Navy Ship Maintenance: Actions Needed to Monitor and Address the Performance of Intermediate Maintenance Periods

GAO-22-104510 Published: Feb 08, 2022. Publicly Released: Feb 08, 2022.
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Fast Facts

High-priority planned ship and submarine maintenance happens pier-side in homeports, allowing the Navy to interrupt repairs and get ships underway quickly if needed.

These "intermediate maintenance periods" are critical to fleet readiness, but the Navy generally doesn't collect or analyze sufficient data to monitor or improve them.

For example, while the Navy had some FY 2015-2020 data on submarine maintenance periods—showing 2,525 days of delays—it didn't have other useful data for submarine, surface ship, or aircraft carrier maintenance periods.

Our recommendations are to help the Navy improve its oversight and address other challenges.

Personnel working on a ship

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Navy collected, but did not analyze, limited data on the performance of intermediate maintenance periods—work often occurring while a ship is pier-side and capable of getting underway within 96 hours. Based on these data, GAO found that the Navy completed 191 of 414 (46 percent) submarine intermediate maintenance periods late from fiscal years 2015 through 2020, totaling 2,525 days of maintenance delay. The Navy did not collect several categories of data for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers, including the planned and actual maintenance period costs. Without establishing and implementing procedures to collect and analyze these data, the Navy cannot effectively track and improve the performance of intermediate maintenance periods.

GAO identified four main challenges affecting the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers based on discussions with ships' crews and officials from Navy organizations (see fig.).

Four Main Challenges Affecting the Performance of Intermediate Maintenance Periods

Four Main Challenges Affecting the Performance of Intermediate Maintenance Periods

Ships' crews and shore-based maintenance providers have taken steps to address these challenges, but have had limited success because the Navy's efforts have been fragmented, have not generally included the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and have not included the performance of intermediate maintenance periods in its strategic planning. For example:

  • The Navy's aircraft carrier community independently created a working group to address some aspects of parts shortages, but has not shared this effort across the fleet. Implementing a mechanism to share best practices and lessons learned will better enable the Navy to address challenges affecting the performance of these maintenance periods.
  • The Navy has not included the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers in strategic planning efforts. Without including consideration of the performance of intermediate maintenance periods in its strategic planning and related initiatives, the Navy risks negatively affecting the readiness of the fleet.

Addressing these issues will better position the Navy to increase the readiness of submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers needed to perform their missions.

Why GAO Did This Study

During fiscal years 2015 through 2020, the Navy spent an average of $2.1 billion per year performing high priority maintenance on submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers. The Navy's ships' crews and shore-based maintenance providers, located at homeports throughout the world, generally performed this maintenance—referred to by GAO as “intermediate maintenance periods”—to prepare the ships to get underway to execute their next missions.

The House Armed Services Committee, in a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, included a provision for GAO to review Navy ship intermediate maintenance periods. GAO evaluated the extent to which the Navy (1) collected and used data regarding the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers during fiscal years 2015 through 2020, and (2) has addressed challenges affecting the performance of intermediate maintenance periods. GAO analyzed data related to Navy intermediate maintenance periods during fiscal years 2015 through 2020, reviewed key documents, and met with Navy crews and officials.

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Recommendations

GAO is making four recommendations to the Navy, including to establish and implement procedures to collect and analyze reliable maintenance data; share best practices and lessons learned; and include the performance of intermediate maintenance periods in strategic planning efforts. The Navy concurred with all four recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the shore-based maintenance providers and the fleet/type commanders establish and implement procedures to collect and analyze complete and reliable data on the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers. These data should include the planned and actual start and completion dates, costs, and the causes of any delays in the completion of maintenance periods, among other things. (Recommendation 1)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In written responses from January 2022, the Navy stated it recognizes the value of data collection and will take action to standardize the collection and analysis of Intermediate Maintenance Period data at Regional Maintenance Centers and within the four public shipyards and at NAVSEA headquarters. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that a single entity is designated to address challenges affecting intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers. (Recommendation 2)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In written responses from January 2022, the Navy stated NAVSEA will be the lead organization tasked with improving Intermediate Maintenance in close partnership with Fleet and the Type Commanders to execute these responsibilities. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that shore-based maintenance providers and fleet/type commanders implement a mechanism to share best practices and lessons learned regarding the performance of intermediate maintenance periods across submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers. (Recommendation 3)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In written responses from January 2022, the Navy stated it will expand efforts to standardize the procedures for collection and analysis of complete and reliable data on the performance of Intermediate Maintenance. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Navy The Secretary of the Navy should ensure that the Navy's maintenance-related strategic planning and initiatives, such as the Navy's Performance to Plan efforts, include issues associated with the performance of intermediate maintenance periods. (Recommendation 4)
Open
The Navy concurred with this recommendation. In written responses from January 2022, the Navy stated it will leverage the Performance to Plan and Naval Sustainment System forums to drive improvements to maintenance as a whole, encompassing both intermediate and depot level maintenance. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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