A recent assessment by Congressional auditors cast a worrying eye on the readiness of the United States Navy, creating concern over the Navy’s ability to respond should conflict with China and Russia occur.
According to Business Standard, Diana Maurer, Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) military readiness director, expressed concern over the general state. “Potential adversaries, most notably China and Russia, have developed and enhanced their own capabilities,” Maurer said, “At the same time, our work has shown that nearly two decades of conflict has degraded U.S. military readiness.”
GAO measures military capabilities and readiness over several factors, including inspection of resources and execution capability.
In her presentation during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 2, Maurer recommended that the Navy focus efforts to improve readiness by concentrating on clearing a backlog of maintenance concerns, which total $1.7 billion dollars for surface ships and near an expense of $100 million for aircraft carriers.
Notably, $1.2 billion of the surface ships maintenance backlog included deferred maintenance on ships the Navy proposed to decommission, according to a 2022 fiscal year budget request. Decommissioning of nine ships was deferred due to the accumulated maintenance backlog.
GOA stated in their report that early decommissioning of these ships would have resulted in the loss of 34 years of ship service life and lessened fleet size, which may hinder operations as it lessens operating and support costs.
Despite the expense, Maurer believes it’s a necessary step. “Readiness increased in the ground domain and declined in the sea domain from the fiscal year 2017 through the fiscal year 2021, and rating changes were mixed in air and space domains,” Maurer said.
With analysts’ statements that China may have the military capability to overtake Taiwan by force by 2027, the importance of a sea-faring service ready for a full military response could prove vitally important.
Despite the statements that the U.S. Navy isn’t at peak readiness, the report shows that for the fiscal years cited, 2017-2021, there have been improvements.
In ground domain considerations, readiness ratings increased. According to USNI News, the Department of Defense plans to focus on establishing balance and modernization of existing forces, while developing and deploying new weapon systems.
The Air Force was also reported to have maintenance and supply challenges related to aging aircraft, while the Army was cited as experiencing shortfalls in rail support and training for mobility-contested environments. The frequency of the Army and Marine Corps tactical accidents was also a concern.