MSC Readiness

Who woulda thunk that going with the lowest bidder contract after contract would have ever created a problem?


The Navy’s failure to oversee maintenance of supply ships operated by contractors has gotten so bad that one “developed a hole in the hull” while it was transporting Marine Corps gear to an exercise and never made it to its destination, according to a Pentagon Inspector General report released last month.

The IG’s probe lambastes the sea service’s Military Sealift Command, or MSC, for failing to properly oversee maintenance of its prepositioned ships ― a fleet of vessels strategically placed around the globe and packed with supplies in case a large-scale war suddenly erupts.

It is the latest alarm to be sounded over the sorry readiness woes of MSC vessels, ships with an unsexy but vital wartime mission.

Between December and August, IG investigators focused on MSC’s 20 prepositioned ships that are contractor-operated because they comprise the majority of the 26 prepositioning vessels.

They determined that MSC officials fail to ensure these vessels are maintained or provided with preventive maintenance plans.

MSC also doesn’t verify that the contractors perform preventive maintenance when they say they do, IG found.

“As a result, MSC is unable to accurately assess the condition and readiness of the (contactor-operated) ships, which has impeded the combatant commanders’ ability to carry out planned operations," the report states.

The MSC Prepositioning Program plops gear and supplies on ships bobbing in oceans across the world to ensure a rapid response due to major war or humanitarian disaster.

It serves all four branches and the Defense Logistics Agency, with the services determining the cargo and funding the program.

Prepositioned ships can equip and supply 16,000 Marines for a month but Corps officials alerted IG investigators to a pair of instances “where a prepositioning ship was unable to attend planned exercises because of maintenance deficiencies,” the report states.

MSC spokesman Troy VanLeunen told Navy Times that the ship PFC Dewayne T. Williams developed a two-centimeter by five-centimeter hole in its hull while the ship was departing Diego Garcia for an exercise in April 2017.

“The ship received a temporary repair before departing for a regularly scheduled overhaul in June 2017,” he said in an email.

By failing to make sure the contractors performed scheduled preventive maintenance to get the most of the ships’ lives, the taxpayer might have incurred nearly $140 million in recent unplanned overhaul and dry dock costs, the IG estimated.

“MSC committed $544.7 million to contractors without assurance that they would execute all the required maintenance on its prepositioning fleet,” the IG report states.

Marine officials reported that when one ship experienced overhaul delays, it cost the Corps more than $517,000 to maintain equipment that sat out exposed to the elements, plus another $177,000 to extend a stevedore contract, the report states.

In other cases, MSC officials failed to train contractors on the system they’re supposed to use to report problems, IG determined.

One ship’s chief engineer told investigators that the maintenance system only listed procedures for six of the 12 life rafts on the ship, “for several years.”

That crewman also said the Navy provided no maintenance plan for upkeep of the ship’s winches.

These problems were exacerbated by contracts that “did not state specific requirements for the contractors’ training” and use of the reporting system, according to the IG.

MSC officials told IG that their agency had sought funding to fix some of the deficiencies beginning in 2013 and expected to receive a partial financial injection during the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2019.

“MSC also affirmed that it will continue to request additional funding until the effort is completed,” the report states.

Command spokesman VanLeunen said MSC already began undertaking several of the IG report’s recommendations, including hiking management oversight and readiness assessments for the contractor-run ships.

Officials implemented an enhanced inspections program and the command is updating contract language that will help ensure mariners on the ships know how to use the maintenance reporting system, he added.


About Geoff Ziezulewicz

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [/quote]

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HAHA! Our great grand and glorious Navee once again shows how well it manages its own operations! What a sorry assed bunch of ineffective and useless BOOBS!

wait a minute, wasn’t our current Maritime Administrator once in command of MSC? Talk about useless and ineffective!

I’m a little bit perturbed at this news. These are the private ship management companies they are referring to. Patriot, Amsea, Crowley, Keystone, Matson, Tote, etc. have been cutting each other’s throats for these contracts for years. One can’t help but wonder what MSC or the Navy thought they would get in the long run by both taking the lowest bidder every time and basically shifting management of these ships every 5 years. When the bid for the work had to be so low in order to secure contract, how much motivation did they think these companies would have to keep up with maintenance? Just shameful


The MSC Prepositioning Program plops gear and supplies on ships bobbing in oceans…

This is the Navy Times? Oi vey iz mir.

