The readiness of the surge sealift and combat logistics fleets has trended downward since 2012. For example, GAO found that mission-limiting equipment casualties—incidents of degraded or out-of-service equipment—have increased over the past 5 years, and maintenance periods are running longer than planned, indicating declining materiel readiness across both fleets.
The Navy has started to develop a long-term plan to address recapitalization of the aging surge sealift fleet, but this plan has not been finalized. The average age of the ships in the surge sealift fleet is nearly 40 years, and the number of surge sealift ships reaching the end of their programmed service lives over the next 10 years will reduce sealift capacity by over 25 percent.
The Navy has not finalized these plans, and officials acknowledged that these efforts do not fully incorporate leading practices for capital investment planning. For example, Navy officials told us that the plan does not include a needs assessment or project prioritization comparing the costs and benefits of proposed investments to each other. Without effective capital planning to ensure the availability of surge sealift capability, the equipment and supplies needed by the Army, Marine Corps, and other forces may not arrive when needed, potentially hindering U.S. operations.
The Navy has not assessed the effects of widely distributed operations, which could affect the required number and type of combat logistics ships. The Navy released its new operational concept of more widely distributed operations—ships traveling farther distances and operating more days to support a more distributed fleet—in 2017.
The Navy has not assessed the effects that implementing this concept will have on the required number and type of combat logistics ships. These effects could be exacerbated in the event that the Navy is less able to rely on in-port refueling—which has comprised about 30 percent of all refuelings over the past 3 years—placing greater demand on the combat logistics fleet.
Given the fleet’s dependence on the combat logistics force, waiting until 2019 or 2020 to conduct an assessment, as planned, could result in poor investment decisions as the Navy continues to build and modernize its fleet.
Furthermore, without assessing the effects of widely distributed operations on logistics force requirements and modifying its force structure plans accordingly, the Navy risks being unprepared to provide required fuel and other supplies.
Click here for the full report, on the GAO website.