WASHINGTON – Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), a member of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness, delivered the following opening statements at a subcommittee hearing on ship and submarine maintenance:
Rep. Wilson remarks as prepared for delivery:
The issue of delays and cost increases when it comes to maintaining our ship and submarine fleet is unfortunately a problem we have become all too familiar with.
The threats we face are only becoming more complex as we confront a rising China who is building ships at a faster rate than anyone has in recent history and now has the worlds largest navy. It is more important now than ever that we get the work of maintaining and repairing our fleet right while also expanding it both in size and capability.
This is one of the many reasons I am so concerned that the budget topline released recently by the administrations fails to keep pace with inflation and cuts defense spending in terms of real dollars. I am anxious to see the budget details and assess our progress towards increasing maintenance capacity.
Our four public shipyards have too few functional dry docks and are equipped with capital equipment well beyond is service life that was originally manufactured by companies that are no longer in business. All of this contributed to an aircraft carrier average overage of 113 days, and overdue submarine availabilities an average of 225 days. That also means 75% of the maintenance periods for aircraft carriers and submarine were completed late between FY2015 and FY2019.
Congress directed the Navy to develop the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan (SIOP) in 2018 to address many of these issues. I remain very concerned that even this plan only accounts for 67 of 68 of the anticipated maintenance availabilities of the current fleet. That does not account for any reconfiguration of the current fleet that might occur or even any unscheduled work like we recently saw with the Bonhomme Richard. We must see real investments in these yards in this year’s budget.
It’s not just a question of allocating the required funding but also the resources required to support workload planning that can provide certainty to our partners in the private shipyards. The Navy contracts with 22 certified private dry docks but without consistent, predictable workload and contracts it’s impossible for these yards to make the capital investments needed to support current and future needs. I’m interested to hear how you are working to bring some certainty to the workload planning for the private yards and increase capacity.
Finally, when it comes to the workforce, we all know that these men and women are critical to maintaining these warfighting capabilities and are often operating without any room for error. Many times, we see skills gaps that are not being adequality addressed. I would like to hear how you are working to increase the availability of folks with critical skills whether its partnering with trade schools, apprenticeships, and how we can be supportive.
This lack of skilled workers has also contributed to the Navy continuing to use overtime to complete planned workload. GAO’s analysis found that high overtime among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32 percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent. Core requirements indicate you should be able to get planned work done without the use of overtime to allow for surge requirements and contingencies. I am very concerned that we lack that serge capacity in our workforce.
I appreciate the continued service and experience that you all provide to the nation and I look forward to our discussions
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