12.04.19

Senator David Perdue Chairs Hearing On Navy Ship & Submarine Maintenance

“In this era of great power competition, there is no question our Navy needs to grow larger and become more capable.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, today led a hearing on U.S. Navy ship and submarine maintenance.

Click here to watch Chairman Perdue’s opening remarks.

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Chairman Perdue’s Opening Remarks

The Committees on Seapower and Readiness and Management Support convene this morning to examine Navy ship and submarine maintenance.

We want to welcome our three distinguished witnesses today: the Honorable James F. Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; Vice Admiral Thomas J. Moore, Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command; and Ms. Diana Maurer, Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office. Thank you very much for being here.

I want to thank Chairman Sullivan and Ranking Members Hirono and Kaine for agreeing to hold this hearing jointly. I think it makes it much more efficient. The operating and support costs that come after a weapons system is produced can account for 70 percent or more of the total ownership cost, so I think it’s very important for our subcommittee to work closely on sustainment issues like ship and submarine maintenance.

In September, I visited Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard with Ranking Member Hirono. She’s been after me for the last two years about this. This is a major issue with her, and she’s exactly right, not just for that shipyard, but for all shipyards. I want to thank Senator Hirono for that invitation. I walked away with a better appreciation of the many challenges facing our naval shipyards and ship maintenance more broadly.

As I’ve dug into this a bit deeper, I’ve personally got concerns, many of which are highlighted in our witnesses’ testimony today, which I look forward to discussing. Overall, maintenance delays continue to be a significant issue, as the GAO notes, totaling more than 33,000 days across fiscal years 2014 through 2019 for aircraft carriers, surface ships, and submarines. One effect of these delays is fewer ready ships, which places a greater stress on our fleet to meet all of its operational demands.

For example, according to Ms. Maurer’s testimony, in fiscal year 2019, maintenance delays alone resulted in the Navy losing the equivalent of 19 surface ships. Of our 292-ship fleet, 19 were not available to commanders.

The ship depot maintenance account also appears to be chronically underfunded with large re-programmings needed each year. In fiscal year 2019, the budget was $9.8 billion. By the middle of the year, the Navy announced a shortfall of nearly $1 billion. However, less than $300 million was available to address this shortfall, which led to the deferral of nearly $700 million in maintenance that, combined with the $814 million in the CNO’s unfunded priority list, resulted in well over one billion dollars in unfunded maintenance in the current fiscal year. To my earlier point on schedule delays, even if the Navy had this money, the Navy does not appear to have the shipyard capacity readily available to do the work.

These are challenges the Navy is facing today with a fleet of 292 ships. By the end of this fiscal year, the Navy will hopefully have 301 ships. The fleet is growing, but it is far from clear that we can maintain the fleet we have, much less a fleet of 301 ships or a future fleet of 355 ships.

It is important to recognize that we did not get into this situation overnight and correcting the underlying issues will require a long-term commitment. As highlighted in the witnesses’ statements, a number of systemic factors need to be addressed, including: accepting ships with serious deficiencies, ship deployments extended beyond planned durations, poor facility and equipment conditions, cumbersome contracts, a green workforce, and insufficient dry dock capacity.

Secretary Geurts, this committee recognized the importance of improving accountability for maintenance outcomes and gave your position the additional principal duty of sustainment, including maintenance, in last year’s NDAA. We are looking to you for leadership and follow through to restore the balance between fleet size and its sustainment.

There are four specific areas that I look forward to discussing today and partnering with the Navy on.

  • First, what size Navy can we predictably maintain now and in the future? And how to we increase that ability as we increase the size of the fleet?
  • Second, the implementation of the Navy’s $21 billion, 20-year Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan or SIOP. It is clear to me that Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard needs to be brought into the 21st century. Is the SIOP the right plan and is its implementation being effectively carried out?
  • Third, private shipyard capacity and the ability of these shipyards to meet the forecasted future surface ship maintenance workload.
  • Fourth, the extent to which Continuing Resolutions and budget stability affect the ability to plan and execute maintenance.

In this era of great power competition, there is no question that our Navy needs to grow larger and become more capable. My fear is that as the Navy grows, maintenance capacity will not keep pace and the end result will be a larger fleet but fewer ships ready for operational tasking. I look forward to our witnesses’ testimony and thank them again for their attendance.

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 When Senator Perdue was elected, he was the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress. He is serving his first term in the United States Senate, where he represents Georgia on the Armed Services, Banking, Budget, and Agriculture Committees.