Home » Aviation » CNO: Navy to Restore Readiness Levels by 2022 After Years of Insufficient Funding


CNO: Navy to Restore Readiness Levels by 2022 After Years of Insufficient Funding

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson holds an all-hands call aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) on May 16, 2017. The ship is moored in Changi, Singapore, in preparation for the International Maritime Defense Exhibition. US Navy photo.

CAPITOL HILL — The Navy anticipates returning to a ready state by 2022, top leadership said today, after being gutted by nearly a decade of continuing resolutions and budget caps.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that, after years of budget instability drained Navy readiness, improvements in the Fiscal Year 2017 supplemental budget and the 2018 budget that was recently approved are putting the Navy on the right path to recover.

“It took some time, a decade, to get into this. We anticipate getting out in about half the time. So I look to the early 2020s – ‘21 and ’22 – to start getting back to that level of readiness,” Richardson told the committee.

The CNO told USNI News after the hearing that different types of readiness – ships, aircraft, people, maintenance capacity and more – all had their own readiness recovery timelines but that they mostly spanned from 2021 to 2023 in terms of returning to a pre-sequestration readiness level.

“The big question when you talk about readiness is, ready for what? And so it’s ready to meet our obligations for response force around the globe, and then ready to meet our obligations in response to any contingency that might arise, and do so in a sustainable way that’s not eating our seed corn for future generations,” he said when asked what that level of readiness looked like.
“What we’re hoping to do is get this done inside the (five-year Future Years Defense Program).”

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who told the committee during the hearing that the FY 2019 budget request funds military construction and investments in shore facilities at about 80-percent of the need – which is much higher than recent budgets have done – told the senators that, in terms of regaining infrastructure readiness, “you’re probably looking at the same for readiness with the fleet, which is in the early ‘20s.”

Spencer told USNI News afterward that he considered an appropriate readiness level to be one where “we have the depth to surge” based on world events and threats, without putting at risk future regularly scheduled deployments of strike groups, ships and units.

The Honorable Richard V. Spencer, Secretary of the Navy, left, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller speak to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 19, 2018. Neller, Spencer, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson discussed the current health and future plans of the Department of the Navy. US Marine Corps photo.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller spoke about readiness a bit differently, with a keen eye on the role modernization plays in today’s readiness and tomorrow’s.

“Obviously we want to go as fast as we can. The aviation piece is going to take the longest. But I think more important, you’ve got readiness of the force as it exists now, but more importantly is, what do you want that force to look like in four or five years? And then we’ve got to meet today’s requirements,” Neller said to USNI News after the hearing.
“So that’s kind of the three-legged stool we’re sitting on: hey, we’ve got to meet today’s requirements; we’ve got to regain our readiness in the force we have now to get ready for what’s coming tomorrow; and then we’ve got to modernize the force for what we think might happen in five, six, ten years. Really that’s where I think our minds are: where we’re going to be in five, six, ten years. So I think if we continue to get sustained, consistent funding, I think the readiness of the force as it exists today, as we buy new and get better parts support, it’ll go faster. If we don’t, it won’t.”

Neller told the committee during the hearing that, as the Marine aviation community in particular looks to become more ready, “there are a number of things that we’re trying to do, the most important of which is buy new aircraft.”
“But there will be a legacy fleet, you’re always in a legacy fleet whether it’s ground equipment or air equipment. So first, buy new. Second, we funded readiness in this budget at a much much higher level than we ever have before, so we have money for parts and spares.”

Neller noted to the committee that the FY 2019 budget request also increases the flight hour program, or the number of hours each pilot can fly in training at home – though those flight hours can only take place if the Marines also buy sufficient spare parts and other enablers to keep planes ready to be flown.

Speaking about recent Marine aviation mishaps – including a fatal CH-53E crash in California and two non-fatal crashes on the first day of an exercise in Djibouti – Neller told lawmakers, “part of our recent readiness issues, and some of the things that have happened, we’ve got a whole, like five or six years of pilots who were, it used to be if they were a senior captain or a major they were at like 1,500 to 2,000 hours. Now they’ve got under a thousand because they haven’t been flying enough. And so we’re trying to remedy that. Just like CNO said, it didn’t happen overnight to get to this point, it’s not going to get fixed overnight. So steady, consistent funding is what’s going to allow suppliers out there to get us parts, because they’re going to believe the governments going to be there, that they can keep their workforce, they can order the stuff that they need to build the parts, and then we can get it faster and get more airplanes and other equipment ready.”

