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December 13, 2005: 

The Honorable Roscoe G. Bartlett: 
Chairman, Subcommittee on Projection Forces: 
Committee on Armed Services: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Issues Related to Navy Battleships: 

Dear Mr. Chairman: 

Until World War II U.S. Navy battleships provided an impressive show of 
force and outgunned and outmaneuvered their ocean-going enemies. From 
World War II until the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Navy's Iowa class 
battleships provided Naval Surface Fire Support capabilities with their 
16-inch guns. Naval Surface Fire Support, together with land-and air- 
based components, makes up the joint "fires triad", which is used to 
support Marine Corps amphibious assault operations. The last Iowa class 
battleship was decommissioned in 1992. In 1996, congressional 
authorizers became concerned that the Navy would not be able to produce 
a replacement Naval Surface Fire Support capability comparable to the 
battleships until well into the twenty-first century and directed the 
Secretary of the Navy to restore at least two Iowa class battleships to 
the naval vessel registry until the Secretary of the Navy certified 
that a capability had been developed equal to or greater than that 
provided by the battleships.[Footnote 1] Two Iowa class battleships-- 
the U.S.S. Wisconsin and the U.S.S. Iowa--remain on the naval vessel 
registry in inactive status. Both ships are considered "in reserve", 
meaning they are being retained for reactivation in case of full 
mobilization or future need. 

Since 1995 we have reported several times on the status of battleships 
and their role in meeting future Naval Surface Fire Support 
requirements.[Footnote 2] In November 2004, we reported that the Navy 
and Marine Corps had only recently begun the process to establish 
validated Naval Surface Fire Support requirements that address the 
overall capabilities needed, that the cost and schedule for 
reactivating and modernizing two Iowa class battleships had not been 
fully developed, and that fielding of a replacement Naval Surface Fire 
Support capability has been delayed.[Footnote 3] 

An issue confronting Congress in finalizing the National Defense 
Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2006 is whether or not to allow the 
two remaining battleships to be removed from the naval registry and be 
donated. Decision makers have at least three alternatives to removing 
the two remaining battleships from the naval vessel registry. The Navy 
could (1) sustain the battleships in inactive status; (2) reactivate 
the battleships to their original warfighting capabilities, with some 
improvements to bring them up to current ship standards for 
habitability and interoperability; or (3) modernize the battleships, 
their fire support capabilities, and other supporting capabilities 
significantly beyond their original capabilities. 

You requested that we review requirements for fire support and whether 
or not these requirements could be met with Navy battleships. We agreed 
to focus our work on two objectives. Specifically, we identified (1) 
mission requirements established by the Department of Defense (DOD) for 
fire support to expeditionary operations and how DOD officials view 
these needs and the ability of the battleships and current and planned 
capabilities to meet these requirements, and (2) cost factors that 
should be considered in evaluating whether to sustain, reactivate, 
modernize or delist the battleships. On November 10, 2005, we provided 
you with a briefing on our observations regarding battleships and fire 
support issues. This letter summarizes our observations and transmits 
the briefing slides as requested. (See enclosure I.) 

To determine DOD requirements for fire support for expeditionary 
operations in the littorals, we reviewed DOD requirements documents and 
identified current and planned capabilities. We also held discussions 
with officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint 
Staff, Chief, Naval Operations, Marine Corps Combat Development 
Command, the Navy's Inactive Ships Management Office, and the U.S. 
Joint Forces Command to obtain their views on existing and planned 
joint fires capabilities, the adequacy of these plans, and the ability 
of battleships to perform the fire support mission. In addition, we 
obtained combatant command views on the sufficiency of DOD fire support 
capabilities to carry out operational plans from officials at the U.S. 
Central Command and the U.S. Pacific Command. We also toured the 
battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin to observe its current condition. While on 
board, we discussed the ship's maintenance schedule, inspection 
procedures, annual funding, and cost factors for options to sustain, 
reactivate, and modernize the battleships. We also discussed these 
issues with Navy officials and determined whether they have completed 
any recent analysis on the cost of reactivating or modernizing the 
battleships. We did not assess the cost-effectiveness of options to 
reactivate or upgrade battleships because the Navy has not determined 
what enhancements would be required for these options or developed cost 
estimates. We performed our work from July through October 2005 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