I wonder why it took so long for IG investigators to make this discovery. My experience being on the black hulled vessels, it’s no secret that the minimal crew can’t properly maintain these ships which sit for years exposed to the elements. I did a relief on one that was a revolving door for CMs and CEs and could see right away that it would probably never sail across an ocean under it’s own power again.

The number of theses ships that failed to get underway for the sortie for Florence is dismal. Boiler room fires , breakdowns and hull fouling just shows the lack of care.MSC ,MARAD and the contracting company’s performance on readiness is shameful.

Many of the stories that I hear about the sorry shape of the MSC standby fleet sounds like fraud to me. Can anyone go to jail for this or perhaps the government can sue the contractors to get some of it’s money back? Or is this another DC pork barrel project that will never change & the taxpayers need to get used to it?

why? these people don’t need to stand underway watches? main propulsion machinery isn’t being operated? no good reason most of the crew can’t be engaged in maintenance all day every day

Is any of this really a surprise? There comes a point where the lowest bidder is just going to undercut expenses so badly that maintenance is going to suffer badly.

On a side note regarding MSC, whoever flagged the question regarding the changeover to the M17 as violating OPSEC… you sir are a dumbass, pure and simple.


The magnitude of corrective maintenance and your deck dept only consists of Bosun, AB and GVA is completely unrealistic. Imagine scrubbing the Taj Majhol with a toothbrush.

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Wondering if MSC will follow USN down this publicly known path isn’t exactly OPSEC.

If I were to say, “MSC will keep x number of pistols on each ship,” that would be CLASS.

If I were to say, “MSC has x number of rounds of pistol ammo per ship.” That, too, would be CLASS.

If I said, “There are x number of qualified pistol qualified mariners on the USNS Xxxx,” that would be CLASS.

If I said, “AB Xxxxx on USNS Xxxx is pistol qualified,” that would be FOUO.

But to say MSC uses Beretta 92FS/M9 on their ships isn’t. It’s visible to an observer. The mates and some gangway personnel carry on deck and around the ship. Contractors, agents, pilots and so forth can plainly see it around the world both CONUS and OCONUS.

Heck, being seen armed about the ship by other folks IS THE IDEA to convince anyone to reconsider any funny business.

‘We’re armed. Don’t fuck with us or we’ll shoot your ass.’ Please pass it along.

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Is that what happened to that thread? Damn. I was desperately waiting on news about my laser gun.


you mean to tell me that prepo ships out in Diego Garcia aren’t all fully manned ready to roll the second the balloon goes up? if they aren’t then what is the plan…round up all the missing souls from the bars of Norfolk and fly them red eye from whatever air base on a MAC flight straight to the piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean?

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M9? M17? Who the fuck cares? those are fucking popguns compared to a real man’s handgun!

Now, I know what you’re thinking…PUNK!

The prepo ships I’m talking about are the older Tier 3 ROS ships. Example: Obregon, Kocak, Martin, Wheat, Pless.

When was it anything but?

" According to MARAD’s 2013 annual report, the agency used the money to conduct 10 oral histories of MARAD employees. They also used it to repair 78 model ships located in the Department of Transportation headquarters building. MARAD defended this decision claiming that the model ships “have been protected and conserved so that they can continue to serve as an important illustration of the agency’s heritage.”

It’s a tricky question, it seems like what is a commercially viable ship and what the military wants have diverged enough since WW2 that you can’t cover the whole need by diverting the funds into MSP or some other program where the ships actually sail. Either way, keeping a handful of ships built overseas, in the depths of history, or both around won’t go anywhere near as far meeting wartime needs as subsidizing large commercial shipyard capacity would.

What’s this about?

From the article:

That crewman also said the Navy provided no maintenance plan for upkeep of the ship’s winches.

I made a couple trips to DG years ago as C/M. I never saw or heard about the Navy providing maintenance plans. Is that how it’s done now?

I would be embarrassed if any of my crew ever made such a statement. Particularly if it was on a ship that was FOS, i.e., a Preposition ship.

Here’s a similar quote:

One ship’s chief engineer told investigators that the maintenance system only listed procedures for six of the 12 life rafts on the ship, “for several years.

I would think that the contractors would be responsible for creating maintenance plans. I can see the Navy might have some interest in the plans in some cases.

Seems like the article says MSC did not properly monitor the contractors but it’s hard to tell from that article.