Home » Aviation » VCNO Moran: Navy Will Be ‘Just Flat Out Out Of Money’ Without Supplemental Funding; Would Cancel Flight Hours, Ship Avails

VCNO Moran: Navy Will Be ‘Just Flat Out Out Of Money’ Without Supplemental Funding; Would Cancel Flight Hours, Ship Avails

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran delivers remarks at the 2016 Future Strategy Forum at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., US Navy Photo

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran delivers remarks at the 2016 Future Strategy Forum at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., US Navy Photo

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the re-work required on the recent USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) maintenance availability, due to source error. The ship required seven percent rework and saw a 42 percent growth in work.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Without a readiness-focused supplemental spending bill passed by lawmakers this spring, the Navy and Marine Corps would stop flying at home and ship and submarine maintenance availabilities would be canceled, the vice chief of naval operations and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said at a hearing today.

The continuing resolution currently funding the government at last year’s spending levels is set to expire on April 28, 2017, and even if lawmakers could pass the Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill for the second half of the fiscal year, budget caps already in place mean that the Navy would receive about $5 billion less than it did in FY 2016. Having started the year, then, at a higher spending rate, dropping down to the FY 2017 budget would cause the Navy to almost immediately run out of operations and maintenance dollars in parts of its budget.

If the Navy did not receive a supplemental spending bill with additional funds for FY 2017, “within a month we are going to have to shut down air wings, we are going to have to defer maintenance on several availabilities for our surface ships and submarine maintenance facilities,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told the House Armed Services Committee today at a “state of the military” hearing.

“We would be just flat out out of money to be able to do that. I think everyone here knows in ’17 the Navy took a $5-billion cut in its topline, if that comes to fruition that’s $2 billion of readiness cuts we’re going to have to take, which is immediately applied to things like ship avails.”

Five attack submarines would see their maintenance availabilities canceled this year and be put at risk of being decertified if no supplemental were passed out of Congress, Moran added, in addition to similar cuts to surface ship maintenance availabilities.

Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said “we would stop flying in about July” without a supplemental. He clarified that forward forces would continue to operate, but for units training at home, “all training would cease without a supplemental, and that includes the parts money and the flying hour money.”

Even if the supplemental – which could total between $30 and $40 billion for all the armed services – is passed in a timely manner, the Navy and Marine Corps still face massive readiness issues that money can’t immediately address. Shipyards and aircraft depots face work backlogs stemming from the 2013 start of sequestration and the hiring freezes, furloughs and funding cuts it brought. Though the Navy has tried to hire thousands of people to conduct maintenance on aircraft carriers and submarines at its four public shipyards, the yards are still unable to keep up with the workload the fleet gives them.

Moran described the cycle of effects the fleet sees from this workforce challenge, using aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush’s (CVN-77) 13-month maintenance availability – which was scheduled to last eight months – as an example.

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) during its final pre-deployment evaluations on Dec. 13, 2013. US Navy Photo

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) during its final pre-deployment evaluations on Dec. 13, 2013. US Navy Photo

Bush was late for a lot of reasons. One was the junior nature of the workforce,” the VCNO explained.
“We had upwards of 7 percent of rework on Bush throughout that 13-month maintenance period. So until that workforce gains that experience, we’re going to continue to see rework issues. There are some training issues involved. We are starting to see some nice turnaround in the public yards, but again, until we see that workforce mature,” performance and on-time completion of availabilities will continue to suffer.”

Additionally, USNI News understands, the ship saw 42 percent growth in work compared to the original plans for the maintenance package.

With attack submarines being considered a lowest priority at the public yards, carrier overruns cause a chain reaction: USS Albany (SSN-753) spent 48 months in the repair yard due to repeated delays as the workforce focused its attention on CVNs and SSBNs, meaning an entire crew missed out on going on deployment. And USS Boise (SSN-764) wasn’t even put into the shipyard because the workload is so far over workforce capacity, so the boat is currently sitting in Norfolk and is not certified to dive anymore while it awaits maintenance. That attack submarine will eventually be sent to a private repair yard for maintenance, but USNI News understands that won’t be able to happen until at least FY 2019 and will cost much more than putting the ship into a public yard.