DOD is in the process of reviewing a draft joint fires requirements 
document for expeditionary operations in the littorals[Footnote 4] 
which was developed primarily by the Marine Corps in May 2005. The 
draft requirements document shows that planned capabilities will help 
to mitigate existing gaps in joint fires capabilities if programs such 
as the advanced gun system for the new DD(X) destroyer and the extended-
range munitions for existing DDG destroyers are implemented as 
currently planned. However, current and planned DOD capabilities for 
joint fires will not fully meet DOD's needs because they will not 
provide sufficient capabilities such as engaging moving targets in 
restricted weather conditions or providing a sufficient quantity of 
fires over a short period of time. DOD officials believe that although 
some gaps in joint fires capabilities exist now and will continue to 
exist in the future, the risk associated with these gaps is acceptable 
and will not significantly affect the combatant commanders' ability to 
execute war plans. Moreover, they do not believe that keeping or 
modernizing battleships would be cost effective nor would the 
modernized battleships significantly reduce the risk in comparison with 
other planned capabilities that DOD is funding. 

While the Navy maintains annual costs to sustain these battleships, the 
Navy has not developed any specific cost estimates for reactivating 
battleships to their original warfighting capabilities or for 
modernizing them beyond these capabilities. Numerous cost factors would 
have to be considered to assess such options including the cost of 
personnel to operate the ship, materials and labor to improve operating 
systems and habitability, and restoration or improvement of munitions 
and their delivery systems. Moreover, the capabilities and costs of 
reactivating or upgrading battleships would need to be compared to 
those of other ongoing DOD programs to enhance fire support 
capabilities such as the DD(X) program. Our prior work has shown that 
decisions on acquisition alternatives should be based on analyses of 
total ownership costs during a system's lifecycle, which include the 
costs to research, develop, acquire, own, and operate systems.[Footnote 

DOD is reviewing joint requirements for fire support for expeditionary 
operations in the littorals: 

Since May 2005 when the Marine Corps Combat Development Command 
submitted a draft requirements document for Joint Staff review, Naval 
Surface Fire Support requirements have become part of joint fires 
requirements and are currently being reviewed by DOD.[Footnote 6] Joint 
fires include a system of weapons delivered from two or more 
components--aircraft, ships/submarines, and ground assets--toward a 
common objective. In order to comply with DOD's new Joint Capabilities 
Integration and Development System process, the Joint Staff directed 
the Marine Corps to submit the draft Initial Capabilities Document to 
determine joint fires requirements in support of expeditionary 
operations in coastal areas. The Initial Capabilities Document 
identified four gaps in existing and planned joint fires capabilities: 
(1) integrated joint command and control are not well-defined, (2) 
existing and future acquisition systems do not provide sufficient 
capability to engage moving targets under restricted weather 
conditions,.(3) existing and future acquisition systems do not provide 
sufficient capability to limit collateral damage, and (4) existing and 
planned systems do not deliver a sufficient volume of fires on multiple 
targets simultaneously or over a short period of time. The draft 
document is in the process of being reviewed by subject matter experts 
within DOD. Prior to the development of this joint requirements 
document, the Marine Corps had established requirements in a document 
titled "Naval Surface Fire Support Requirements for Expeditionary 
Maneuver Warfare" in March 2002. This document established specific 
near-term, mid-term and far-term requirements for factors such as 
system response time, accuracy and precision, and range. 

