oversight

Force Structure: Navy Is Complying With Battleship Readiness Requirements

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-04-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to Congressional Committees




April 1999
                  FORCE STRUCTURE

                  Navy Is Complying
                  With Battleship
                  Readiness
                  Requirements




GAO/NSIAD-99-62
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548                                                          Leter




      National Security and
      International Affairs Division

      B- 280495                                                                Letter

      April 12, 1999

      The Honorable John Warner,
      Chairman
      The Honorable Carl Levin,
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Armed Services
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Floyd Spence,
      Chairman
      The Honorable Ike Skelton,
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Armed Services
      House of Representatives

      This letter responds to one of our three reporting requirements stated in
      section 1015 of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act
      for Fiscal Year 1999. The reporting requirements involve issues associated
      with the status and future of the Navy’s Iowa class battleships. This letter
      addresses our requirement to report on the Navy’s compliance with
      battleship readiness requirements contained in section 1011 of the National
      Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. Specifically, we evaluated
      the Navy’s compliance with the requirements to (1) list and maintain at
      least two Iowa class battleships on the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) that are
      in good material condition and capable of providing adequate fire support
      for an amphibious assault; (2) retain the existing logistical support
      necessary to keep at least two Iowa class battleships in active service,
      including technical manuals, repair and replacement parts, and ordnance;
      and (3) keep the two battleships on the register until the Secretary of the
      Navy certifies that the Navy has within the fleet an operational surface fire
      support capability that equals or exceeds the fire support capability that
      the Iowa class battleships would be able to provide for Marine Corps
      amphibious assaults and operations ashore. The NVR is the official
      inventory of ships and service craft in custody or titled by the Navy and
      includes those assigned to the Military Sealift Command.

      Section 1015 also requires us to report on (1) the Navy’s plans for executing
      the naval surface fire support mission and the short-term and long-term
      costs associated with these plans and (2) the Navy’s assessment of
      alternative methods and costs for executing the fire support mission,




      Page 1                                          GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
                   B- 280495




                   including the alternative of reactivating two battleships. As agreed with
                   your offices, these issues will be addressed in separate reports.



Results in Brief   The Navy is complying with the battleship readiness requirements stated in
                   the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. The Navy
                   placed two Iowa Class battleships on the register about 2 years after the
                   act’s requirement took effect. Both ships are in good material condition
                   and have been maintained on the register in the highest readiness category
                   for inactive ships. The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Surveys had
                   declared all four of the Iowa Class battleships fit for further service at the
                   time of their last decommissioning.

                   The Navy is retaining the existing logistical support necessary for active
                   operations of the battleships, including technical manuals, repair and
                   replacement parts, and ordnance. The battleship logistics support
                   structure is largely intact, and according to the Navy, production of 16-inch
                   ammunition and propellant could be resumed within a few months.
                   Further, two Navy shipyards have the capabilities and facilities needed to
                   work on battleship-size vessels.

                   According to officials, the Navy plans to keep the battleships on the
                   register until its current naval surface fire support gun and missile
                   development programs achieve operational capability, which is estimated
                   to occur between fiscal year 2003 and 2008. At that time, it plans to remove
                   the battleships from the register and certify that the fleet has an operational
                   surface fire-support capability that equals or exceeds that of the
                   battleships. In the interim, the Navy does not intend to return any
                   battleships to active service. The Navy states that the battleships cannot
                   meet current naval surface fire support requirements for range and
                   accuracy and cost too much to operate. The Marine Corps supports this
                   position.



Background         Four Iowa class battleships were built for the Navy during World War II.
                   Each ship is equipped with nine 16-inch guns that can fire a variety of
                   projectiles weighing up to 2,700 pounds to a range of 23 nautical miles
                   (see fig.1). Although they were designed primarily for combat with other
                   ships, the battleships have been used to strike shore targets and provide
                   fire support to maneuvering ground troops.




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                        B- 280495




Figure 1: U.S.S. Iowa




                        Source: U.S. Navy.


