The Army is warning Congress of a looming deficiency in the nation’s ability to carry out a war if necessary
Defense News reported the problem is that as U.S. Navy ships get older, they soon may become inadequate to deliver equipment in the case of a war.
The report explained, citing a G-4 logistics shop document, that by 2024, the nation’s surge sealift capacity – the volume of equipment and vehicles the Navy could deliver on time – would not meet the minimum standards.
The fleet will be responsible for moving some 90 percent of Army and Marine equipment.
“By 2034, 70 percent of the organic fleet will be over 60 years old – well past its economic useful life; further degrading the Army’s ability to deploy forces,” the document warns.
“Shortfalls in sealift capacity undermine the effectiveness of U.S. conventional deterrence as even a fully-resourced and trained force has limited deterrent value if an adversary believes they can achieve their strategic objective in the window of opportunity before American land forces arrive,” the report said. “The Army’s ability to project military power influences adversaries’ risk calculations.”
The Army is concerned that the Navy isn’t moving quickly enough to repair and replace the “roll-on/roll-off” ships run by the Military Sealift Command and Maritime Administration.
The Navy already has proposed a plan to upgrade its capabilities, concentrating on design and development. But at $242 million over five years, some experts say it won’t do the job.
The report said the Army’s alarm follows a Navy report anticipating collapse if nothing is done significant to recapitalize before the late 2020s.
“The sealift fleet is composed of 26 Military Sealift Command pre-positioning ships, 46 ships in the Ready Reserve Force and 15 command-owned roll-on/roll-off surge force ships. Many of the roll-on/roll-off ships are steam-operated, and the obsolete equipment is causing significant personnel issues in the pool of qualified civilian mariners needed to operate them,” Defense News said.
Navy and Maritime Administration officials have suggested buying used ships and retrofitting them, building a new class of ships or performing life-extensions on current vessels.
While a number of “service-life extensions” are planned, the ships will be 60 years old when they are decommissioned, officials said.