New capabilities being developed will enhance DOD's joint fires 
capabilities for expeditionary warfare, but some gaps will remain: 

Current capabilities to provide joint fires in support of expeditionary 
operations in the littorals include the 5-inch 54-or 62-caliber guns 
for the DDG destroyers and cruisers with 5-inch 54-caliber guns. The 
two battleships in inactive reserve, if reactivated, would provide 16- 
inch 50-caliber guns. Other joint fires capabilities include tactical 
aviation, surface-to-surface rocket systems, and Army and Marine Corps 
105 millimeter and 155 millimeter artillery. Planned capabilities such 
as weapons systems and/or ships currently under development are 
expected to largely meet near-and mid-term requirements and partially 
mitigate multiple capabilities gaps if implemented as planned. Planned 
capabilities include the DD(X) destroyers with an advanced gun system 
firing long range land attack projectiles. Another planned capability 
is extended-range guided munitions for existing DDG destroyers. The DDG 
with extended-range guided munitions largely meets near-and mid-term 
Naval Surface Fire Support requirements, while the DD(X) meets mid-term 
requirements and may meet far-term requirements depending on the 
ultimate range of the projectiles. However, neither of these 
capabilities may be available until early next decade. As we have 
reported, both the DD(X) and extended-range guided munitions programs 
have experienced some technical and funding challenges.[Footnote 7] In 
addition, neither current nor planned Naval Surface Fire Support 
capabilities fully mitigate joint fires gaps identified in the Initial 
Capabilities Document such as the ability to engage moving targets in 
restricted weather conditions and the ability to provide a sufficient 
quantity of fires over a short period of time. However, the DD(X) with 
the advanced gun system could mitigate those gaps and the DDG firing 
extended-range guided munitions somewhat addresses them. Land-and air- 
based systems, such as long-range bombers, may also help to mitigate 
these gaps. 

DOD officials believe risk associated with current and planned 
capabilities is acceptable if programs are implemented as planned: 

DOD officials believe the level of risk associated with current fire 
support capabilities is acceptable given that other joint capabilities 
such as tactical aviation and long-range bombers could also contribute 
to providing joint fires to support theater commanders' war plans. For 
example, combatant command representatives told us they would be able 
to execute war plans with acceptable risk using current fires support 
capabilities. Also, DOD officials from the joint staff, combatant 
commands, Navy, and Marine Corps do not believe that reactivating 
battleships would be cost effective nor would the modernized 
battleships significantly reduce those risks or provide the best means 
to meet long-term joint fires capability requirements. Navy officials 
stated that the battleships would be expensive to operate, have 
munitions that lack accuracy, and are manpower intensive. Both Navy and 
Marine Corps officials stated that planned capabilities, including the 
DD(X) destroyers with the advanced gun system firing long-range land 
attack projectiles and extended-range guided munitions for existing 
DDGs, will help to mitigate existing joint fires gaps if executed as 
planned. However, Marine Corps officials support purchasing a larger 
number of DD(X) ships than are included in current Navy plans. 

Analysis of battleship alternatives would need to consider many types 
of costs: 

Decision makers have at least three alternatives to removing the two 
remaining battleships from the naval vessel registry. The Navy could 
(1) sustain the battleships in inactive status; (2) reactivate the 
battleships to their original warfighting capabilities, with some 
improvements to bring them up to current ship standards for 
habitability and interoperability; or (3) modernize the battleships, 
their fire support capabilities, and other supporting capabilities 
significantly beyond their original capabilities. In addition to 
weighing the military capabilities associated with these alternatives, 
numerous cost factors would need to be considered for each option 
including the extent to which DOD would incur costs for: 

* mechanical and/or technological systems such as the propulsion system 
or communications systems; 

* weapons and munitions such as fire control systems and ordnance and 
propellant safety; and: 

* personnel to operate the battleships (e.g., military personnel or 
contractor support), and training required to operate the various types 
of systems. 

However, the capabilities and costs associated with these options would 
also need to be weighed and compared to those of DOD's other programs 
to enhance fire support capabilities, such as the DD(X) program with 
the advanced gun system and extended-range guided munitions for 
existing DDGs. Moreover, our past work has shown that an effective 
comparison of costs should focus on total ownership costs during a 
system's lifecycle. Total ownership costs include estimated operations 
and support cost in addition to research, development and procurement 
costs. The cost of a ship's crew is generally the single largest 
expense incurred over a ship's lifecycle.[Footnote 8] 

Cost factors involved in sustaining the battleships in inactive ship 
status include the cost of contractor support to maintain the ships for 
such things as preservation painting, interior dehumidification, and 
maintaining the fire and flood alarm systems. The Navy currently incurs 
expenses of about $1.5 million per year to sustain both battleships in 
inactive status. Of this amount, about $1 million covers additional 
annual preservation maintenance and ongoing paint preservation work on 
the Wisconsin. The ships are inspected twice a year to document 
electrical, safety, hull and general ship conditions. In addition, the 
deck of the Iowa must be repaired to ensure its safety. According to 
Navy officials, this would cost about $1.6 million spread over two 
fiscal years. 

