Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Not Sexy But Important: "IG launches review of Military Sealift Command readiness problems"

Logistics, logistics, logistics. The ability to sustain a fleet at sea and to deliver and sustain forces in the field is a vital need of any navy, but especially for the U.S. Navy. Recent reports indicate that that "not sexy but important role" has some glitches as reported by the Navy Times J.D. Simkins in IG launches review of Military Sealift Command readiness problems
The Defense Department’s Inspector General will be taking a close look at the glaring readiness shortcomings at Military Sealift Command that were the subject of another government report last summer.
citing this GAO report:

No surprises really, given that maintaining the combatant fleet has also suffered from insufficient funding for years that the "unsexy" logistics force would also suffer. However, not being surprised is not the same as being prepared . . .

The capability to rearm, refuel, and re-provision Navy ships at sea is critical to the
USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8)
Navy’s ability to project warfighting power from the sea. MSC’s combat logistics force consists of 29 auxiliary ships that provide logistics resupply to Navy combatant ships—aircraft carriers, destroyers, and amphibious ships, among others—at sea during underway replenishments. Doing so enables Navy combatant ships to stay at sea as long as needed during both peacetime and wartime, rather than requiring the ship to pull into port to refuel and resupply. The combat logistics force provides virtually everything that Navy ships need, including fuel, food, ordnance, dry cargo, spare parts, mail, and other supplies. According to MSC, in 2015, combat logistics force ships transferred more than 8.2 million barrels of petroleum products and over 90,000 pallets of dry cargo and ordnance during underway replenishments.

The readiness of the surge sealift and combat logistics fleets has trended downward since 2012. We found that mission-limiting equipment casualties—incidents of degraded or out-of-service equipment—have increased over the past five years, and maintenance periods are running longer than planned, indicating declining materiel readiness across both fleets.
We found that the readiness of the combat logistics force, like that of the surge sealift fleet, has trended downward in fiscal years 2012 through 2016. Specifically,
Operational availability has declined: Operational availability measures the amount of time that a ship can get underway and execute a mission as required. MSC’s goal is for each combat logistics ship to be available for missions 270 days a year, devoting the rest of its time largely to maintenance and training. However, the fast combat support ship (T-AOE) and the fleet replenishment oiler (TAO) ship classes are not meeting this target and have seen declines in annual operational availability from 289 to 267 days (8 percent) and from 253 to 212 days (16 percent), respectively, over the past 5 years.32 These declines were due primarily to increases in unscheduled maintenance, according to MSC officials.
The Navy has not assessed the effect that implementing widely distributed operations will have on the number and type of combat logistics ships required to support the fleet. As early as January 2015, senior Navy leaders outlined a new warfighting concept calling for widely distributed operations, referred to by the Navy as “distributed lethality.” In January 2017, the Navy released its new surface strategy, Surface Force Strategy: Return to Sea Control, which includes concepts for more widely distributed operations through distributed lethality. According to the strategy, the security interests of the United States are increasingly challenged by near-peer competitors, among others, and the Navy must adjust to this changing security environment. Implementing the distributed lethality concept is critical to maintaining the Navy’s maritime superiority and requires employing its fleet in dispersed formations across a wider expanse of territory to increase both the offensive and defensive capabilities of surface forces. According to the Navy, these concepts complicate enemy targeting by dispersing larger numbers of platforms capable of offensive action over a wide geographic area. According to Navy and MSC officials, a greater reliance on distributed operations and the lethality provided by a widely distributed fleet will require resupplying ships that are
USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198)
farther apart and generally increase the demand on the combat logistics force. This stands in contrast to the Navy’s traditional concept of operations, in which Navy combatant ships operate in task group formations—such as carrier strike groups or amphibious ready groups—and, to support these formations, combat logistics force ships transit with them and replenish them with supplies as needed.  In June 2016, the Center for Naval Analyses’ modeling found that spreading combatant ships, such as carrier strike groups, out over larger regions would put more stress on the combat logistics force, because additional ships would be needed as the groups spread out and also because distributing supplies to the individual ships would take longer.  Additionally, combat logistics force ships might need to operate independently in small groups—or even alone—which could put them at risk in contested environments, according to Navy officials. Another effect of widely distributed operations is that ships operating further from ports might require more underway replenishments (see fig. 6), which could affect the number and types of combat logistics force ships required to support the Navy fleet. Under current concepts, Navy carrier strike groups and other ships can typically stay at sea as long as needed, because they have the ability to be replenished either in port or while underway with fuel, ammunition, and stores transported by the combat logistics force. Under distributed operations, geographicallyseparated ships may not be able to be replenished in port during peacetime, or it may be too far or too dangerous in wartime for them to go 
into port, according to Navy officials. (footnotes omitted)
Really, you should read the report and consider the impact of a weak or too small logistics train on Navy operations, especially in contested water.

Unmentioned in the report but also vital is an adquate escort force for the logistics train. More on that topic later, along with look at the effect of the size of the U.S. flagged merchant shipping fleet on the U.S. role in the maritime world.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    looking more and more that the rocks you and CDR Salamander have been helping kick over have uncovered quite a rot across a lot of the Navy.