GAO raises concerns about readiness issues on US Navy ships based overseas


The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has raised concerns about various maintenance, readiness and training issues currently suffered by US Navy ships.

The recommendation to address these requirements follows a series of four major ship incidents this year, which have resulted in the deaths of 17 US sailors.

GAO issued a report highlighting the fact that the navy has increased the deployment duration of its vessels, while at the same time reducing the amount of personnel training and delaying the required maintenance necessary to meet high operational standards.

The report suggests that this has not only resulted in the declining conditions of the vessels, but also adversely impacted the military's overall readiness and mission capabilities.

A study conducted by the US watchdog in May 2017 found that the reduction in the size of crews deployed on ships homeported overseas that was decided in the early 2000s was sanctioned without an analysis of the possible consequences, which subsequently meant that some sailors were required to work for more than 100 hours a week.

An earlier GAO report from May 2015 stated that despite the US Navy doubling the number of naval vessels based overseas since 2006, there were no dedicated training periods built into the operational schedules of the cruisers and destroyers based in Japan.

"The recommendation to address these requirements follows a series of four major ship incidents this year, which have resulted in the deaths of 17 US sailors."

It is estimated that 37% of the warfare certifications for Japan-based US Navy crew members had expired as of June, including certifications for seamanship. 

This represents a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired warfare certifications for these vessels since the initial release of the May 2015 report.

The US office revealed that maintenance overruns on 63% of surface vessels resulted in roughly 6,603 lost operational days in the fiscal years 2011 through 2016, implying that the US Navy ships were not available for training and operations during these periods.

The government watchdog states that the Navy should be required to implement the GAO's recommendations, specifically in the areas of evaluating the risks associated with basing vessels overseas, reassessing sailors' workloads and the factors used to decide the size of ship crews. 

GAO has also urged the US Navy to implement effective planning procedures and give sustained managerial attention to the navy’s efforts to rebuild its readiness capabilities.