Costs to reactivate the battleships to their original warfighting 
capabilities with some enhancements for habitability and 
interoperability would include costs to bring the battleships up to 
current ship standards. For example, the Navy would have to replace the 
analog communications system with digital systems so that they will be 
interoperable with other ships; improve the propulsion system, and 
update chemical and biological protection capabilities, and improve 
personnel habitability with additions such as sit-up berthing and 
accommodations for women at sea. Moreover, Navy officials estimate they 
would need about 1,500 military personnel to operate a reactivated 
battleship. The fire control system would need to be improved and the 
propellant powder bags for the 16-inch guns, stored off the ships, 
would need to be replaced due to age and deterioration. In addition, 
the damaged number two gun turret on the Iowa would need to be 

Cost factors that would need to be considered to modernize and 
reactivate the battleships beyond their original warfighting 
capabilities could include replacing the propulsion system with a gas 
turbine system and developing guided munitions that could be launched 
from the battleships. Ultimately, the costs and time to modernize and 
reactivate the battleships would depend upon the specific missions and 
capabilities desired. However, in addition to the cost of more modern 
munitions, numerous enhancements to upgrade communications, the ship's 
deck, mechanics, chemical biological protection capabilities, living 
quarters, and other systems would also be required. 

Agency Comments: 

We received technical comments from DOD which we incorporated as 

If you or your staff has any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-4402 or Contact information 
for our offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs can be 
found on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report 
were Richard Payne, Susan Ditto, David Marroni, Brian Mateja, Donna 
Rogers, and Malvern Saavedra. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Janet A. St. Laurent: 
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 


[See PDF for images] 

[End of slide presentation] 

[End of section] 


[1] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, Pub. L. 
No. 104-106, Sec. 1011, H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 104-450, at 835 (1996). 

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Evaluation of 
the Navy's 1999 Naval Surface Fire Support Assessment, GAO/NSIAD-99-225 
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 14, 1999); FORCE STRUCTURE: Navy Is Complying 
with Battleship Readiness Requirements, GAO/NSIAD-99-62 (Washington, 
D.C.: Apr. 12, 1999); DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Naval Surface Fire Support 
Program Plans and Costs, GAO/NSIAD-99-91 (Washington, D.C.: June 11, 
1999); PROGRAM STATUS: Naval Surface Fire Support, GAO/NSIAD-97-179R 
(Washington, D.C.: Aug. 6, 1997). 

[3] U.S. Government Accountability Office, Information on Options for 
Naval Surface Fire Support, 

GAO-05-39R (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 9, 2004). 

[4] The littoral includes an area extending from a transition point 
from open ocean, e.g., the sea base, to more constrictive and shallower 
waters, to the shore, and onward to those inland areas that can be 
attacked, supported and defended from the sea. 

[5] U.S. Government Accountability Office, Best Practices: Setting 
Requirements Differently Could Reduce Weapon Systems' Total Ownership 
Costs, GAO-03-57 (Washington, D.C. Feb. 11, 2003). 

[6] Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Initial Capabilities 
Document for Joint Fires in Support of Expeditionary Operations in the 
Littorals, May 31, 2005. 

[7] U.S. Government Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: 
Progress and Challenges Facing the DD(X) Surface Combatant Program, GAO-
05-924T (Washington, D.C.: July 19, 2005; U.S. Government 
Accountability Office, DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Assessments of Selected 
Major Weapon Programs, GAO-05-301 (Washington, D.C.: March 31, 2005). 

[8] U.S. Government Accountability Office, MILITARY PERSONNEL: Navy 
Actions Needed to Optimize Ship Crew Size and Reduce Total Ownership 
Costs, GAO-03-520 (Washington, D.C.: June 9, 2003). 

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