WATCH: Courtney highlights USS Boise delays, submarine maintenance shortfalls in hearing with top Navy leaded
In a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the state of military readiness, Congressman Joe Courtney, Ranking Member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, questioned a top Navy official about the backlog of submarine maintenance work. In an exchange with Admiral Moran, the Vice Cheif of Naval Operations, Courtney highlighted the impact of submarine maintenance delays in meeting the needs of the Navy.
Watch the exchange above, or read an unofficial transcript below.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to all the witnesses for your excellent testimony this morning.
Admiral Moran, I'd like to again, go back to your very frank advice that we really need to focus on maintenance and repair in terms of just getting to -- to meet the operational demand. Shipbuilding, which I think is gonna be an exciting year with the FSA that came out. But having said that, that's a long game and -- and we're not gonna see the fruits of that for 2017 action, for years to come.
So your, you know, description about the fact that there is this backlog building up of work that's not getting performed (ph), I was wondering if you could be a little more descriptive about, you know, how that looks, in terms of whether it's carriers or surface ships or submarines. You know, what's happening out there in terms of that -- that backlog that's building up?
Yes, sir, Congressman. Thanks for the question.
First of all, in -- in '17 alone, if we do not see some kind of supplemental for this fiscal year without a C.R., within a month, we're gonna have to shut down air wings, we're gonna have to defer maintenance on several availabilities for our surface ships and submarine maintenance facilities. We are just flat out out of money to be able to do that.
I think everyone here knows that in '17, the Navy took a $5 billion cut in its top line. If an effect (ph) comes to fruition, that's $2 billion of readiness cuts we had to take, which is immediately applied to the things like ship -- ship avails (ph). So we have had cases in the past here, in the recent past, where we've had to decertify a submarine from being able to dive because we cannot get it into nuclear maintenance that its -- that it's needed - that is needed.
The crew on the USS Albany, for example, went over 48 months with -- before getting out of the yard because several delays, at least four different delays because of other priorities. And those other priorities start with our SSBN force, which is our nuclear strategic deterrence submarine force, carriers and then we get to SSNs.
So if any of those get disrupted, a carrier goes along in one of our public yards, then we're gonna bump things like our SSNs. So that crew of Albany, the CO (ph) took over at the start of that maintenance avail (ph), gave up command before the end of that maintenance avail (ph). And the crew, the entire crew, did not deploy. To someone's point here earlier, you cannot buy back that experience.
And so those are the kinds of real impacts we're seeing in the yards because of the shortage of resources and the continuing raiding of the readiness accounts in order to keep the rest of the Navy whole.
Thank you. I mean, that story about the Albany really resonates I think because in this room, you know, we've heard from Admiral Harris at PACOM, General Scaparrotti at UCOM, that they need more submarines, I mean now, and to the extent that you know, we're not gonna build a Virginia class now because it takes five years. But if we can get, you know, the Albany and the Boise (ph) and those others out and -- and you know, underway then, you know, we can respond to those combatant commanders.
So let's assume, you know, we fully fund -- you know, we deal with the resource issue and we also deal with the funding certainty issue which your testimony pointed out as another, you know, big problem. I mean, there's still I think are issues though, in terms of allocation of work and in the shipyards. I mean, in your testimony, you said a variety -- for a variety of reasons, our shipyards are struggling to get our ships through maintenance periods on time.
So the -- so again, let's assuming for -- you know, that we take care of some of the resource questions. I mean, how can we, you know, deal with that? I mean, is there -- can we call on the private yards to help take on some of the work? And -- and can Congress help with that process?
Yes, sir. We -- you're -- you're absolutely correct. Obviously, we try to maximize our public yard workload, but we try to smooth out those -- those god-awful sand charts (ph), we're all looking -- we're used to staring at to try to smooth out the work across those yards.
And where we need that extra capacity, we do use the private yards to do it. Montpelier is a good example today that's in EB too, for example. So we will continue to look at those. The problem is, the late -- the very late determination that we'd no longer have the capacity in the public yards. When we turn to the private yards at that moment, it becomes a very expensive proposition.
So the degree to which we can take advantage of your support and -- and working with our private yards to try to drive down the costs, it makes it easier for us to have to (inaudible) to those private yards when public yards become -- the capacity -- or the work exceeds the capacity because of delays that are already there, if that -- if that makes sense.
I think Admiral Kevin McCoy described it as one shipyard, that should be our philosophy.