Deferred ship maintenance has proven to be costly to the U.S. Navy.
For example, the USS Detroit, a 28-year-old fast combat support ship homeported in Earle, N.J., was scheduled for a $20 million overhaul last summer. The Navy now has to spend an estimated $70 million to repair the ship because the maintenance was put off.
In August, a message sent to top Navy officials said the Detroit was unsafe for under way operations in its current condition. The ship, which had experienced three fires and one major fuel leak, also had steam and water leaks, and numerous electrical safety discrepancies. Most of the ship’s weapons systems were also degraded or out of commission.
While some defense industry experts say immediate funding for ship repair and maintenance is crucial, military leaders are split on the issue.
In March, Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson declared emergency funding for ship repair and maintenance must be provided in the supplemental bill.
However, during a March 22 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Navy Secretary Richard Danzig said the Navy doesn’t have to worry about its ships just yet since most of them are newer vessels, according to the Navy Times.
Danzig said the key is spending money on research and development. The Navy’s fiscal 2001 budget includes $3.9 billion for research on a new class of destroyers, called the DD-21 land attack destroyer.
Designed for power projection ashore, the DD-21 destroyer requires a smaller crew to operate it. Danzig estimates the Navy will save about $30 billion on the DD-21, allowing the purchase of 30 more ships.
The Navy is also spending more on cutting-edge technology for ships. Just last week, the Navy awarded a contract worth more than $54 million to Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. for satellite communications systems for surface ships, shore stations and submarines.
Advanced technology is needed in this blooming information age, but attention must also be directed to repairing and maintaining the ships, said Capt. Robert Smith, commanding officer of the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station San Diego.
“We have to strike the right balance between readiness and modernization,” Smith said. “We can’t throw all of our money into high-tech without taking care of the fundamentals. Those fundamentals , structural repairs, tank repairs , aren’t going to go away.”