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CURRENT ISSUE

ARM MERCHANT SHIPS?
Should merchant ships transiting high risk areas carry small arms for defense against pirates?

Selected crew should be trained and have guns available
Professional armed security teams should be hired
No guns on merchant ships, ever

May 12, 2009

Senators call for funding of $425 million Navy ship repair shortfall

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) and nine of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate today called on the leadership of the Senate Committee on Appropriations to fully fund the Navy's estimated $425-million shortfall for ship depot maintenance and repair in the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Supplemental Appropriation.

The move follows warnings earlier this year from the Virginia Ship Repair Association (see earlier report).

"If this requirement is not funded through the remaining FY-09 supplemental, we are deeply concerned that the Navy's near-term readiness and long-term fleet sustainment will be placed at greater risk," the senators wrote in their bipartisan letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye and Ranking Member Thad Cochran. They also stressed that an inadequately funded ship maintenance budget will force shiprepair companies to lay off highly skilled workers.

In addition to Webb, the signatories included: Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Roland Burris (D-IL), and Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The proposed FY2009 Defense Supplemental includes $155.1 million for ship maintenance and emergent repair requirements. With the Navy's reported unfunded shortfall of $417 million for ship depot maintenance and an estimated $163.3 million needed to repair three damaged ships, the funding proposal leaves the Navy with a $425-million shortfall.

"There are clear indications that the surface fleet is already experiencing troubling readiness degradations according to assessments by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey," the senators said.

The ship-repair industrial base is also experiencing adverse consequences owing to the Navy's scaling back selected projects in previously scheduled availabilities. Such deletions will only add to the Navy's backlog of required maintenance in fiscal year 2010. During these difficult economic times, the senators said, "Ship-repair companies will have no alternative but to lay off skilled workers. Indeed, such reductions in the work force are already underway."

Webb added that in today's economy, it makes no sense to defer projects for any of the Navy's scheduled ship availabilities. "Our private ship repair yards and subcontractors have sized their work force for the maintenance availabilities they expected to conduct this year. They are ready to work, and we should afford them the same support we have provided to other sectors in our economy in recent months."

Read the full text of the senators' letter HERE


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