First up is a very short piece from Defense News which touches on the topic of who ought to pay for some Sealift ships - an argument has been made the the end user - the U.S. Army - might be a good source of funding. See here:
With bills piling up for the U.S. Navy, between manning and training a growing fleet and recapitalizing ballistic missile submarines, an influential Republican lawmaker is wondering if it is time for the nation’s ground force to chip in for its own transportation.
During a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper if the Army should shoulder the financial burden of recapitalizing the aging sealift fleet. In the event of a significant conflict, about 90 percent of the Army’s equipment would be transported by sea. But the sealift fleet charged with performing that mission is woefully unprepared.
“You stated that of the strategic necessities for our nation, that B-21 [next-generation bomber] was responsibility of the Air Force,” Wittman said, referring to an exclusive interview Esper gave to Defense News. “The Columbia-class [submarine] was the responsibility of the Navy.
“Since surge sealift capacity is the ability for the Army to get to the fight, should it not be the Army’s responsibility to fund surge sealift capacity?”
The following touches on the David Larter article linked above.
Of interest are discussions of the need for more ships in the national sealift fleet, especially tankers, as set out in this 2020 piece here:
Buzby, former commander of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, agreed.
“We need more ships,” he said, adding that a strong case may be made for adding upwards of 50 more vessels.
The maritime administrator also called attention to a shortage of civilian mariners that threatens the nation’s ability to successfully executive a sustained sealift operation. Partly with that in mind, he said the country would benefit from an increase in commercial vessels rather than reserve-status ships (since the vessels themselves would have greater readiness and in turn would facilitate larger numbers of trained crews).
Kaskin advocated expansion of the U.S. Maritime Security Program and also supported an administration proposal to create a similar structure for tankers. He said only a half-dozen American-flag internationally-trading tankers are available for use by the military, and three of those are already leased by the Navy for current operations.
“The requirement that U.S. Transportation Command has shown – and earlier studies have shown – is that we need more than 78 tankers,” he said. “Adding 10 is not going to be sufficient. So, what we really need to do is find ways of utilizing the tankers that we have in the domestic fleet – the Jones Act [ships] – to be able to support wartime operations.”
Here's a 2018 panel discussing Strategic Sealift, featuring Sal Mercogliano as moderator. Actual taking begins around the 4:30 point, so skip ahead. Toward the end, there's another mention of the need for tankers.
As you may gather, the main issue in maintaining a fleet that can do what is demanded of it is money. Money which should be spent wisely with an keen eye on national strategic needs.