CAPITOL HILL – Vice-Admiral Michael Gilday says he’s ready to get smart at ship maintenance and meet the Navy’s ongoing readiness challenges if confirmed as the next Chief of Naval Operations.
Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee today during its confirmation hearing, Gilday pledged to take a close look at maintenance – from ship crews identifying what needs to be fixed on their ships, to the engineers who develop the Maintenance availability plans, public and private yards are responsible for ensuring that the right parts and the right people are available for effective maintenance periods – and report back to the committee in a few months on how to proceed.
Gilday is a training surface warfare officer and has commanded destroyers, a destroyer squadron, and a carrier strike group. However, as backlogs at the four public shipyards increased and private yards struggled to keep up with a growing surface fleet, Gilday served in joint and NATO roles and commanded the Navy cyberforce. . He promised senators today that he would immediately update himself on the maintenance situation.
“The first thing I really need to do is understand this whole life cycle, from generating the demands on the ship – and it really comes down to the crew of a ship identifying what needs to be fixed with enough specificity. so that the right parts are ordered so that the right materials are available long before the ship reaches the yard. And that you also have the right skilled workforce, whether they are welders or ship fitters, to get the job done, and get it done on time, with the quality we need ”, did he declare.
“I think we need to look holistically, from the ship to the planning process within the Navy, to the shipyards themselves, whether public or private. “
Gilday was repeatedly questioned about the maintenance of the vessel during the hearing. Asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) about the slowing down of Virginia-class attack submarines during maintenance periods due to lack of parts, with some submarines cannibalizing other parts to supplement their availability, Gilday acknowledged the problem and said another ship classes, too, are facing a parts shortage.
“I know it’s a priority for the department right now to make sure we have the right parts and the right requirements identified well before the ships enter the shipyard so that we don’t have any delays. “, did he declare.
“I promise you, ma’am, that I will take a closer look at the availability of parts for the Virginia class as well as our other vessels as part of other limiting factors that we need to look at to ensure that production is on line. continues to flow as it should.
SASC non-commissioned member Senator Jack Reed (DR.I.) said it seemed like the Navy couldn’t even maintain a force of 290 ships, let alone the 355 ships the Navy aims to deploy in the years. future. He asked Gilday if he thought the Navy had the repair capacity to cope with a larger fleet.
“I think, based on what we see today, one would be inclined to say no. But I don’t think we can say that with a high degree of precision yet, ”replied Gilday.
“We know there are inefficiencies that we need to correct. The Navy went to private yards that we’ve never done business with before, yards that have dry docks, to see if they’re ready to be certified so that we can find that excess capacity that exists in the country. and exploit it. So I’m not ready yet, sir, to give you an affirmative answer, but I agree that this is something that we absolutely have to look at if we are going to pay to launch all these ships.
The Navy is trying to address inefficiencies at public yards with a 20-year modernization and optimization plan that would replace aging drydocks, improve yard layouts, and introduce new technologies to help workers repair larger ships. quickly. Shaheen mentioned the plan during his interrogation, and Gilday assured him that he supported the plan and that he would fund it appropriately.
Despite Gilday’s recognition of the importance of vessel maintenance and readiness, Senators still expressed some concern that the Navy would continue to grapple with the backlog of work that it is facing today, partly because of years of insufficient funding and partly because of the character of the fleet, which is increasing both in size and age.
Senator Mike Rounds (RS.D.) said the attack submarine USS Wooded (SSN-764) was the perfect example of what not to do, noting that it will have been out of fleet operations for six years by the time the Navy can finally ensure its maintenance availability. Rounds noted that fighter jet readiness was only 40 percent recently, although those numbers have increased over the past year. And the new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter is already experiencing a spare parts shortage.
“It’s systemic. It’s not just the Navy, but it’s systemic within the Department of Defense, ”Rounds said, adding that neither the acquisition systems nor the maintenance systems were working as they should to produce readiness. of the fleet.
“There has to be a better way to do it. … I think this is going to require major revisions in the way we treat the equipment we have.