The Navy did not properly follow its own procedures when it proposed decommissioning seven cruisers and two amphibious dock landing ships two years ago to account for how the early retirements would impact capability gaps, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday.

The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy
The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy

The GAO report (GAO-14-412) said the Navy’s policy calls for a decision memorandum to address why it’s best to decommission the ships and to outline plans to deal with any gaps in capability, but did not do so when it issued its proposal as part of the fiscal 2013 and 2014 budget process.

Navy officials informed the GAO that the issues were discussed internally but they failed to prepare the documentation because of time constraints in identifying budget cuts.

Congress ultimately blocked the Navy’s attempts to retire the ships and the Navy has since adopted a new strategy for the Ticonderoga-class (CG-47) cruisers. Now, the Navy is seeking permission to sideline 11 of the cruisers for long-term modernization while reducing short-term spending as part of the fiscal 2015 budget process.

Congress appears poised to stop or at least alter that proposal. The House Appropriations Committee in its marked up defense spending bill released this week places limits how many can be removed from service and adds other measures to ensure the guided-missile ships don’t wind up decommissioned.