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Audit of Readiness of Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyers (DODIG-2020-056)

Audit

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Publicly Released: February 4, 2020

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the Navy identified and addressed readiness challenges of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Although we assessed all five readiness areas (personnel, equipment, supply, training, and ordnance), we focused this report on whether the Navy identified and addressed training deficiencies between 2013 and 2018 for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Background

As of August 16, 2019, the Navy had a battle force of 290 ships, including Surface Force ships, homeported in the United States or forward-deployed to foreign nations. There are different types of Surface Force ships, such as guided-missile cruisers, guided-missile destroyers, and littoral combat ships. Within each ship type, there are one or more classes. One of the classes within the guided-missile destroyer type is the Arleigh Burke-class. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are multi-mission, surface combatant ships capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare.

According to a Navy instruction, ship incidents include fires, flooding, explosions, collisions, allisions, and groundings. Between May 2012 and November 2017, there were at least 10 incidents involving Surface Force ships. Of these 10 incidents, 4 involved an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and resulted in the deaths of 17 U.S. sailors, multiple injuries to individuals aboard the ships, and damage to the ships and their equipment. After the incidents, the Navy released the “Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents” and the “Strategic Readiness Review.” The Navy also established the Readiness Reform and Oversight Council in January 2018 to oversee and ensure the implementation of the 117 recommendations from the Strategic Readiness Review, the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents, and other reviews, such as those performed by the Government Accountability Office.

In November 2014, the Navy issued the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) as a framework to improve fleet readiness. The OFRP cycle consists of the following phases, which are accomplished in a series: maintenance phase, basic phase, integrated or advanced phase, and sustainment phase.

The Navy’s Surface Force Readiness Manual (SFRM) is the Navy’s plan for ships, staffs, and units to execute the OFRP. The SFRM requires each ship to achieve prescribed readiness standards and demonstrate proficiency before advancing through the OFRP to maximize effectiveness.

The Defense Readiness Reporting System– Navy (DRRS-N) is the Navy’s authoritative system for readiness reporting. DRRS-N collects and displays the status and availability of resources for the following areas, by unit, to accomplish assigned missions: personnel, equipment, supply, training, and ordnance.

Finding

Navy fleet commanders, type commanders, and unit commanding officers identified training deficiencies during the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers’ OFRP cycles, but did not address the identified deficiencies. We analyzed Navy readiness assessments, as well as each ship’s waivers from readiness requirements between August 2013 and April 2018 for the most recently completed OFRP cycles of 12 of 64 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and identified the following training deficiencies.

  • Commanding officers reported training deficiencies, such as the inability to be certified or maintain proficiency in mission areas in DRRS-N for 9 of the 12 ships we reviewed.
     
  • Fleet commanders reported on Deployment Certifications that 5 of the 12 ships we reviewed had training deficiencies such as training that was either incomplete, or not completed under established conditions or standards.

Training deficiencies persisted because the Navy did not always complete training requirements in accordance with the SFRM. For example:

  • the USS Howard did not complete all Strike Warfare mission area exercises, such as those for Naval Surface Fire Support before deployment; therefore, the ship will not be able to conduct gunnery support, such as identifying where the ship is shooting.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in collaboration with the Commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, and the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, in collaboration with the Commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, determine whether Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently deployed or in the sustainment phase of the OFRP have outstanding training deficiencies; and direct Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to complete any outstanding training requirements immediately or as soon as the mission allows.

Management Comments and Our Response

The Deputy Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, responding for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, provided a consolidated response, and the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, concurred with U.S. Pacific Fleet’s response to the recommendations. The Deputy Commander, neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations.

The Deputy Commander stated that all Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently deployed or in the sustainment phase are fully certified. The Deputy Commander stated that the update to the SFRM, the Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual, November 2018, contains checkpoints to ensure ships are Basic Phase certified before deployment. The Deputy Commander also stated that ships undergo two Readiness Assessments when returning from deployment and entering the sustainment phase to ensure training certifications are maintained throughout the sustainment period, and to determine areas where focused training might be required. The Deputy Commander further stated that there are no outstanding training requirements because the destroyers currently deployed or in the sustainment phase are fully certified.

Although the Deputy Commander neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations, the comments addressed all specifics of the recommendations; therefore, the recommendations are resolved but will remain open. We will close these recommendations after the Deputy Commander provides the methodology and supporting documentation used, including ships assessed and applicable certifications, to conclude that all Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently deployed or in the sustainment phase are fully certified.

This report is the product of Proj. No. D2018-D000RM-0101.000