CAPITOL HILL --- Nearly half the Navy’s amphibious ships are currently tied up in maintenance availabilities and the service would be several ships short of need if it had to scramble the fleet for a major contingency, in large part due to continuing resolutions and other budget challenges, top Navy and Marine Corps operations officials said today.
Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/N5), said at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing today that his number-one funding priority for the amphibious fleet is ship maintenance. The Navy and Marines are lacking available ships to conduct pre-deployment training, joint and international exercises, and concept development and experiments, and that ship availability issue stems from too many ships tied up in maintenance today, he said.
The Marine Corps’ years-old position is that “the Navy and Marine Corps Team require 38 amphibious warships, with an operational availability of 90 percent, to support two Marine Expeditionary Brigades, in order to provide the Nation a forcible entry capability,” according to the service’s 2017 posture statement. In that scenario, 34 amphibs could respond to a contingency if called upon, and four would remain behind in maintenance.
Today, the Navy is already short of that requirement with 31 commissioned amphibs in the fleet, and 14 of those are currently in maintenance, according to Lewis and Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Plans, Policies, and Operations Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault. The admiral made clear that the 90-percent operational availability standard didn’t apply to any given moment in time but rather the ability to scramble ships out of maintenance and gear up to respond to a contingency. Even based on that standard, though, he told USNI News that “If the number [of required amphibious ships] is 30, we’re probably five or so short.” (end of excerpt)
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