Navy Mine Warfare:

Budget Realignment Can Help Improve Countermine Capabilities

NSIAD-96-104: Published: Mar 13, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 1996.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Navy's efforts to improve its ability to conduct effective sea mine countermeasures (MCM) in two simultaneous major regional conflicts, focusing on the: (1) status of the Navy's research and development projects; (2) readiness of the Navy's present MCM equipment; and (3) match between the Navy's planned and on-hand MCM equipment and its MCM requirements.

GAO found that: (1) the Navy must develop different systems to cover deep- and shallow-water mine clearing operations, and its shallow-water MCM capability is limited; (2) the Navy has about 18 different projects to address its MCM weaknesses, but has not set clear priorities among its mine warfare programs; (3) a long-range plan could help the Navy maximize its limited financial resources and ensure ongoing funding of its priority systems; (4) the Navy has experienced delays in new systems' deployment and has identified shortfalls of at least $99.5 million in its shallow-water projects' development; (5) the Navy's 14 oceangoing MCM ships have long-standing equipment reliability problems and parts shortages, which hinders mission performance; (6) the Navy is resolving the ships' problems, but that will take several more years; (7) the Navy is spending about $1.5 billion for 12 coastal, non-oceangoing mine hunting ships that are no longer needed, and will spend an average of $3.6 million annually to operate and maintain each of them; (8) the Navy plans to acquire a new MCM command, control, and support ship early in the next century and, in the interim, convert an older helicopter carrier at a cost of $118 million, but other existing ships and onshore locations could fulfill mission requirements at a lower cost; and (9) the Navy could save millions of dollars by deactivating some of the coastal ships and the command support ship.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has developed a proposed concept of operations for mine countermeasures operations. In addition, the Navy has developed an architecture to support that concept to address the systems approach recommended by the report. This ongoing system approach to mine countermeasures will result in the assurance of proper orientation of all mine warfare components within the overall operational mine warfare concept of operations.

    Recommendation: To improve the Navy's readiness to conduct mine countermeasures, the Secretary of the Navy should: (1) develop a long-range plan to identify the gaps and limitations in the Navy's MCM capabilities; (2) establish priorities among the competing projects and programs, including those in research and development; and (3) sustain the development and procurement of the most critical systems. The Secretary of the Navy should direct particular attention to those systems required to improve the Navy's shallow-water MCM capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has initiated various actions that have significantly improved system reliability. In addition, improvements are being incorporated into newer ships as they are being built to improve their reliability and supportability, and a revised maintenance philosophy is also enhancing operational availability.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should improve the readiness of oceangoing MCM ships.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Navy acknowledged that cost savings could be achieved by reducing the planned inventory of coastal mine hunter ships. However, DOD management did not concur with this finding and is not reducing its inventory of coastal mine hunter ships.

    Recommendation: If the Navy finds that the funds necessary to sustain critical research and development and improve the readiness of oceangoing MCM ships are not available, the Navy should consider using funds that otherwise would be used to operate and maintain some of the coastal mine hunter ships.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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