from persistently low readiness levels is premised on adherence to maintenance schedules. However, in May 2016, GAO found that the Navy was having difficulty completing maintenance on time. Based on updated data, GAO found that, in fiscal years 2011 through 2016, maintenance overruns on 107 of 169 surface ships (63 percent) resulted in 6,603 lost operational days (i.e., the ships were not available for training and operations). Looking to the future, the Navy wants to grow its fleet by as much as 30 percent but continues to face challenges with manning, training, and maintaining its existing fleet. These readiness problems need to be addressed and will require the Navy to implement GAO’s recommendations—particularly in the areas of assessing the risks associated with overseas basing, reassessing sailor workload and the factors used to size ship crews, managing investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of the naval shipyards, and applying sound planning and sustained management attention to its readiness rebuilding efforts. In addition, continued congressional oversight will be needed to ensure that the Navy demonstrates progress in addressing its maintenance, training, and other challenges. View GAO-17-809T. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov.  Why GAO Did This Study Since January 2017, the Navy has suffered four significant mishaps at sea that resulted in serious damage to its ships and the loss of 17 sailors. Three of these incidents involved ships homeported in Japan. In response to these incidents, the Chief of Naval Operations ordered an operational pause for all fleets worldwide, and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations directed a comprehensive review of surface fleet operations, stating that these tragic incidents are not limited occurrences but part of a disturbing trend in mishaps involving U.S. ships. This statement provides information on the effects of homeporting ships overseas, reducing crew size on ships, and not completing maintenance on time on the readiness of the Navy and summarizes GAO recommendations to address the Navy’s maintenance, training, and other challenges. In preparing this statement, GAO relied on work it has published since 2015 related to the readiness of ships homeported overseas, sailor training and workload issues, maintenance challenges, and other issues. GAO updated this information, as appropriate, based on Navy data. What GAO Recommends GAO made 14 recommendations in prior work cited in this statement. The Department of Defense generally concurred with all of them but has implemented only 1. Continued attention is needed to ensure that these recommendations are addressed, such as the Navy assessing the risks associated with overseas basing and reassessing sailor workload and factors used in its manpower requirements process.   Letter Page 1 GAO-17-809T Navy Readiness Chairman McCain, Ranking Member Reed, and Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss issues related to Navy readiness in the wake of four significant mishaps at sea thus far in 2017. The most recent of these occurred in August when an  Arleigh Burke  class destroyer—the USS John S. McCain  (DDG 56)—collided with an oil tanker while underway near Singapore. This collision resulted in serious damage to the ship, the loss of 10 sailors, and injury to five more. It was the second collision involving the loss of life for Navy ships underway in the last three months and the fourth significant at sea mishap in the past year. 1  In response to these incidents, the Chief of Naval Operations ordered an operational pause for all fleets worldwide, and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations directed a comprehensive review of surface fleet operations, stating that these tragic incidents are not limited occurrences but part of a disturbing trend of mishaps involving U.S. warships. 2  While we await the Navy’s official findings on this matter, you asked us to testify today on findings from our recent Navy readiness reviews. Before we begin, however, it is important to set the context for the challenges the Navy faces. In June 2017, we issued a report highlighting five key mission challenges facing the Department of Defense (DOD). 3  In that report, we noted that the United States faces an extremely challenging national security environment at the same time that it is grappling with addressing an unsustainable fiscal situation in which DOD accounts for approximately half of the federal government’s discretionary spending. Within this environment, DOD is working to both rebuild the readiness of its forces and modernize to meet future threats while facing constrained 1 Significant mishaps include collisions with other ships and groundings. We provide information on the other three at sea mishaps of 2017 in the background section of this testimony. 2 On August 24, 2017, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations directed the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, to lead a comprehensive review of surface fleet operations and incidents at sea that have occurred over the past decade with final results to be provided within 60 days, unless an extension is requested and granted. 3 This included a detailed discussion of our priority recommendations to DOD. Since  August 2015, we have identified priority recommendations in letters to the Secretary of Defense—recommendations that we have made to DOD that we believe the department should give a high priority to addressing. See GAO, Department of Defense: Actions Needed to Address Five Key Mission Challenges , GAO-17-369 (Washington, D.C.: June 13, 2017). As of June 2017, 78 priority recommendations remained open.   Letter   Page 2 GAO-17-809T Navy Readiness budgets. Each of the military services today are generally smaller and less combat ready than they have been in many years, and each military service has been forced to cut critical needs in areas such as training, maintenance, and modernization due to budgetary constraints. Put simply, our work has shown that readiness challenges persist across a number of areas including, but not limited to, the Navy. This statement provides information on Navy readiness, including the effects of homeporting ships overseas, reducing crew size on ships, and not completing maintenance on time, and summarizes GAO recommendations to address the Navy’s challenges. 4  We provided a similar statement on September 7, 2017 before two subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee. 5  This statement is updated to include recently-issued work on Navy shipyards and is based on our body of work issued between 2015 and 2017 examining the readiness of ships homeported overseas, sailor training and workload issues, maintenance challenges, and other readiness issues. 6  To perform our prior work, we analyzed Navy readiness, training, and maintenance data, and interviewed cognizant Navy officials involved in fleet operations. The reports cited throughout this statement contain more details on the scope of the work and the methodology used to carry it out. This statement also includes updates to information as of August 2017, as appropriate, based on Navy documentation and discussions with Navy officials. The work on which this testimony is based was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. Since January 2017, the Navy has suffered four significant mishaps at sea that have resulted in serious damage to Navy ships and the loss of 4 The status of our recommendations made in the work cited in this statement is provided in appendix I. 5 GAO, Navy Readiness: Actions Needed to Address Persistent Maintenance, Training, and Other Challenges Facing the Fleet  , GAO-17-798T (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 7, 2017). 6  A list of related classified and unclassified GAO products is provided in appendix III. Background
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