The USS Vicksburg, a guided-missile cruiser, has been docked in Norfolk, Virginia for over six years, undergoing costly repairs that have amounted to at least $175 million of taxpayer money. Despite these expenditures, it remains uncertain if the ship will ever be operational again. This situation draws attention to the broader issue of the Navy’s challenges in modernizing its fleet amidst China’s growing naval power in the Pacific.
- The USS Vicksburg is among 11 vessels the Navy intends to retire, but Congress might oppose this due to jobs provided by ship repairs in various districts and the desire to maintain a strong naval presence against China.
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has highlighted increasing costs in repairing Navy warships, with a $1.2 billion (24%) increase in maintenance costs between 2011 and 2020. Part of the reason for escalating maintenance costs is attributed to deferred upkeep during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Apart from the influence of wars, the rising costs and delays are also due to a lack of spare parts and vacancies in shipyard jobs. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro emphasized the importance of reviewing the conditions of ships to extend their service life when feasible.
- The Navy has consistently aimed for a fleet of 355 ships but has only maintained between 270 to 300 since 2003. While older ships like the USS Vicksburg, launched in 1991, dominate the retirement list, newer ships from the criticized Littoral Combat class are also present.
- The USS Vicksburg’s actual maintenance and modernization costs may surpass the $175 million reported, with some claims suggesting up to $500 million in contracts awarded for its update.