Congresswoman Luria Uncovers Concerning Sealift Readiness Issues at Seapower Hearing

March 17, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON Last week, at the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing on sealift and mobility requirements, Vice Chair Elaine Luria exposed unsettling sealift readiness and maintenance challenges.

Congresswoman Luria first questioned General Stephen Lyons, Commander of United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). General Stephens Lyons’ stated that the readiness of sealift is 59 percent of the 10.5 million square feet of capacity that TRANSCOM currently has. Congresswoman Luria highlighted that the required sealift capacity is 19.2 million square feet, but sealift is only meeting 30 percent of that requirement. She emphasized that last year General Lyons and his deputy said they could meet sealift demand, but this year they clarified that they could not meet it in the time required. Congresswoman Luria argued that either they do not need the 19.2 million square foot capacity or the Combatant Commander’s timeline in the Time Phased Force Deployment Data (TPFDD) does not matter. General Lyons confirmed that 19.2 million square feet is the requirement but they are not able to meet that today.

Next, Congresswoman Luria pressed General Lyons for answers regarding the construction of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) headquarters in Norfolk. In the budget, MSC diverted $50 million from operation and maintenance funding to the new building. Typically, this funding would come from military construction accounts rather than operation and maintenance. In a time when sealift is at 59 percent readiness, Congresswoman Luria asked General Lyons why MSC would prioritize a new headquarters over sealift maintenance and upgrades.

“It is unacceptable that MSC is prioritizing the construction of a new headquarters over the maintenance of its own ships,” said Congresswoman Luria. “Today there is no good reason for MSC to transfer money away from maintaining and upgrading our sealift’s fleet to fund their new headquarters.”

Click above to watch Congresswoman Luria’s questioning of General Lyons.

Congresswoman Luria then questioned Vice Admiral Ricky Williamson, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics. Congresswoman Luria asked VADM Williamson how many used ships the Navy is on track to procure. VADM Williamson replied that the Navy will acquire two used ships in 2021 and an additional used ship in 2022. Next, Congresswoman Luria noted that a used ship with military utilities would cost an average of $30 million per hull. She asked VADM Williamson for the cost to upgrade the ships so they are able to meet ABS standards, carry required cargo, and become militarily compatible. Congresswoman Luria fired back, stating, “This is useful information for our committee, because if it’s a $30 million price tag to buy the ship, but then you need to come back and ask for $30 million to make it useful for its purpose, we need to know that going into this process.”

“I am disappointed that VADM Williamson could not provide an answer on the cost to upgrade ships so that they can meet the sealift’s standards,” said Congresswoman Luria. “We want to provide the sealift with the resources they need to execute their mission, and we cannot do that if leadership cannot tell us what they need.”

Click above to watch Congresswoman Luria’s questioning of General Lyons.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.