Navy Overhaul Policy--A Costly Means of Insuring Readiness for Support Ships

LCD-78-434: Published: Dec 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 27, 1978.

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The Navy maintains its fleet of 460 support vessels at an annual cost of $3 billion. This cost troubles Congress, which directed the Secretary of Defense to relate readiness more directly to the maintenance effort.

The Navy has adopted the commercial aircraft maintenance concept of performing only the tasks necessary to retain design levels of safety and reliability. For tankers and cargo vessels, lower maintenance costs may be achieved in this manner, while sustaining readiness levels. Although Navy support ships operated much less than their civilian counterparts, Navy craft cost much more to maintain. Part of the disparity is due to the combat environment in which Navy ships operate, with numerous battle systems, large crews, and armaments, but some of the disparity is also related to the Navy policy of regular overhaul of ships and equipment for military readiness. The commercial shipping "prudent-risk" maintenance schedule may have applications for Navy support craft. The Navy has not adequately analyzed its readiness requirements in relation to maintenance expenditures, nor developed an adequate system for quantifying readiness. Navy maintenance policy has evolved without systematically considering the probability of equipment damage or failure, related maintenance consequences, the possible effect on ship missions and readiness levels, or the extensive facilities necessary for repairs between overhauls.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Navy should reassess its regular overhaul of amphibious and auxiliary ships with an eye on adopting a potentially less costly but equally effective philosophy. The Navy should also evaluate the role of support ships in the fleet structure and consider supplementing them with commercial vessels, define the mix and requirements of mission-essential equipment, and assess the costs of various levels of reliability. The Navy should also make engineering analyses of the optimum frequency and level of repair of key ship systems and equipment, determine the impact of deferred maintenance on readiness, and increase the use of various monitoring techniques.

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