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Ranking Member Courtney Statement on GAO’s Submarine Maintenance Report

November 19, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Ranking Member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, responded to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on submarine readiness shortfalls:

“The GAO’s report is a sobering assessment of the challenges facing our undersea forces. While demand for our undersea fleet and its unique capabilities continues to rise as reflected in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, delays in maintaining our existing fleet are exacerbating the growing shortfall in our submarine force structure. This report makes clear that the Navy must do more to fully utilize the capacity of our private shipyards to reduce the backlog in submarine repair work – something I have repeatedly urged the Navy to act on. It is long past time for a return to a “one shipyard” approach to meeting the challenge of maintaining and repairing our submarines so that they can get back to sea doing the important missions we need them to do.“Each year, military leaders testify before the House Armed Services Committee about their urgent need for undersea capabilities and their concern about the looming shortfall in our attack submarine fleet. Addressing this challenge will take a comprehensive approach of boosting construction rates where possible, inserting new capabilities and technology into the fleet when available, and effectively managing the maintenance of our existing fleet. As we prepare for a new congress next year, these issues will be at the forefront of my work on the subcommittee.”

Click here to review the report:

Among the findings in the GAO report issued today:

  • “GAO’s analysis of Navy maintenance data shows that between fiscal year 2008 and 2018, attack submarines have incurred 10,363 days of idle time and maintenance delays as a result of delays in getting into and out of the shipyards. Of the total, GAO found that since fiscal year 2008, 14 attack submarines have spent a combined 61 months (1,891 days) idling while waiting to enter shipyards for maintenance.”
  • “While the public shipyards have operated above capacity for the past several years, attack submarine maintenance delays are getting longer and idle time is increasing.”
  • “Since fiscal year 2008 the Navy has spent more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2018 constant dollars on attack submarines sitting idle while waiting to enter the shipyards, and on those delayed in completing their maintenance at the shipyards;”
  • “The Navy expects the maintenance backlogs at the public shipyards to continue. GAO estimated that the Navy will incur approximately $266 million in operating and support costs in fiscal year 2018 constant dollars for idle submarines from fiscal year 2018 through fiscal year 2023, as well as additional depot maintenance delays.”
  • “The Navy may have options to mitigate idle time and maintenance delays. For example, officials at the private shipyards—General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding—told GAO that they will have available capacity for repair work for at least the next 5 years. Although the Navy has shifted about 8 million man-hours in attack submarine maintenance to private shipyards over the past 5 years, it has done so sporadically, having decided to do so in some cases only after experiencing lengthy periods of idle time. According to private shipyard officials, the sporadic shifts in workload have resulted in repair workload gaps that have disrupted private shipyard workforce, performance, and capital investment—creating costs that are ultimately borne in part by the Navy.”

As Ranking Member of the Seapower Subcommittee and a member of the Readiness Subcommittee, Courtney has consistently called for action by the Navy and the Administration to address the looming shortfall in attack submarine force structure. For instance, he has regularly questioned naval officials on the management of submarine repair availabilities and lack of utilization of private shipyard capacity to augment the capacity of our public shipyards. In addition, he has authored legislation in the 2018 and 2019 National Defense Authorization Acts to encourage the Navy to expand the upcoming multi-year procurement contract to increase the number of attack submarines in the shipbuilding plan.

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