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN-725) arrives at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a high-priority docking continuous maintenance availability on Aug. 20, 2015. US Navy Photo

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena (SSN-725) arrives at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a high-priority docking continuous maintenance availability on Aug. 20, 2015. US Navy Photo

Moran said putting submarines in private yards is sometimes an option when the public yards are stuck on carriers or ballistic missile subs – USS Montpelier (SSN-765) is at General Dynamics Electric Boat currently for this exact reason – but the private yards are not guaranteed to have capacity to take on extra repair work, and in a cost-constrained environment, spending the extra operations and maintenance dollars can be a hard choice to make.

“The very late determination that we no longer have the capacity at the public yards, when we turn to the private yards at that moment it becomes a very expensive proposition,” he said.
“So the degree to which we can … try to drive down cost, it makes it easier for us to have to surge the private yards when (at the public yards) the work exceeds the capacity because of delays.”

These shipyard workforce challenges do more than just affect ship repairs lower on the totem pole, House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee ranking member Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) noted at the hearing. The Navy already faces a looming attack sub shortfall, and sidelining these SSNs for no reason other than lack of workforce capacity makes little sense in an increasingly dangerous world.

“We’ve heard from Adm. (Harry) Harris, [U.S. Pacific Command commander], Gen. (Curtis) Scaparrotti, [U.S. European Command commander], that they need more submarines now,” Courtney said.
“We’re not going to build a Virginia-class now because it takes five years, but if we could get the Albany, the Boise and those others out and underway, then we can respond to those combatant commanders.”

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Alexandra Mimbela performs maintenance on an F/A-18F Super Hornet. US Navy Photo

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Alexandra Mimbela performs maintenance on an F/A-18F Super Hornet. US Navy Photo

The sea services also face aviation readiness challenges that go beyond what supplemental funding can immediately fix. Moran said during the hearing that the legacy F/A-18A-D Hornets today take twice as many man hours as originally planned for repairs and maintenance, which only exacerbates the challenges at aviation depots. He said that “on a typical day in the Navy about 25 to 30 percent of our jets and our airplanes are in some kind of depot maintenance,” and overall just over half are unavailable for operations today.

“We can and we do put ready airplanes and ready aircrews forward” but “there’s no depth on the bench behind them if we had to surge forces,” the vice chief said. If a crisis broke out somewhere in the world, “we will be late to get there, if we want to have full-up equipment to get to the fight.”

On the Marine Corps side, Walters said the service requires 589 ready basic aircraft to train, workup for deployment and operate forward. The Marines have only 439 today, which is still 50 more than it had two years ago. He said readiness numbers are moving in the right direction – most pilots are now receiving between 12 and 14 hours of flight time a month, which is still short of the 16 to 18 minimum requirement but much better than at the height of the recent aviation readiness crisis. However, even reaching these ready basic aircraft and flight hour goals would put the Marines at the minimum requirement to stay current on their certifications, and still falls short of helping the pilots become proficient, or “the A-team” as Walters said. The assistant commandant said there was no correlation between the flight hours and fatal crashes that have occurred in recent years, but he said that an inability to build proficiency would hurt the service in a high-end fight.

  • RDF

    A really good article.

    • old guy

      Good article, bad judgment. Sequester was the best thing that hit in a long time. It really cut into the SWIPE program and, maybe did what had not been done in Navy since ADM Zumwalt………THINK!

  • Duane

    It’s really jaw dropping what the stupid sequester has done to our military readiness over the last 5 years … and then to top it off, Trump immediately orders a Federal civilian hiring freeze without exempting DOD hires, which amplifies the stupidity even more.

    A four year overhaul for the USS Albany? That’s incredible and ridiculous. The attack boat I served on was due for a refueling overhaul in late ’76, and we didn’t know until the last moment whether or not we were headed for what was expected to be a slow overhaul at Ingalls in MS, or a faster one in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The CO was hoping we wouldn’t get sent to Pascagoula, as the typical refueling overhaul at Ingalls in those days was about 24-30 months vs. about 16-18 months at PSNS … we got the nod to go to PSNS, and by the time we were done we set the all time record, to that date, for a SSN refueling overhaul of 13 months.

    Effectively the sequester is a massive demobilization, but the Congress won’t admit that’s what they did – and this was on both parties, as well as the Obama Administration. Trump and his GOP cronies better damn well get this figured out ASAP.

