Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Navy is struggling to ensure that at least one of its carrier strike groups (CGSs) is at sea every day of every year as maintenance and budget issues continue to affect readiness.
An investigation by independent but non-Navy sources revealed there were 22 days this summer where the Navy didn’t have a full CSG deployed anywhere in the world available for operations. It said that over the last 15 months, the Navy saw the lowest number of CSGs underway since 1992, the year following the fall of the communist Soviet Union.
Data shows the Navy has deployed up to 25 percent of its carriers (it now has 11 Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers in operation) since 2013. That total, excluding training missions and exercises) is down from a 28-percent average for the rest of the era of the global war on terror from 2001 until 2017. In 2018 up until today, that number has fallen to an average of 15 percent of the Navy’s carriers committed to operational deployments. That’s about two carriers in 11 operational at any one time.
Navy commanders said the drop in presence comes as the Navy confronts huge expenses for the maintenance of its 11 carriers the Pentagon ran up during the years of the global war on terror.
“After 9/11 — and all those evolutions for the ground team — our focus was supporting the ground fight, which meant we were operating that force a lot. And when you operate the force a lot it eats up a lot of your cash. It eats up a lot of your service life,” said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran.
“The Navy got smaller to help offset the cost of a lot of those things. So, modernization wasn’t coming along at the same pace as it might have, with forces that were faced with the adversary every single day. Our job was to support (ground forces), and we have done it really well.
“But it’s against a team that’s maybe a minor league team, when it comes to maritime forces, not the major league team that we want to be ready for (Russia and China).”
What the Navy’s going through today as regards readiness is the result of this focus on counter-insurgency ops.
“This has all been building up over the last 17 years through overuse of the carrier force and naval aviation and a desire to have more forces ready,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.
“When we kept two carriers in the Persian Gulf for a period of time, we kept telling the senior leadership that this was going to have a downstream effect, and it would really put a crimp maintenance-wise, and there would be gaps both in the Pacific as well as the Middle East. That is coming home to roost.”
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