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GAO cites Navy's operational problem areas
by Richard Tomkins
Washington (UPI) Sep 20, 2017

USS America completes Alligator Dagger amphibious assault exercises
Washington (UPI) Sep 20, 2017 - The amphibious assault ship USS America has completed a series of training drills during the Alligator Dagger 2017 training exercise off the coast of Djibouti.

The America is the key ship of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Force and conducted amphibious assault and logistics training Sept. 4 to Sept. 20.

Alligator Dagger is a combat rehearsal led by Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. It involved both Navy and Marine personnel attached to the Amphibious Ready Group, a quick-response formation for attacking coastal areas.

The exercise was performed with the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, the amphibious dock transport ship USS San Diego, and the expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller.

"We have a wide range of capabilities between our ships, aircraft, logistical equipment and personnel, which enables our blue-green team to handle multiple missions at one time," Capt. Rome Ruiz, commander of Amphibious Squadron 3, said in a press release.

"Alligator Dagger has been a valuable opportunity for the ARG/MEU team to not only rehearse for new and ongoing operations but to also demonstrate our combat proficiency and flexible combat potential in support of crisis response and regional stability," Ruiz added.

The America-class amphibious assault ship is designed for the deployment of attached Marines via landing craft and helicopters while providing it's own air support. Attached aircraft range from the MV-22 Osprey to the Harrier jet.

The Marine Corps version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35B, with vertical take-off and landing capability, is expected to be a key part of the ship in coming years.

The high demand for U.S. Naval presence overseas has resulted in worsening ship conditions and declining operational readiness, a GAO report says.

The Government Accountability Office said its review showed lengthened deployments led to shortened training periods, and reduced or deferred maintenance to meet the high operational demands, especially for ships homeported abroad.

Since 2006, the GAO said, the Navy has doubled the number of ships based overseas to project U.S. military forward presence and enhance rapid crisis response time. In May 2015, however, the GAO found no dedicated training periods built into the operational schedules of the cruisers and destroyers based in Japan, and their crews did not have all of their needed training and certifications.

Based on updated data, GAO found that 37 percent of the warfare certifications for cruiser and destroyer crews based in Japan, including certifications for seamanship, had expired -- a more than fivefold increase in the percentage of expired warfare certifications in its May 2015 report.

Navy plans to revise operational schedules to provide dedicated training time for overseas-based ships has yet to be implemented, the report said.

Another area of concern was the reduction of crew size on ships, which may contribute to safety risks.

"The GAO found in May 2017 that reductions to crew sizes the Navy made in the early 2000s were not analytically supported and may now be creating safety risks," a GAO news release said. "The Navy has reversed some of those changes but continues to use a workweek standard that does not reflect the actual time sailors spend working and does not account for in-port workload -- both of which have contributed to some sailors working over 100 hours a week."

The GAO also found the Navy has difficulty completing ship maintenance according to schedule. In fiscal years 2011 through 2016, maintenance overruns on 107 of 169 surface ships -- 63 percent -- resulted in 6,603 lost operational days for the ships.

Disrepair at Navy shipyards in the United States is part of the problem, the GAO said.

"These readiness problems need to be addressed and will require the Navy to implement GAO's recommendations -- particularly in the areas of assessing the risks associated with overseas basing, reassessing sailor workload and the factors used to size ship crews, managing investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of the naval shipyards, and applying sound planning and sustained management attention to its readiness rebuilding efforts," the GAO said.

U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet holds change of command ceremony
Washington (UPI) Sep 20, 2017 - The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet changed command in a ceremony in Bahrain Tuesday, marking turnover in command in one of the Navy's key sectors of operation.

Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino has taken the place of Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan as commander of naval forces in the central command area of operations.

"NAVCENT's list of accomplishments over the past two years is long and distinguished. In a very dynamic and at times tense area of operations, the team here has performed magnificently time and time again," Central Command commander Gen. Joseph Votel said at the ceremony.

Donegan had held command of the 5th Fleet since 2015 with authority over 15,000 personnel charged with security operations.

"On the one hand, it is an opportunity to look back at the many successful accomplishments, but I'd also like to say a final farewell to a wonderful team that has really helped me along the way and to great friends that I have made in the region," Donegan said at the ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

"I'll especially miss the strong bonds and relationships and personal friendships that I made in Bahrain," Donegan said.

Aquilino previously served as deputy chief of Naval Operations for the Navy's Operations, Plans and Strategy division.

The U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations covers roughly 2.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and sections of the Indian Ocean. Additionally, 20 countries and strategic points, such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal, are under it's responsibility for security and freedom of navigation operations.

More officers relieved of duty following deadly U.S. Navy collisions
Washington DC (UPI) Sep 18, 2017
Two more U.S. Navy officers have been relieved of duty following the collisions of the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald with civilian ships that led to the deaths of 17 Navy sailors. Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet, ordered the relief of the commander of Task Force 70, Rear Adm. Charles Williams, and the commander of Destroyer Squadron 15, Capt. Jeffrey Benne ... read more

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Naval Warfare in the 21st Century

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