    • Secundius

      Not just the Sequester! But NO Defense Budget since 2009. Just before Leaving “Office” in January 2009, Then President George W Bush, Jr. submitted his 2009 Defense Budget of ~$541.1-Billion USD. From 2009 to 2017, the US Military has been Operating ON THAT BUDGET. Because “EVERY” Defense Budget Submitted by President Barrack Obama was “REJECTED” by the US Congress…

      • Duane

        We have defense budgets every year … the problem is, the budget is just a spreadsheet of priorities. Actual spending authorization comes only with a defense authorization bill from Congress being passed and signed by the President … or failing that, then a series of Continuing Resolutions that maintain current funding levels from the previous year, plus another short term supplemental to cover “new” money for new programs. It’s just a terrible way to run a business or the government.

        • Secundius

          Not Defense Appropriations Budgets, BUT Maintenance Budgets to keep Existing Military Equipment Running. Every Defense Appropriation Budget by then President Obama from 2010 to 2017 was REJECTED by the US Congress. Currently there is NO 2017 Defense Appropriations Budget, and the ~$60-Billion USD Promised by Donald Trump got REJECTED TOO…

          • Duane

            You’re confusing budgets with appropriations … there is no such thing in our system as a “”defense appropriation budget”. There are just “budgets”, which are an aspirational statement of what the Administration wants to spend, as submitted by the President to the Congress, and which may or may not be approved .. and then there are “appropriations”, which are the legal instrument by which DOD (and any other arm of the government) may spend money.

            There is nothing that was proposed as a budget by Trump to Congress … there was 2017 Defense Authorization Act which has not yet been enacted by Congress, and given that we’ve been in FY2017 since October 1st, the spending authority such as it exists came via a “Continuing Resolution” which runs through April, that superseded a very short term CR that was enacted just before Congress adjourned for the final election and ran out shortly after the election. The length of time in the current CR was enacted by the GOP controlled Congress based upon a request from the Trump transition team. The amount of funds in the CR is set by law, as all CRs are, as simply a continuation of existing authorization run rates as enacted in FY2016.

          • Secundius

            In 23 September 1950, it was known as the “Internal Security Act” (the “McCarran” Security Act). In 17 October 2006, it was known as the “National Defense Authorization Act” (the “Warner” Act). In 23 December 2011, it was known as the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act”. And “Somewhere” along the Line, US Congress “Shortened” it to the “Defense Appropriations Bill and/or Budget”. And Somewhere Along FUTURE Lines, the’ll “Shorten” it again…

  • b2

    All these dudes were on active duty and in leadership roles when they let readiness take a backseat, They could have, each of them, become “gadfly’s for readiness”, pushed back, brought it up to the press, or even retired as a protest, etc….
    Did they do anything other than document the problem maybe? Of course not. Is there a problem, do we have to fix it? You betcha. My problem is REALLY trusting THESE dudes to fix it….
    The Navy Marine Hornet pipeline is the most egregious. Worse than ship/sub upkeep periods not being met. This pipeline backlog has been exacerbated by the Navy’s obstinancy re having a real carrier overhead tanker aircraft aboard the all-Hornet airwing vice a self-licking ice cream cone. Only to be made worse with the F-35C looming…No end in sight. The Hornet backlog will just make it harder for the other Navy/USMC aircraft to get depot slots because America’s depots come first, right?
    Anyways….. the dudes asking for resources are responsible for this mess is all I’m saying.

  • omegatalon

    Get the money from NATO, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea; they want US protection then they’ve got to contribute to the cost.

    • Secundius

      Not that easy in the Japanese case. Article 9 of their Constitution LIMITS Defense Spending. And the US Congress and President of the United States Ratified their (the Japanese) Constitution in 3 May 1947. Probably as Similar Writing in the German Constitution too…

    • Foton

      Actually, Japan and South Korea do supply a lot of money. They also subsidize US bases so America doesn’t foot the entire bill.

  • old guy

    If ADM Moran can’t figure out how to cut production of the DD1000 class and the LCS and the long lead carrier $$$$$$, he has no business being VCNO. Tell him to talk to Stan Arthur and Bill Manganese.

  • John B

    But the last administration found a billion dollars for the Palestinians.

    • Secundius

      That was a National Security Interest ISSUE, NOT a Defense Related Issue…