Sept. 20 (UPI) -- 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.