                        Since their construction, these ships have been decommissioned and
                        reactivated many times and were in inactive service more than in active
                        service. For example, the U.S.S. Iowa was in inactive service twice as long
                        as it was in active service (36 years, 9 months, compared to 18 years,
                        11 months). During the 1980s, the Navy spent about $1.7 billion to
                        modernize and reactivate the four Iowa class battleships—U.S.S. Iowa,
                        U.S.S. New Jersey, U.S.S. Missouri, and U.S.S. Wisconsin. During their
                        reactivation, each of these ships was fitted with 16 Harpoon and 32
                        Tomahawk missile launchers, along with updated communications, fire
                        control, and target acquisition systems. After the Cold War, the Navy again
                        decommissioned these ships, but it kept them in a mobilization status and



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                      maintained their logistical support structure. The U.S.S. Missouri and the
                      U.S.S. Wisconsin were used in the Gulf War to provide Tomahawk missile
                      strikes and naval surface fire support (NSFS) to ground forces. The Navy
                      decommissioned these two battleships in 1991 and 1992. All four were
                      removed from the register in 1995.

                      Ships removed from the NVR can be disposed of by donation and used as
                      memorials, sold to foreign governments, or scrapped. When the Iowa class
                      battleships were removed in 1995, the Navy intended for them to be
                      donated and used as memorials. When the battleships were listed on the
                      NVR in February 1998, they were placed in maintenance category “B,”
                      which is the highest category for a mobilization asset. To preserve vessels
                      in a category “B,” the Navy dehumidifies them, provides a special
                      protection to the hull, and installs fire and flooding alarms.



Battleships in Good   About 2 years after section 1011 was enacted, the Navy reinstated two
                      battleships on the NVR. Navy officials said part of the delay in complying
Condition Added to    with section 1011 was caused by the 1996 Department of Defense (DOD)
Naval Register        Appropriations Act’s prohibition against spending any of the appropriated
                      funds to return any Iowa class battleships to the NVR or to retain the
                      logistical support necessary to support such a battleship in active service.
                      There was also a lack of action on the Navy’s part to reinstate the
                      battleships on the NVR after the funding prohibition expired. However, the
                      Navy had suspended demilitarization and stopped the disposal of parts
                      before section 1011 was enacted.

                      According to the Navy, as originally drafted, section 1011 would have
                      required the Navy to list the two battleships that were in the “best”
                      condition on the NVR. These were the U.S.S. Missouri and the
                      U.S.S. Wisconsin. However, since the U.S.S. Missouri was in the process
                      of being donated, the requirement was changed from “best” to “good”
                      condition in the final bill. The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Surveys had
                      declared all four of the remaining Iowa class battleships fit for further
                      service at the time of their last decommissioning. Since the Navy
                      considered all four battleships to be in good condition, it placed the
                      U.S.S. New Jersey and the U.S.S. Wisconsin on the NVR and cleared the
                      way for donation of the U.S.S. Missouri.

                      Since February 1998, the Navy has listed these two battleships
                      (U.S.S. Wisconsin and U.S.S. New Jersey) on the NVR in mobilization
                      category B, the highest readiness category for inactive ships that can be



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                     B- 280495




                     recalled to active service in an emergency. Before section 1011 was
                     enacted, the Navy had begun to demilitarize the U.S.S. New Jersey by
                     welding down the training mechanisms of its 16-inch guns. Despite this
                     action, the Navy selected the U.S.S. New Jersey over the U.S.S. Iowa,
                     which had one of its 16-inch gun turrets rendered inoperable, due to an
                     earlier explosion1 because repair cost estimates for the latter were greater.
                     In the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
                     1999, Congress directed the Navy to substitute the U.S.S. Iowa for the
                     U.S.S. New Jersey on the NVR and to arrange for its donation. The Navy
                     made this change in January 1999. Officials from the Navy Inactive Fleet
                     said the three battleships are in good material condition and the two listed
                     on the NVR are being maintained in the highest readiness category for
                     inactive ships. Our visual inspection of these three ships and our review of
                     documentation on the ships’ condition confirm the Navy’s statement.



