Navy Delivers Strategic Sealift Plan To Congress

The Navy recently delivered to Congress a long-awaited plan on how the Service intends to conduct its sealift program.

The Navy's strategic sealift implementation plan said it "would lead to a shipbuilding or major conversion program" with "its size, scope and mix determined by the MRS (mobility requirements study) Final Report." In the plan, the Navy also supports the efforts of the Maritime Administration to expand the ready reserve fleet by adding 104 roll-on/roll-off ships by 1994, and it said t h a t in order to accomplish this, 21 ships must be purchased from the worldwide commercial market. The Navy, however, pointed out that "new construction or major conversion much be accomplished in U.S.

shipyards." Besides continually pushing the Navy to start a sealift program, Congress has been in a constant battle with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) over the issue of converting or buying existing foreignowned and operated ships. OSD's position is that this is required because there are relatively no ships in the U.S. that would not require extensive and costly conversions. Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition) Donald Yockey issued an acquisition decision memorandum (ADM) in mid-September that said three of the four options open to the Navy are the procurement or conversion of existing ships.

Both the House and Senate, however, have forbidden the Navy to spend appropriated funding in foreign shipyards. They believe OSD is trying to take the least costly route possible at the expense of the American shipbuilding industry.

According to the plan, the Navy intends to proceed with the first phase of the program before the mobility requirements study final report is completed. It is expected by year's end. In this phase, which will last approximately four months, the Navy will obtain and evaluate designs for two sealift ships. One design will be a large 24-knot rollon/ roll-off ship for conventional maritime prepositioning. The other ship, a smaller variant of the prepositioning ship, will be designed for standard military transport or possible commercial operation under build and charter agreements.

The Navy issued contracts for the concept designs in mid-September, shortly after Yockey released the ADM. Nine shipyards around the country received contracts. The design efforts could include variants of existing ships or ones now in design, the plan said.

Once the design studies are submitted to the Navy, the Service will begin the next phase by reviewing the design and establishing its baseline engineering design. After the Navy baseline design is completed, the shipyards will be awarded independent engineering design efforts. The final phase is for ship con- struction. The shipyards will compete for one contract "for central procurement of major or long lead material to achieve standardization and cost savings." The first ship is expected to be delivered in 1996. Throughout the course of the program, the Navy said t h a t the Naval Sea Systems Command will also "utilize the expertise of the Maritime Administration and the Military Sealift Command to insure t h a t commercial ship operational requirements are properly considered."

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