Update to the “Navy Death Spiral”

This is an update to DoD Death Spiral — the US Navy version.

Two ships deemed ‘unfit’ for combat“, Navy Times (21 April 2008) — The full article is worth reading, as usual for the Navy Times.  It is not yet clear if this is the first sign of a serious problem, or just random bad performance that occurs in even the best organizations.  Here is a brief excerpt:

Most of the missiles couldn’t be fired, and neither could any of the big guns. The Aegis radars key to the ships’ fighting abilities didn’t work right. The flight decks were inoperable. Most of the lifesaving gear failed inspection. Corrosion was rampant, and lube oil leaked all over. The verdict: “unfit for sustained combat operations.”

Those results turned up by an inspection by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey — commonly known as an InSurv — would be bad enough if they came from one warship. But they came from two. In different fleets, in different oceans. Within a week of each other. And each ship represents the Navy’s most sophisticated front-line surface combatants.

“This is worse than I remember seeing,” a recently retired surface flag officer said after reading the reports of InSurv inspections conducted in March aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer Stout and the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-based cruiser Chosin. “I don’t remember seeing two that stood out like these.” “… “The aggregate number of discrepancies is disturbing, particularly in the Combat Systems area,” another former senior officer said. The retired admiral went further. “There’s enough commonality between the two to make me think there’s an endemic problem in the force,” he said.

… The ships’ material condition was not due to lack of funds, Lewis said. “We are 100 percent funded to our requirement for maintenance,” he said.

… The InSurv inspectors pore over about 45 to 50 ships a year. Forty-seven ships underwent the inspections in 2007, Lewis said. Each year generally sees several ships do so poorly that they’re rated “unfit” for combat. But it is unusual for Aegis ships — considered the world’s most sophisticated and capable surface warships — to perform so badly.

Three ships were rated unfit for combat in fiscal 2007, Lewis said: a frigate, a dock landing ship and a mine countermeasures ship. Since fiscal 2008 began, there have been two more: the Stout and Chosin. “I don’t see a trend,” Lewis said. … But numerous officers familiar with the InSurv reports are concerned that myriad causes are resulting in such poor material inspections.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please) or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For more information about the US Navy

On this site:

  1. DoD Death Spiral – the US Navy version, 31 January 2008
  2. A lesson in war-mongering: “Maritime Strategy in an Age of Blood and Belief”, 8 July 2008
  3. A step towards building a Navy we can afford, 16 July 2008
  4. “Amphibious Ships are the Dreadnoughts of the modern maritime era”, 2 September 2008

To see all articles on the FM sites on this topic:  Naval warfare and strategy.

Other sources:

  1. For in-depth coverage of these issues, see Galrahn’s work at Information Dissemination.  His blogroll has many other sites of interest discussing these matters.
  2. Providing for the Common Defense: Four Percent for Freedom,” Jim Talent and Mackenzie Eaglen, Heritage Foundation, 13 December 2007 – An example of those calling for Defense spending at 4% of GDP.
  3. Upcoming FY2009 Debate For the Navy   (8 July 2008) 

4 thoughts on “Update to the “Navy Death Spiral”

  1. If I read the article correctly, part of the problem was (at least on the Stout) too few crewmen, the DDG corrosion trends and obviously lax maintenance. So we don’t have enough sailors to properly maintain our ships? And it’s only going to get worse? Yikes.

    But even the weapon systems and the radar? That’s incredible!

  2. Maintenance often gets written off on Navy warships. Even the high ranking officers do it. It just saves time. Everyone just hopes they get transferred to another command before something gets really broke and they have to deal with it.

  3. Fortunately, the LAPD, DEA, and FBI all do frequent maintenance on their vehicles, so they will still be able to project lethal force inside USA borders.

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