Necessary Logistic   The Navy is complying with the section 1011 requirement to retain the
                     existing logistical support necessary to keep at least two operational Iowa
Support Being        class battleships in active service, including technical manuals, repair and
Retained             replacement parts, and ordnance. The Navy estimates that it costs about
                     $600,000 annually to maintain three battleships in the inactive fleet and
                     about $440,000 per year to store and maintain the 16-inch ammunition and
                     propellant powder. The Navy did not provide an estimate for sustaining the
                     other parts of the battleship logistic support structure.

                     The Navy is storing most of the battleship repair parts inventory in the
                     climate-controlled interiors of the U.S.S. New Jersey and the
                     U.S.S. Wisconsin. Technical manuals for the battleships have also been
                     consolidated on these two ships. Additional spare and replacement parts
                     are stored primarily at naval facilities at Bell, California; Bremerton,
                     Washington; and Crane, Indiana. According to the Navy, the current
                     inventory of unique and other spare parts is adequate to keep two
                     battleships in active service for a number of years. If needed, additional
                     battleship-unique parts could be manufactured, or made available by
                     cannibalizing ships that have been donated, as was the practice when the
                     Navy reactivated the Iowa class ships in the 1980s.




                     1
                         See Issues Arising From an Explosion Aboard the Battleship Iowa (GAO/NSIAD-91-4, Jan. 29, 1991).




                     Page 5                                                           GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
                     B- 280495




                     There was some concern about the availability of very large “hammerhead”
                     cranes needed for future battleship repair work (e.g., repair of the damaged
                     turret on the U.S.S. Iowa). We verified with Navy officials that the naval
                     shipyards at Norfolk, Virginia, and Bremerton, Washington, have cranes
                     that are large and powerful enough to service battleships.

                     The Navy is currently maintaining 26 usable 16-inch gun barrel spares at
                     Hawthorne, Nevada, and Dahlgren and Portsmouth, Virginia. About 15,000
                     rounds of usable 16-inch gun ammunition and associated propellant
                     charges are stored at the Army Ammunition Plant, McAlester, Oklahoma,
                     the Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA), Crane, Indiana, and the
                     Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada. CAAA still maintains a 16-inch
                     ammunition repair and renovation capability and operable propellant
                     mixing and stacking machinery. Thus, according to CAAA officials,
                     production of 16-inch projectile bodies could be restarted in only a few
                     months, at an estimated cost of $7,000 per projectile. Final assembly of the
                     16-inch projectiles would be performed at the Army Ammunition Plant in
                     McAlester, Oklahoma. Officials there said that the explosive pressing and
                     fuse installation assembly line could be restarted within a year, at an
                     estimated average cost of $3,000 per projectile, and that they would also
                     need about $600,000 to restore and modernize the production facility.

                     The Navy has estimated the cost of maintaining battleships in the inactive
                     fleet at about $200,000 per ship, per year, which excludes the cost of
                     sustaining the battleship logistics support structure. Because the ships are
                     maintained under dehumidification and special rust protection,
                     maintenance of parts on board costs nothing extra. According to CAAA
                     officials, DOD’s cost to store and maintain the 16-inch ammunition and
                     propellant powder there is about $294,000 per year. Annual storage costs
                     to DOD for 16-inch ammunition and propellant at the Hawthorne Army
                     Depot and the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant are about $121,000 and
                     $26,000, respectively.



Navy Plans to Keep   Section 1011 required the Navy to list and keep two battleships on the NVR
                     until the Secretary of the Navy certified that the Navy has within the fleet
Battleships on the   an operational surface fire support capability that equals or exceeds the
Register             fire support capability that the Iowa class battleships would be able to
                     provide for Marine Corps amphibious assaults and operations ashore. With
                     the retirement of the battleships, the Navy’s existing surface fire support
                     capabilities are limited to 5-inch/54 caliber guns and munitions on cruisers




                     Page 6                                         GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
                  B- 280495




                  and destroyers. These munitions, however, lack the range, accuracy, and
                  lethality the Marine Corps says it needs for naval fire support.

