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The US military ran the largest stress test of its sealift fleet in years. It’s in big trouble.
By: David B. Larter
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military in September ordered the largest stress test of its wartime sealift fleet in the command’s history, with 33 out of 61 government-owned ships being activated simultaneously. The results were bad, according to a new report.
In an unclassified U.S. Transportation Command report posted to its website, the so-called turbo activation revealed that less than half of the sealift fleet would be fully prepared to get underway for a major sealift operation in a crisis.
“The relatively low … Qualitative Mission Success Rate indicates the Organic Surge Fleet is challenged to be immediately available for a large-scale inter-theater force deployment without delays/impacts to force closure due to degraded readiness,” the report read.
The Dec. 16 report confirms what senior military and transportation officials have been saying for years now: that the sealift fleet is in urgent need of recapitalization if it is to be relied upon to support a large-scale operation overseas. In a crisis, nearly 90 percent of all Army and Marine Corps equipment would be carried by ship. The Navy is on the hook to pay for recapitalization, but it has so far failed to land on a strategy to do so.
Overall, 40.7 percent of the 61 ships operated by Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration were fully ready to support a major sealift operation. Sal Mercogliano, a merchant marine and current professor at Campbell University who closely follows these issues, said the major equipment casualties are the driving factor that is dragging down readiness.
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