Ship maintenance

Maintenance of Navy vessels: measures needed to address maintenance delays for surface vessels based abroad


What GAO found

The Navy maintains the 38 surface vessels based in Japan, Spain and Bahrain through a mix of Navy operated facilities and private contractors. The Navy uses different maintenance approaches at each location depending on the number and type of vessels based there and the Navy industrial base and private contractors available to provide maintenance support. For example, to support the 12 surface vessels based in Yokosuka, Japan, the Navy uses both private contractors and its Japanese ship repair facility and regional maintenance center, which are subsidized by the Government of Japan. In Rota, Spain, the Navy relies on a Spanish contractor to maintain the four ships based there.

Maintenance of foreign-based surface vessels took longer than expected for 50 of the 71 maintenance periods, or about 70%, started in fiscal years 2014 to 2018. More than half of these maintenance delays were lasted a month or more, which reduced vessel availability. for training and operations. Various factors contribute to delays, such as the discovery that additional unscheduled repairs are needed, missed planning milestones, or shortages of key personnel. However, the Navy’s efforts to understand delays often focus only on individual maintenance periods and translate into action to improve specific issues related to on-time maintenance. The Navy did not perform a comprehensive analysis of maintenance delays to systematically identify and address their root causes. Without such analysis, the Navy cannot effectively target corrective actions and risks continuing to underestimate maintenance requirements and the time and resources required to meet them.

The Navy completed the majority of the 71 maintenance periods started in fiscal years 2014 to 2018 later than planned

The Navy has developed a new approach to maintenance for ships in Japan, but has not assessed the risks associated with this approach or analyzed the overseas maintenance needs for a growing fleet. The new approach to maintenance requires ships to obtain all required maintenance in the United States before and after their departure overseas, among other things. The Navy decided to implement this approach in Japan based on the use of the approach in Spain, where ships experienced few maintenance delays. However, the Navy did not assess the risks posed by differences between operating environments in Spain and Japan, or by maintenance capability deficits at US facilities. The Navy also plans to replace aging ships in Bahrain as it increases its fleet to 355 ships, but has not analyzed or included overseas maintenance needs in its long-term plan. Without assessing the risks that the challenges may pose to the success of its new approach to maintenance in Japan or analyzing the needs of a growing fleet, the Navy could be hampered in its ability to ensure these ships are ready and available for operations.

Why GAO did this study

To meet operational demands, the Navy has doubled the number of overseas-based vessels since 2006. Overseas-based Navy vessels represent around 14% of the total fleet and are there to ensure a presence, deter foreigners. threats, respond quickly to crises and establish partnerships. Efficient and timely maintenance is essential to achieve strategic objectives, meet operational requirements and ensure ships reach their intended lifespan.

Internal Report 115-676 included a provision for GAO to assess the maintenance of overseas-based vessels. This report: (1) describes the existing maintenance capability and approaches used by the Navy for surface vessels based abroad, (2) assesses the extent to which the Navy has completed maintenance periods as planned over the course of exercises 2014 to 2018 and analyzes the factors contributing to any delays, and (3) assesses how well the Navy has assessed the challenges facing future overseas maintenance efforts. To achieve these goals, the GAO analyzed Navy policies and maintenance data from fiscal years 2012 to 2018 and interviewed officials, including from Naval Sea Systems Command and overseas fleets and maintenance centers.


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