The Marine Corps and Navy have in the past couple budget requests put a renewed focus on spare parts and logistics to increase aviation readiness, and some progress has been made in the number of flight hours pilots are seeing, though a high percentage of pilots are still receiving many hours a month fewer than they should be flying. Though spare parts cannot be manufactured and delivered any faster, Spencer said the Navy is looking at some other ways to boost aircraft readiness and availability for pilots.

Explaining the Depot Readiness Initiative pilot program, the secretary said, “what we were finding out was, in the case of a legacy plane, it goes up into depot, it’s a thousand man-hours to take it apart and do the depot level maintenance – well back at the squadron the calendar maintenance clock was still running, so now the plane comes back to the squadron and you’ve got to spend another 500 hours taking things apart and putting things back on to make sure that it’s brought up to certification. Why not do that up at the depot-level maintenance?”

Spencer said one hurdle had been that depot-level maintenance and squadron-level maintenance were funded from different pots of money, but he said the pilot program is helping the Navy work through any barriers so that planes can come back from the depots ready to be put to use by pilots eager for more flight hours.

  • Jon Tessler

    this is of course provided that congress continues to fully fund the military every year, so that things don’t have to be put off, like the last decade of CR’s has required the Navy and other branches to do.

    • Duane

      Yup … every Congress is different. It seems likely there will be another change in control after this November. There is no certainty or continuity in how defense spending is doled out.

      • Jon Tessler

        Never will be either lol

    • NavySubNuke

      Exactly – and of course Adam Smith (D-Wash) was just warning Mattis last week to enjoy the “good” funding of this year because once the dems retake congress it will be gone.
      Just what we need —- more years of a gutted military spending to help fund the dems vote buying programs. I mean because of the national debt of course, it just happens that the only funding cuts can come from Defense and not from the dems sacred cows in the budgets.
      I can’t post the link but google “Congressman to Mattis: Prepare for ‘a lean future’ ” if you want to read more.
      The same Rep apparently thinks that 275*15 or 20 = ~1550 because he told Mattis “I just want to put it on the record, I don’t think we need to spend $1.2 trillion modernizing our nuclear weapons,” he said. “China has 275 nuclear weapons. We have 15, 20 times as many.”

      • Jon Tessler

        Part of the problem “unfortunately” IS the national debt. When congress cuts taxes to allow people to “have more money in their paychecks”, they never realize the end result is less money flowing into Government coffers, which means cutting spending. Of course if we the people could get congress to cut the pork they throw into every defense budget every year(do we really need to keep tank lines producing tanks we will never need?) This problem will never go away.

        DOD asks for what they want and need every year, and congress then adds a bunch of stuff they never wanted in the first place.

        • NavySubNuke

          The pork in the defense budget is a miniscule part of the problem — it is only a fraction of the money lost to medicaid and earned income tax credit fraud — two of the three most abused programs with medicare taking the third spot.
          If we really want to get serious about the national debt those are the kinds of things we need to tackle – along with medicare itself – everything else is just window dressing.
          We could cut DoD’s budget to 0 and the debt would still grow thanks to all of our out of control entitlement spending.

          • Jon Tessler

            unfortunately what you call “entitlement spending” is actually a benefit that working Americans pay into in the form of a tax every payday. Social security and Medicare add exactly ZERO dollars to the debt. In fact before congress(both republicans and democrats) changed the law which allowed them to borrow against the interest that Social Security and Medicare made off the treasury bonds that back them, neither program faced any solvency problems.

            what ACTUALLY increases the debt, is things like Bushes unfunded wars, and tax cuts with no corresponding spending cuts in things like defense, and foreign aid.

          • Ctrot

            The total cost of all wars the US has been involved in since 09/11/2001 is matched by US spending on means tested welfare programs about every 2 years.

          • NavySubNuke

            On social security you are correct for now. But soon enough we will be faced with the idea of cutting benefits, increasing premiums, or adding debt. Personally I think we should cut benefits since it will mostly effect the same baby boomers who selfishly emptied the treasury to try to add a little happiness to their otherwise purposeless and miserable lives but we will see.
            On medicare you aren’t even close to correct. Medicare is in no way completely funded by contributions – especially add ons like Medicare part D. That is what is truly going to break the back of the budget.
            Nice try though – you almost sounded competent.

          • Jon Tessler

            So if you cut benefits NOW…you aren’t hurting baby boomers because the vast majority of them are not receiving benefits currently. Also Social security Still has a multi billion dollar surplus for the next 20 or so years.

            What you actually do, is force congress to repay the interest they “borrowed” and then the program will be solvents for the next generation.