                  To address this deficiency, the Navy initiated a near- and long-term program
                  to develop NSFS capabilities. The near-term phase of the program consists
                  of developing a modified 5-inch/62 caliber gun and precision guided
                  munitions with a 41-63 nautical mile range and a land attack missile for the
                  current classes of destroyers and cruisers. The Navy and the Marine Corps
                  stated that they need naval gunfire support to these ranges to meet current
                  requirements. The gun and precision guided munition are expected to
                  reach operational capability2 in fiscal year 2002. The Navy expects the
                  Land Attack Standard Missile to reach operational capability in fiscal year
                  2003. The long-term phase consists of developing more lethal and longer
                  range guns, projectiles, and missiles.

                  Navy officials state that they plan to remove the battleships from the NVR
                  as soon as they can certify that the performance of the gun, projectiles, and
                  missiles being developed equals or exceeds that of the battleships. Navy
                  officials believe their development programs will achieve operational
                  capabilities between fiscal year 2003 and 2008 and then they will be able to
                  make the required certification.



Agency Comments   In written comments, DOD concurred with a draft of this report
                  (see app. I). DOD also provided technical clarifications that we
                  incorporated as appropriate.



Scope and         To determine the extent of the Navy’s compliance with the requirements of
                  section 1011 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996,
Methodology       we:

                  • interviewed officials and obtained documentation from the Office of the
                    Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, the Naval Sea Systems
                    Command, and its subordinate activities;
                  • inspected the U.S.S. Iowa, the U.S.S. New Jersey, and the
                    U.S.S. Wisconsin and discussed their condition with officials from the

                  2
                    Initial operational capability is the first attainment of the capability to employ effectively a weapon, item of
                  equipment, or system of approved specific characteristics with the appropriate number, type, and mix of trained
                  and equipped personnel necessary to operate, maintain, and support the system.




                  Page 7                                                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
B- 280495




  Headquarters, Navy Inactive Fleet, and subordinate maintenance
  activities in Bremerton, Washington, Newport, Rhode Island,
  Portsmouth, Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
• reviewed documentation regarding the condition of the battleships from
  the Office of the Secretary of the Navy; and
• viewed and received briefings and documentation on 16-inch
  ammunition production facilities and ammunition, propellant, and parts
  storage facilities at NSWC Crane; ammunition and spare gun barrels
  stored at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant; and spare gun barrels
  located at Dahlgren, and Norfolk, Virginia.

We conducted our review from July 1998 through December 1998 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


We are also sending copies of this report to Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman,
and Senator Robert C. Byrd, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Committee
on Appropriations; Representative C. W. Bill Young, Chairman, and
Representative David R. Obey, Ranking Minority Member, House
Committee on Appropriations. We are also sending copies of this report to
the Honorable William Cohen, Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Richard
Danzig, Secretary of the Navy; the Honorable William J. Lynn, Under
Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); and the Honorable Jacob Lew,
Director, Office of Management and Budget. Copies will also be made
available to others upon request.

Please contact me at (202) 512-4841 if you have any questions about this
report. The major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II.




James F. Wiggins
Associate Director
Defense Acquisitions Issues




Page 8                                         GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
Appendix I

Comments From the Secretary of Defense                       AppenIx
                                                                   di




              Page 9           GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Report                                            AppeInx
                                                                                   Idi




National Security and   Martha J. Dey
                        Jack G. Perrigo, Jr.
International Affairs   Richard J. Price
Division, Washington,
D.C.

Office of General       Stephanie J. May

Counsel, Washington,
D.C.

Norfolk Field Office    Anton G. Blieberger




(707369)      Letrt     Page 10                GAO/NSIAD-99-62 Force Structure
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