y SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR. - Breaking Defense - October 31, 2017
WASHINGTON: A massive maintenance backlog has idled 15 nuclear-powered attack submarines for a total of 177 months, and the Navy’s plan to mitigate the problem is jeopardized by budget gridlock, two House Armed Services Committee staffers told Breaking Defense.
That is almost 15 submarine-years, the equivalent of taking a boat from the 2018 budget and not adding it back until 2033.
While only Congress can pass a budget and lift caps on spending, the staffers said, part of the solution is in the Navy’s hands: outsource more work to private-sector shipyards, something the Navy does not like to do.
...The most famous case is the USS Boise, which was scheduled to start an overhaul at the government-run Norfolk Naval Shipyard in September 2016 and is still waiting. The government finally gave up and awarded a $385.6 million contract for the work to privately run Newport News Shipbuilding – just across the James River – this month. All told, the Navy says the Boise will be out of service for 31 months longer than originally planned.
But Boise isn’t the only one. Figures provided to us by HASC show 14 other submarines are affected, with projected delays ranging from two months... to 21...
The Navy does have a plan to mitigate the problem, but it can’t get rid of it. If the Navy were able to move money, reshuffle schedules, extend certifications, and take other steps, then it would get many of the subs into maintenance sooner and slash time lost across the fleet to 81 months.
That’s still almost seven years that submarines could be at sea but aren’t... Losing seven years of submarine time is the equivalent of taking a new boat from the 2018 budget and only adding it back in 2025...
The Navy is telling Congress that private yards cost more and there’s no need to outsource any more subs after the Boise, but the HASC staffers are skeptical. Since Boise is getting a complete engineering overhaul, one staffer told me, that shows that “the most complex engineering event in a submarine’s life…can be outsourced.” There’s a “strategic window of about three to five years” to take advantage of the private yards being available, the staffer said, so why not take it?