Ship maintenance

Navy still sees delays in vessel maintenance despite new contracting strategy

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is towed from a dry dock at the Norfolk Shipyard to a berth. Kearsarge is undergoing a 10 month scheduled maintenance in dry dock and is expected to begin this fall. (US Navy)

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is towed from a dry dock at the Norfolk Shipyard to a berth.  Kearsarge is undergoing a 10 month scheduled maintenance in dry dock and is expected to begin this fall.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is towed from a dry dock at the Norfolk Shipyard to a berth. Kearsarge is undergoing a 10 month scheduled maintenance in dry dock and is expected to begin this fall. (US Navy)

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) enters dry dock at the Puget Sound Naval Dockyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility to begin a scheduled gradual docking availability.  The dry dock will allow sailors and shipyard workers to access the vessel below the waterline for maintenance, repairs and overhauls.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) enters dry dock at the Puget Sound Naval Dockyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility to begin a scheduled gradual docking availability. The dry dock will allow sailors and shipyard workers to access the vessel below the waterline for maintenance, repairs and overhauls. (Wendy Hallmark / US Navy)

WASHINGTON – In four years, a ship maintenance center has only been able to complete three of 24 ship repairs on time, despite a new outsourcing strategy to reduce delays, according to a new report.

According to a 61-page report from the Office of Government Accountability.

However, delays in maintenance schedules continue to be a concern.

Navy leadership has said one of the service’s top priorities is to increase the number of its combat force ships from 299 to 355 or more by 2030, but its maintenance backlogs make it difficult to stay aware of the needs of the fleet now.

Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee in December raised these concerns after another GAO report said Navy ships over the past five years have spent an additional 33,700 days unplanned, or about 90 years, moored in shipyards for maintenance.

“My fear is that as the navy grows the maintenance capacity will not keep pace, the end result will be a larger fleet, but fewer ships ready for operational tasks,” the senator said. David Perdue, R-Ga., President of the Senate. The armed services subcommittee on maritime power said at the December hearing on maintenance delays.

The GAO report released last week looked at the schedules for 41 ship repairs completed between April 2015 and April 2019 at three maintenance centers where the new contracting strategy is being implemented: the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center in Norfolk, in Virginia; the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego; and the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center in Mayport, Florida.

The Mid-Atlantic Center had the worst performance of the three centers, completing only three of 24 vessel maintenance availabilities on time during this period. The Southeast Center completed three of the seven shipments on time and the Southwest Center completed six of the ten on time.

One of the reasons for the increase in delays was unscheduled work, which requires changes to the contract. Unscheduled work refers to “growth work” or problems detected during the maintenance period and new work added by the Navy. According to the report, citing interviews with Navy officials, amending the contract after it is awarded for unscheduled work using the MAC-MO contracting strategy is more difficult and time consuming.

A case study cited in the report involved the USS Whidbey Island landing ship, which began work in August 2017 with an expected completion date of May 2018. Not only growth work and new work was added to it. the maintenance period, but the maintenance team had to negotiate more than 800 contract change requests with the contractor which caused delays, according to the report. The work was finally completed in December 2019, more than 18 months late.

The GAO report also found that the Navy has been working to mitigate delays caused by the new contracting strategy and using lessons learned from the process. However, there are still issues with obtaining funds to complete maintenance if the work is extended into a new fiscal year, as it requires approval from the Navy and the Department of Defense, according to the report.

Congress launched a pilot program in December to allow the Navy to bypass the approval process, which took between 26 and 189 days, and the GAO recommended that the Navy develop an analysis plan for this pilot program.

[email protected] @caitlinmkenney



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