Ready Reserve Force:

Ship Readiness Has Improved, but Other Concerns Remain

NSIAD-95-24: Published: Nov 8, 1994. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 1994.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) program, focusing on: (1) the readiness of RRF ships to respond to large-scale contingencies; (2) the program changes that were implemented to improve ship readiness and address problems encountered during the Persian Gulf War; (3) whether the readiness level of the highest-priority ships exceeds other strategic mobility components; and (4) the effect of further decreases in the number of available U.S. merchant mariners on RRF crew availability.

GAO found that: (1) as a result of the problems it encountered during the Persian Gulf War, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) identified and corrected equipment deficiencies, instituted comprehensive specifications for the deactivation and preservation of RRF ships, strengthened ship manager controls, developed automated information systems for tracking maintenance repairs, and implemented new strategies for maintaining high-priority ships; (2) RRF ships will be able to meet their delivery schedules and sail within specified time frames as a result of maintenance and repairs performed during and after the Persian Gulf War; (3) MARAD ability to activate ships within 4 or 5 days exceeds the readiness level of other strategic mobility components; (4) the Army's ability to transfer unit equipment from key Army installations to seaports is constrained by deteriorated facilities; (5) although the Army plans to increase its capability to activate ships within 4 or 5 days, most projects will not be completed by 1999; (6) the Department of Defense has not justified maintaining 63 ships in a high state of readiness; (7) although the reduced number of available mariners should not immediately affect MARAD ability to crew RRF ships, its future ability to crew RRF ships is questionable; and (8) none of the proposed alternatives to resolve this situation have been adopted.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to DOD, the RRF readiness requirements are reviewed annually by the Joint Staff (J-4) and U.S. Transportation Command, in coordination with the Maritime Administrator. RRF readiness levels were also examined as part of the mobility requirements study Bottom-Up Review update.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander in Chief, Transportation Command, to annually review RRF ship readiness requirements provided to MarAd and ensure that they are in line with current military deployment capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT accepted the GAO recommendation to provide to the Congress an annual assessment of the availability of experienced U.S. civilian mariners, and, if the number of qualified mariners is insufficient, DOT will propose to Congress a specific crewing alternative. DOT reported that it will include the assessment in its "Annual Report of the Maritime Administration," which is submitted to Congress April 1 each year in accordance with section 208 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1936, as amended.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Maritime Administrator to annually assess whether an adequate number of experienced U.S. merchant mariners would be available to crew RRF ships within DOD specified time frames. If these assessments indicate that the number of qualified mariners may not be sufficient, the Secretary should propose a specific merchant marine crewing alternative to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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