Stocks of working equipment- including fighter jets- and trained personnel are so low that the Navy has to go to extraordinary lengths to send fully equipped Carrier Air Groups to sea. Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker testified to the Committee last week, “To get Carl Vinson, Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt ready to deploy in January, June and October of this year, and equip their embarked air wings with the required number of mission capable jets, 94 strike fighters had to be transferred to and from the maintenance depots or between F-18 squadrons on both coasts. This included pulling aircraft from the fleet replacement squadrons, where our focus should be on training new aviators. That strike fighter inventory management, or shell game, leaves non-deployed squadrons well below the number of jets required to keep aviators proficient and progressing toward their career qualifications and milestones, with detrimental impacts to both retention and future experience levels.”
He continued, “Additionally, to get those air wings ready, several hundred parts had to be cannibalized from other Super Hornets across the force, further decimating the readiness of squadrons and adding significantly and unnecessarily to the workload of our maintainers. From a manning perspective, to fill gaps in those deploying squadrons and the three carriers, over 300 sailors had to be temporarily reassigned from other squadrons, have their orders changed or get extended beyond their normal sea tour lengths, which hurt our sailors — which — which hurts our sailors and their families and has cascading effects on enlisted retention across the force.”
WHAT WE ARE DOING TODAY:
Under the CR, the Navy is funded below the levels in the NDAA and cannot buy additional strike aircraft to make up for the shortfalls facing the fleet today.
WHAT WE COULD BE DOING:
The House-passed NDAA authorized $1.34 billion for Naval aviation depot operations and maintenance, $162 million above the current funding level. The NDAA also authorizes the purchase of additional Naval strike aircraft to start to make up the shortfalls.