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Wilson, J., Honorable (2018). Actions Needed to Address Costly Maintenance Delays Facing the Attack Submarine Fleet (Rep. No. GAO-19-229). Retrieved from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/695577.pdf (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Naval submarines are a critical part of our countries national defense, with fast attack submarines making up the majority of the submarine force. All submarines are required to undergo periodic major maintenance overhauls, called availabilities. These availabilities range in time from 6 months to 18 months, during which time the ship is in a dry dock and major repairs are performed.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found recently in this report that for an array of reasons, submarines availabilities over the past ten years are not starting on time and going much longer than anticipated. This has cost the tax payers $1.5 billion, for submarines to sit idle.
This report goes into great detail on what maintenance availabilities are, why they are necessary, and where they are performed. It also touched on some of the reasons for the delays, one of them being the submarine force’s strict and unwavering emphasis on safety. To date, only two U.S. nuclear powered submarines have been lost, the USS Thresher (SSN 593) and the USS Scorpion (SSN 589). No submarine has been lost since very strict sub-safe requirements were put in place in 1963.
The report makes multiple recommendations to the Navy on ways to begin to correct this issue. Mainly that a business case analysis should be conducted to assess the workload across all 6 shipyards that perform work on submarines and determine how that workload can be increased.
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