            If you want to “privatize” it at some point in the future, you set up an end date for current benefits, then a start date for NEW workers to decide how their money is used.

          • NavySubNuke

            I didn’t say now — I said in a few years when the surplus runs out.
            BTW – you should actually read up on how the government “borrowed” money from social security. Like your beliefs on medicare this is also totally incorrect.
            You really should try doing some actual research – it will keep your from just repeating incorrect talking points.

          • Jon Tessler

            So which part is incorrect? Social security is backed by US Treasury Bonds, which yield interest payments that increase the solvency of the “program”. because these are “publically traded bonds” the law allows congress to “borrow”(take) the interest earned to pay for other programs.

            But yes keep saying I am wrong without sharing any type of factual information to prove me as such.

          • NavySubNuke

            The myth that congress “stole” the interest money Social Security made by buying bonds really is one of my favorites. I can see why it appeals to small minded folks who believe anything their betters tell them even if it has no bearing in truth.
            Nice try though but do feel free to find any actual reliable source to educate yourself – don’t expect hand outs from me. I give enough handouts to folks like you with every paycheck.

          • Jon Tessler

            The myth that you would actually respond with facts proves you have no idea what you are actually talking about.

            Get back to me when you are actually going to have factual evidence to dispute my cmments as opposed to simply writing drivel, and thinking you are some how “superior”

          • NavySubNuke

            If you were smarter you would realize this board doesn’t allow links. Nice try though.
            Just imagining that Medicare and Medicare part D fully fund themselves and don’t need any tax dollars and that congress keeps stealing all the interest income from social security.
            None of it is true and even 30 seconds of using google to review reputable sources would teach you that – but i realize people like you prefer to not know how the real world works.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    So translation: Obama…

    • Duane

      Sequestration was a bipartisan Congressional action. Presidents don’t enact laws or appropriate funds.

      • Mr. Speaker

        Correct. Facts matter.

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        No, but they wield great influence…

        • Duane

          Actually, generally no. Virtually every White House budget proposal for the last 30 years was immediately declared DOA by Congress.

    • Cato

      Or perhaps W, wasting a trillion dollars on a losing war, or the so-called Freedom Caucus, dedicated to assuring that billionaires don’t pay their fair share of the cost of freedom (in either lives or money).

  • Ed L

    I go back in a heartbeat. at 64, i might not be able to run as fast to GQ as I use to but I would be willing

  • Michael Kersey

    Insufficent funding?? USN probably get more money than the next fifteen navies combined. Why don’t they stick to defending the country rather than defending an empire in rapid decline. It’s appropriate that the photo of the CNO is aboard the LCS-4(lLittle Crappy Ship)

    • D. Jones

      The fearsome LCS is practically holding the world’s enemies at bay by itself!

    • Mr. Speaker

      Well duh, the next 15 Navy’s don’t have nearly as many assets as the U.S. does.

      • Michael Kersey

        Well duh, actually the Chinese Navy has more assets unless you’re going by tonnage and counting the large, noisy, tinderbox targets called aircraft carriers that never, ever go in “harm’s way” since 1945 and require a flotilla of ships/subs for protection but are useful for blasting third world defenseless peasants and a lowly ranked but future Senator McCain innocently and single handedly put the Forrestal out of action for a year without even going airborne. And when you factor in geography, China out numbers us about five to one. And of course, the Chinese would have their entire PLAF and PLA at their back.
        Ditto Russia.
        But of course, if China or Russia attack Hawaii, advantage ours.

        • Mr. Speaker

          LOL!!
          McCain single handedly putting Forrestal OOC
          LOL!!
          Obviously you are an avid consumer of fake news and facts trouble you so the rest of your post is suspect and at best speculative.

  • Ed L

    Get rid of the political correctness.

  • b2

    Why does an article about US Navy “Fleet” readiness (350 ship Navy- more sailors, etc.) have to devolve into a discussion about the niche Marine Corps air piece and the atrocious safety record all these leaders of today accepted as normal back when they were O-6 and O-10s the past 5-6 years? Spin. Call me cynical.

    • Jon Tessler

      Because aviation readiness of the Marine Corps is part of the overall readiness of the Navy.

  • Tony4

    Readiness was under threat before sequestration. The Navy had a choice: tell the Joint Chiefs it could not maintain the OPTEMPO it had been execuring post 9/11 forever, or break the force. Leadership decided to break the force. They should have used sequestration as an excuse to reduce OPTEMPO, rather than using it as an excuse.