A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found the Navy collects only limited data on intermediate maintenance periods on its ships and does not analyze the data it does have.
“The Navy collected, but did not analyze, limited data on the performance of intermediate maintenance periods—work often occurring while a ship is pier-side and capable of getting underway within 96 hours,” the report published on Feb. 8 said.
Intermediate maintenance periods generally include work often occurring while a ship is pier-side and capable of getting underway within four days. They have a higher frequency and shorter duration than Chief of Naval Operations-directed maintenance that can last from six months to three years for the most complex work. With a higher frequency and shorter duration, intermediate maintenance tends to cover fewer and less complex jobs that are also more flexible than the major maintenance. This work can occur at regional maintenance centers.
The GAO report used data from fiscal years 2015 to 2020. It said the Navy not only collected limited data over this time, “but did not analyze the data it collected on the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines.”
The Navy did not collect any data on several categories for intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships and aircraft carriers. This included no data on the number of jobs deferred to other periods and both the planned vs. actual costs.
The report said while the Navy collected limited information on intermediate maintenance periods for submarines’ planned and actual start and completion dates, the service did not analyze the data and only compiled it after the GAO asked for the information.
Using the Navy’s data, GAO’s analysis found that of 414 intermediate maintenance periods for submarines occurring FY ‘15 – ‘20, the Navy finished 54 percent on time or early and 46 percent late. GAO also found the submarines accumulated 2,525 days of maintenance delay for completed intermediate maintenance periods with a 13-day average delay for later intermediate maintenance periods.
However, the number of maintenance delay days per year appear to have decreased from 638 days in FY ‘18 to 374 days in FY ‘19 to 172 days in FY ‘20.
GAO said for the six Navy shore-based maintenance providers performing this kind of work the number of delay days when work was finished late ranged from eight to 22 days.
The report underscored that in its analysis of the submarine work GAO found the intermediate maintenance periods for submarines over FY ‘15 – ‘20 averaged 53 days, almost two weeks longer than what the Joint Fleet Maintenance manual calls ideal and what Navy officials told GAO is typical.
Even the intermediate maintenance period data the GAO got its hand on regarding submarines was incomplete.
The Navy provided GAO with a spreadsheet listing some causes for why intermediate maintenance periods on submarines were completed late in FY ‘19-’20, but the information did not include causes for delays to the same kind of work over FY ‘15’-’18.
“In addition, some of the causes listed, such as work execution, were incomplete or vague because they did not offer detailed explanations as to why the delays occurred.”
While that submarine data was useful, “the Navy could not provide reliable data for the remaining types of data we requested for submarines and could not provide any reliable data for surface ships and aircraft carriers. The Navy has not collected or used data to effectively monitor the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers,” GAO said.
Moreover, when seeking surface ship data, the report said the Navy “could not reliably identify the number of intermediate maintenance periods it completed during fiscal years 2015 through 2020.”
GAO said data from Naval Surface Force Atlantic reported the Navy completed about 400 intermediate maintenance periods for surface ships during this period while excluding Pacific fleet information. Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center (CNRMC), including data from three regional maintenance centers, reported the Navy likely completed at least 600 such maintenance periods. The CNRMC data does not include data from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Naval Station Everett, or the Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center.
GAO underscored how unreliable the data is by noting some of the maintenance periods reported actual competition data earlier than the actual start dates, some were missing planned start and completion dates at all and others had matching planned and actual start and completion dates.
The Navy told GAO the aircraft carrier data it provided was unreliable. The office still tried to determine maintenance delays by comparing actual start and completion dates to planned dates.
However, “the Navy provided us the planned start and end dates for the intermediate maintenance periods, but was unable to provide us with the actual start and completion dates to perform the analysis on maintenance delays. Further, for the data on planned start and completion dates provided by the Navy, officials noted that the data were unreliable because the two sources of these data did not contain the same results.”
GAO said Navy guidance requires intermediate maintenance period performance be collected by both the shore-based maintenance providers and fleets/type commanders. The report estimates that beyond the limited submarine data, the service “has not collected or used reliable data for at least 1,000 planned intermediate maintenance periods during fiscal years 2015 through 2020.”
This goes against various standards and manual instructions for recording data to refine maintenance actions.
“However, the Navy has not collected or used the required data on intermediate maintenance periods because the Navy has not established and implemented procedures to collect and analyze these data related to the performance of intermediate maintenance periods. Further, Navy officials stated they believed the intermediate maintenance periods were being performed on time and in full,” the report said.
Navy officials told the GAO intermediate maintenance periods were generally finished on time, but had no reliable data to back that up.
“Without establishing and implementing procedures to collect and analyze data, the Navy does not have the ability to track and monitor the performance of intermediate maintenance periods. This also limits the Navy’s ability to provide effective oversight of maintenance for submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers.”
GAO made four recommendations to improve the situation, starting with how the Secretary of the Navy should ensure both shore-based maintenance providers and fleet/type commanders establish and implement procedures to collect and analyze complete and reliable data on the performance of intermediate maintenance periods for submarines, surface ships and aircraft carriers.
“These data should include the planned and actual start and completion dates, costs, and the causes of any delays in the completion of maintenance periods, among other things.”
Other recommendations include how the secretary should ensure one unitary entity is designated to address challenges affecting intermediate maintenance periods for these vessels; ensure the maintenance providers and fleet/type commanders implement a mechanism to share best practices and lessons learned on the performance of these maintenance periods across vessel types; and ensure the Navy’s maintenance-related strategic planning and initiatives include issues associated with the performance of intermediate maintenance periods.
DoD concurred with the recommendations.