Retention of FRAM Destroyers May Be Impractical

LCD-80-76: Published: Jul 3, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 1980.

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A request was made to review the Navy's reasons for retiring Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) destroyers in the Naval Reserve Force. Specifically, GAO was requested to: (1) evaluate the material condition of the ships; (2) determine if these ships could be provided with mission essential equipment to enable them to perform a useful mission through 1985; and (3) determine if these ships could be overhauled and upgraded to extend their useful life at a reasonable cost. Also, the habitability aboard the ships was reviewed. The Senate and House Committees on Appropriations agreed in conference that the Navy should retain 12 of the 20 Naval Reserve Force destroyers programmed for decommissioning in fiscal year 1980, while a careful review of the practicality of retaining the remaining ships was conducted. As an interim measure the Committees provided funds and directed the overhaul of three destroyers in fiscal year 1979 and two in fiscal year 1980. The fiscal year 1980 appropriation for these overhauls amounted to $34 million. These overhauls have not yet begun. The House Committee on Appropriations, on several occasions, expressed concern about the Navy's decision to decommission the reserve destroyers in light of the fact that a severe shortage of escort ships existed through 1985. However, the Navy has recently reexamined force level objectives and has determined that the number of escort ships is sufficient to meet minimum escort force level objectives.

The method the Navy used to calculate minimum escort force levels was reviewed. The Navy contended that the need for major combatants is far greater than the need for less capable escorts; therefore, it believed that the limited funds available should be used to improve the major combatants' capability. GAO visited six FRAM destroyers and found that four appeared structurally sound. However, it should be noted that three of the four ships had recently been overhauled. Of the remaining ships, one appeared to be in fair condition and the other in poor material condition. Because of incomplete overhauls in the past, the FRAM destroyers would now require more extensive overhauls to operate an adddtional 3 to 5 years. Each overhaul is estimated to cost $24 million. Such an overhaul would require approximately 3 years to perform. This does not seem practical since the FRAM destroyers are being considered for extended operations only through 1985. It is believed that it would cost an estimated $115 million to upgrade the FRAM destroyers to be comparable to ships of the Knox or Perry class. Habitability aboard the FRAM destroyers does not meet Navy standards and lacks many conveniences found on newer ships. It is concluded, that the retention of the FRAM destroyers is not warranted or practical. Therefore, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations may want to reconsider their direction to the Navy to retain the ships and to proceed with the oveehaul of two FRAM destroyers at a cost of $34 million.

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