Military Readiness: Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Navy's Optimized Fleet Response Plan

GAO-16-466R Published: May 02, 2016. Publicly Released: May 02, 2016.
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What GAO Found

GAO found that the majority of maintenance availabilities—or scheduled periods of ship maintenance and modernization—that were completed from fiscal years 2011 to 2014, prior to the implementation of OFRP, took more time than scheduled, thereby reducing the time during which ships were available for training and operations. Additionally, the Navy continues to experience delays on maintenance begun under the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).

In November 2014 the Navy began a multi-year process of implementing the OFRP, with the goal of maximizing ship employability while ensuring adequate time for maintenance and training with continuity in ship leadership and carrier strike group assignments, and restoring operational tempo and personnel tempo rates to acceptable levels. GAO found that with only a portion of the fleet having entered an optimized cycle, it is too early to assess the OFRP’s effectiveness.

Public and private shipyards involved in Navy ship maintenance face a number of challenges in completing maintenance on time, including unanticipated work requirements, workforce inexperience, and workload fluctuations. GAO found that the Navy has been struggling to accurately define ship maintenance requirements, a step that is crucial to completing maintenance on time. Some private shipyard officials say that they may also face challenges as the Navy implements a new contracting strategy.GAO has separate work underway to assess the new contracting strategy. Navy officials are aware of the challenges faced by both the public and the private shipyards in completing maintenance on time. Navy officials stated that they are continuing to examine and refine OFRP schedules and have taken steps to address the risks, to include studying options for mitigating workload fluctuations at the ports, hiring additional shipyard workers, and improving their maintenance planning process. Navy officials stated, however, that it will take time for these changes to bring about a positive effect.

Navy and industry officials generally agree that installation and personnel security protocols, procedures, and policies do not impact the private shipyards’ ability to complete their work on time. GAO found that there have been instances when private shipyard employees experienced delays in accessing the Navy’s shipyards; however, officials stated that the situation has improved and is no longer a major issue.

Why GAO Did This Study

To meet heavy operational demands over the past decade, the Navy has increased ship deployment lengths and has reduced or deferred ship maintenance. These decisions have reduced the predictability of ship deployments for sailors and for the industrial base that supports ship repair and maintenance. They have also resulted in declining ship conditions across the fleet, and have increased the amount of time that ships require to complete maintenance in the shipyards. Increased maintenance periods, in turn, compress the time during which ships are available for training and operations, referred to as employability. To address these issues and provide a more sustainable schedule for Navy ships, the Navy began implementing the Optimized Fleet Response Plan in November 2014.

House Report 114-102 included a provision that GAO review matters related to the Navy Optimized Fleet Response Plan. This report describes: (1) the extent of maintenance overruns and their impact on the Navy; (2) the Navy’s goals and progress in implementing the OFRP; and (3) challenges faced by public and private shipyards supporting the implementation of the OFRP. House Report 114-102 also included a provision that GAO review matters related to the Navy’s security procedures at shipyards. This report also describes Navy and industry officials’ perspectives on the impact that Navy installation and personnel security protocols, procedures, and policies have on the ability of contractor personnel to support Navy sustainment.

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