The US Military Ran the Largest Stress Test of Its Sealift Fleet In Years. It’s In Big Trouble (excerpt)
(Source: Defense News; posted Dec. 31, 2019)
By David B. Larter
A Dec. 16 report confirms what US officials have been saying for years now: that the sealift fleet is in urgent need of recapitalization if it is to be relied upon to support a large-scale operation overseas. (DoD photo)
WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Military’s massive transportation in September ordered the largest stress test of its wartime sealift fleet in the command’s history, with 33 out of 61 government-owned ships being activated simultaneously. The results were bad, according to a new report.
In an unclassified US Transportation Command report posted to its website, the turbo activation revealed that less than half of the sealift fleet would be fully prepared to get underway for a major sealift operation in a crisis.
“The relatively low … Qualitative Mission Success Rate indicates the Organic Surge Fleet is challenged to be immediately available for a large-scale inter-theater force deployment without delays/impacts to force closure due to degraded readiness.,” the report reads.
The Dec. 16 report confirms what senior military and transportation officials have been saying for years now: that the sealift fleet is in urgent need of recapitalization if it is to be relied upon to support a large-scale operation overseas. In a crisis, nearly 90 percent of all Army and Marine Corps equipment would be carrier by ship. The Navy is on the hook to pay for recapitalization, but it has so far failed to land on a strategy to do so.
Overall, 40.7 percent of the 61 ships operated by Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration were fully ready to support a major sealift operation. Sal Mercogliano, a merchant marine and current professor at Campbell University who follows these issues closely said the major equipment casualties are the driving factor that is dragging down readiness. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Defense News website.
USTRANSCOM Comprehensive Report for Turbo Activation 19-Plus
(Source: US Transportation Command; issued Dec. 16, 2019)
In September 2019, U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) conducted a no-notice, large-scale readiness exercise of the 61 sealift vessels assigned to the Organic Surge Fleet. Referred to as TURBO ACTIVATION 19-PLUS (TA 19+), the exercise comprised in-port and underway assessments of mission readiness. In total, 32 ships got underway.
This large-scale vessel activation required substantial contributions from maritime labor and the sealift industry to generate so many vessels. Not only was TA 19+ the largest such exercise in USTRANSCOM history, but the integrity of the exercise coupled with the large sampling percentage yielded extremely high confidence in the validity of the test results.
Key findings from TA 19+ include the following:
-- Of the 61 ships assigned to the Organic Surge Fleet at the start of TA 19+, a total of 63.9% (39 of 61 ships) were ready for tasking (RFT). This static test value was consistent with the 65% average of square footage capacity for FY19 that was calculated for the inclusive 50 Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) vessels (35 MARAD, 15 MSC). The primary driver for the 63.9% RFT rate is the high number of ships (19.7%) with C-4 casualties (deficiencies with mission essential equipment that cause a loss of at least one primary mission). The low RFT Rate (63.9%) will lead to fewer ships available to immediately respond to a contingency, which could delay force flow to a theater and the subsequent buildup of combat power.
-- There were 33 of 61 ships in a Reduced Operating Status (ROS) directed to activate to Full Operating Status (FOS) in order to participate in the underway portion of TA 19+. In total, 81.8% (27 of 33) of the vessels achieved FOS and reported Ready for Sea (RFS) within the prescribed 120-hour timeframe. The RFS Rate (81.8%) is satisfactory for the Organic Surge Fleet mission set.
-- A qualitative mission success evaluation was performed on the 32 TA 19+ vessels which were activated and assessed underway to determine whether each of the vessels would be able to conduct a trans-oceanic mission associated with existing large-scale OPLANs without mission impact (undue delay or significant mitigation). The evaluation revealed that 9 vessels had discrepancies which could potentially impact the mission. The relatively low (77.8%) Qualitative Mission Success Rate indicates the Organic Surge Fleet is challenged to be immediately available for a large-scale inter-theater force deployment without delays/impacts to force closure due to degraded readiness.
-- To be available to execute a large-scale inter-theater force deployment, vessels in the Organic Surge Fleet must be ready for tasking (RFT rate 63.9%), they must be able to transition from ROS-to-FOS within prescribed timelines (RFS rate 81.8%), and they must be able to complete the voyage without undue delay or significant mitigation (Qualitative Mission Success rate 77.8%). Readiness goals aim for the Organic Surge Fleet to have an 85% availability on any given day to support large-scale force deployments. The low Cumulative Fleet Success Rate of 40.7% suggests the Organic Surge Fleet is challenged to meet these objectives.
In summary, TA 19+ validated known concerns regarding the readiness of the Organic Surge Fleet and reinforced the need for recapitalization, appropriate levels of resourcing to correct material deficiencies, and continued emphasis on readiness improvements.
Click here for the full report (42 PDF pages), on the US Transportation Command website.