Help us. Help us! The sky is falling. Naval ship and aircraft maintenance is failing. We must have more money … … … oh, and more ships and more planes. This is the story that has been blasting forth from the Navy for the last few days. The Navy would have us believe that they’ve done everything they can to keep the Navy in top condition but the evil, external forces of sequestration and national need have conspired to savage Navy maintenance and readiness despite the Navy’s heroic efforts.
Of course, this ignores the fact that a month ago the Navy was voicing no such outcry. A year ago, the Navy didn’t really care about maintenance and readiness as they knowingly deferred desperately needed maintenance. A decade or two ago, as the Navy was making conscious decisions about deferring maintenance in favor of new construction, they didn’t care at all about maintenance or readiness.
This blog has thoroughly and repetitively documented the Navy’s unceasing and fanatical devotion to new construction at the expense of maintenance and readiness and yet, now, the Navy has suddenly seen the light. Does that sound right? Does that sound remotely believable? Or, does it sound like the Navy has suddenly realized that the new Administration might be amenable to providing larger budgets and is making a play to grab their share of the potential largesse?
Here’s a statement by Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, to a Senate panel, just the other day:
“It starts by strengthening the foundation of the Navy by ensuring the aircraft, ships and submarines we do have are maintained and modernized to ensure they meet the full measure of their combat power,” he said. (1)
How Adm. Moran can utter this statement with a straight face is beyond me. Is this the same Navy that recently and repeatedly tried to get Congress to let them early retire the Aegis cruiser class rather than perform maintenance and upgrades? Where was Adm. Moran when the Navy was trying to eliminate the Ticonderogas? Where was Moran when the Navy routinely and repeatedly decided to defer maintenance on aircraft carriers? His statement is the height of hypocrisy.
Moving on, though, let’s look at other aspects of this recent outcry.
The Navy has just documented the state of the aviation fleet.
“Currently, 53 percent of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft are unfit to fly. That rises to 62 percent of strike fighters and, as we reported yesterday, 74 percent of Marine F-18 Hornets.” (2)
Adm. Moran offers further dire warnings should budgets not be increased.
“Adm. Bill Moran, vice chief of naval operations, said the impact for the Navy would be immediate: Two carrier air wings would cease operations entirely, and two would operate at that “tactical hard deck” of 11 flight hours per pilot per month, the minimum allowable for safety.” (3)
Oh my gosh, that’s terrible! Why is the situation so bad? According to the Navy, the problem is lack of new aircraft.
“Overused, under-maintained, and not replaced, the aircraft are simply wearing out. …consumption is outpacing procurement: Since 2000, we have struck 748 strike fighters and procured 573 for a delta (net loss) of 175 aircraft.”
The Navy’s solution? Buy more aircraft!
“We need to continue producing JSFs … and reopen the Super Hornet line with Boeing to take pressure off the current force now.”
So, the Navy’s solution isn’t better maintenance of existing aircraft, bigger budgets for depots and spare parts, or better stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars. No, the Navy’s solution is to buy new aircraft.
Hey, Mom and Dad, I didn’t change the oil in the car you gave me, I never cleaned it, I didn’t perform any tune ups, and I didn’t do any preventive maintenance and, as a result, the car isn’t running anymore. Can I have a new car? Most of us would see the absurdity in that and yet the Navy is having exactly that conversation with Congress!
This is nothing more than out and out extortion of Congress by the Navy. The Navy is attempting to blame Congress for decades of conscious Navy neglect and threaten Congress with dire consequences if Congress does not meekly acquiesce and provide significant budget increases. All the while, the Navy glosses over and ignores the fact that it was 100% the Navy that made the endless series of irresponsible decisions that led to the current hollow force.
Side Note: We’ve seen the Navy sink the entire Spruance class rather than allow the possibility of the Spruance/NTU combination to threaten Aegis funding. We’ve seen the Navy neuter, retire, and sell off the entire Perry class rather than allow it to threaten LCS funding. Does anyone else think that allowing hundreds of aircraft to sink into disrepair sounds a lot like more of the same? Be honest, given their history, could you see the Navy allowing older aircraft to prematurely fall into disrepair and languish in depots in order to avoid threatening new aircraft funding? Just saying – there’s a lot of parallels.
(1)USNI News website, “VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’”, Sam LaGrone,
February 8, 2017,
(2)Breaking Defense website, “Navy, Marine F-18s In ‘Death Spiral’ As Readiness Plummets”, Sydney J. Freedberg, February 08, 2017,
(3)DoD Buzz website, “Budget Woes May Force Navy to Shutter Two Carrier Air Wings”, Hope Hodge Seck,