The US Navy, as well as the US Marine Corps, is finding itself at a crucial crossroads according to a new report published by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), entitled “Deploying Beyond Their Means: America’s Navy and Marine Corps at Tipping Point” by Bryan Clark.
The report states that, over time, the US Navy has developed from “a regional fleet to a global navy to a globally present navy reflecting the expanding influence and reach of the United States.” But, the actual size of the current fleet and the personnel needed has not grown with this new mission of being globally present, anytime, anywhere. As most informed people know, the fleet has been shrinking for a variety of reasons. This has been the case even though every strategy assessment has said the nation needs more naval assets, not fewer.
The US Navy currently has around 272 ships, but not all of these are available for operational duty at one time. Many are being serviced, some are involved in training exercises, and some are at their home ports allowing sailors to spend time with their families.
The Navy generally plans for its vessels to run in cycles of 6-7 months deployment within a 24-32 month period. A problem occurs as the Navy, for the last 20 years or so, has kept about 100 ships deployed at a time, but has now seen its overall fleet reduced by 20 percent. This means that each vessel must now deploy more often, spend more time in its deployment, and risk damage as maintenance schedules are not being adhered to as planned.
The measure the Navy uses to gauge the amount of time a ship is at sea is known as the Operating Tempo (OPTEMPO). Sequestration due to the Budget Control Act (BCA) has resulted in extended OPTEMPO for at least the last few years. As a result, for instance, there is now a backlog of deferred maintenance for the nuclear aircraft carrier (CVN) fleet.
But, an increased workload also affects people. One sailor had this to say when his ship the USS John C. Stennis was deployed 15 out of 24 months during the period 2012 and 2014: “We have missed two Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Year’s and many other holidays. …After the past two years, I have realized that I am not cut out for this work.”
The bottom line is that, if nothing changes, the Navy and Marine Corps will find themselves on the losing end of a supply-and-demand crisis. There will be too many missions and not enough resources to carry out those missions effectively. The decision to deploy ships and personnel more often, for longer periods of time, while also reducing regular maintenance cycles cannot remain for long before materials begin to degrade and personnel seek other means of employment.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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