Two House lawmakers on Friday introduced legislation that, if passed, would keep the long-standing independent report on Navy ships going in perpetuity.
House Armed Services readiness subcommittee chairman Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) – the vice ranking member of HASC and the ranking member of the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee – have written the Naval Readiness Act to preserve the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) reports.
If passed, the bill would “make permanent” the INSURV report, according to the text, and mandate both a classified report for lawmakers and an unclassified report for the public. The legislation would also require the Navy to brief lawmakers on the report’s findings.
The legislation would eliminate language passed in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that stipulated a report would no longer be mandated after Oct. 1, 2021.
The INSURV report, which evaluates ship readiness, is set to end this year without Congressional action, USNI News previously reported. Without passing new language, the INSURV report released in March – which concluded that ship readiness decreased over the last three years – would be the last one.
“INSURV gives us a snapshot of the material condition of our fleet, and a thorough one at that. It’s not the most popular program on the deck-plate; from the most junior enlisted to the most senior officer, it is a dreaded inspection, but a necessary one. It ensures that every submarine that submerges, surfaces; every warship that deploys, returns home,” Wittman said in a news release.
“As it stands, the law mandates that the Annual Report be unclassified. This waters down the report due to the sensitive nature of material readiness,” he continued. “H.R. 2609 would require results be broken into both an unclassified and classified report, the former releasable to the public and the latter briefed directly to Congress.”
Garamendi in a statement described the ending of the INSURV reports as an “unnecessary expiration” and argued the assessments are crucial for lawmakers tasked with supervising readiness.
“The INSURV program is critically important to ensure that Congress can continue to perform its oversight responsibilities of the Navy. This legislation removes the unnecessary expiration date for INSURV and ensures that the program will continue and a comprehensive report will be submitted to Congress annually,” Garamendi said. “As Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, I’ve seen firsthand how much this program is needed to monitor and report Naval readiness and sustainment.”
While the reports have long caused headaches for the Navy, as inspections leading to sub-par results have reflected poorly on the service and its ships, HASC lawmakers have told USNI News the assessments are essential for understanding the state of the service’s ships.
“I think that the transparency is really important, and I also think that the report should not be classified,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a former Navy nuclear-qualified surface warfare officer who is now the vice chair of HASC, told USNI News last month. “I think that the taxpayers need to understand how the Navy’s being maintained, how their tax dollars are being used and what the readiness of our Navy is for our national defense.”
Wittman in March said that HASC might need to weigh a stand-alone bill, as opposed to the common habit of rolling provisions into the annual defense policy legislation, to address the INSURV assessment because the law says a report is no longer mandated after Oct. 1 of this calendar year.
“I know the Navy has kind of waxed and waned on its excitement about INSURVs. I think they look at it and say, ‘well, it is divulging where our inadequacies are, and we don’t want our adversaries to know that.’ I understand that,” Wittman told USNI News at the time. “But it’s also critically important if they want Congress to be a partner with them in saying, ‘here are the places that we need to devote, whether it’s authorization to get things done or appropriations.’ I think that those things are critically important.”
INSURV was founded under Battle of Mobile winner Adm. David Farragut in 1868 and Congress codified it into law in 1882.