A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found a 28 year maintenance backlog. Just days after that scathing report, another GAO report exposed widespread Navy vehicle readiness weaknesses that have more serious long-term financial implications.
According to the latest report, ships, submarines, and aircraft carriers in the Navy all require a complete rebuild of their readiness, which would come at a significant expense to the taxpayers. In addition to the previously reported submarine backlog, the most recent GAO study highlighted maintenance delays in aircraft carriers and surface ships, with the latter class of vehicles dwarfing the already mind-boggling 10,363-day submarine delay. Surface ships, according to the findings, are waiting on an 18,561-day maintenance backlog that started accumulating in 2012–an equivalent of 50 years and 10 months.
While the Navy has spent $1.5 billion over the last 10 years attempting to catch up on their submarine maintenance delays, the estimated cost to completely overhaul the outdated and understaffed Naval shipyards would cost $21 billion over 20 years. This new report finds that the resources to address this backlog will have competition from a large and spiraling source.
According to the Navy’s FY 2019 shipbuilding plan, the maritime branch intends to increase their ship force from 287 to 355 vessels—a 25 percent increase. They expect to reach this goal by the 2030’s and have committed to buying 301 brand new ships by 2048 at a cost of $631 billion over 30 years.
But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the expansion would actually cost $801 billion over the same time frame, 27 percent more than the Pentagon estimates. The Navy has a track record of underestimating cost while overestimating production. Their 2007 shipbuilding plan cost $24 billion more than it originally quoted while producing 50 fewer ships than expected. If the current fleet of Naval vessels are not being cared for right now, what will the cost be to care for a significantly larger fleet?
This question remains unanswered by Naval officials.
A strong Navy poses a distinct advantage in defense capability. It deters foreign powers that seek to do harm to the United States, and boosts the confidence of American allies that rely on our country for additional safety and security. But with a failed maintenance system that has left a large chunk of ships non-operational, and a multibillion dollar shipyard development program that has yet to start, an increase in fleet size is not only expensive, but highly irresponsible. In order to stay afloat, the Navy must address the current issues before piling on more vessels. Otherwise, they will continue to drown in their maintenance backlogs and force the American taxpayers to throw them a lifeboat.