The Navy continues to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that hinder its ability to stay ready for operations and training. Since fiscal year 2014, Navy ships have spent over 33,700 more days in maintenance than expected. Insufficient shipyard capacity and a shortage of skilled workers are among the contributing factors the Government Accountability Office identified.
The Navy has efforts underway to improve its maintenance operations. They will require years to implement, sustained management attention, and greater funding.
In the reports upon which this testimony is based, GAO made 17 recommendations. Only 6 have been fully carried out.
GAO identified multiple factors that contribute to maintenance delays, including insufficient shipyard capacity, shortage of skilled personnel, and deferred maintenance during operational deployments, among others. Ships awaiting or delayed in maintenance incur operating and support costs. For example, GAO estimated that the Navy spent more than $1.5 billion in support costs from fiscal years 2008 through 2018 due to delayed maintenance for attack submarines.
The Navy has several efforts underway to improve its maintenance operations, but they will take years to implement, and will require sustained management attention and funding above current levels. For example, the Navy estimates it will take 20 years to improve the infrastructure at its shipyards, 4 years to restore ship crew levels, and several years to improve maintenance planning. Until the Navy addresses these challenges, it will be hindered in its ability to rebuild readiness and prepare for the future, particularly as it grows the size of the fleet.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy emphasizes that restoring and retaining readiness is critical to success in the emerging security environment. The Navy is working to rebuild its readiness while also growing and modernizing its aging fleet of ships. A critical component of rebuilding Navy readiness is implementing sustainable operational schedules, which hinge on completing maintenance on time. GAO has reported that the Navy faces persistent challenges with completing required maintenance on time.