By Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D. – On January 22, 2020, the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Defense released a declassified and redacted report, entitled, Audit of Surge Sealift Readiness Reporting. The surge sealift fleet, those 15 vessels held by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and the 46 by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), are a key component of the nation’s ability to project military power from the continental United States. The recent Turbo Activation 19 Plus exercise in September 2019, tested the reliability of this fleet, and showed it fell far short of the 85% readiness rate required, with an overall performance of 40%. The new IG report indicates that there may be more systemic issues at the root of the problem but fails to adequately identify the underlying cause of these issues.
The IG undertook the audit to determine if the U.S. Transportation Command provided, “adequate oversight of the reporting on surge sealift activation requirements.” Specifically, they examined the 50 roll-on/roll-off ships (15 held by MSC and 35 by MARAD), that provide a total of 10.7 million square feet of cargo space for the combatant commanders. The information on the individual ships is reported through the Defense Readiness Reporting System. The information is inputted by MSC based on reports from the contract operators and via the Maritime Administration from their commercial companies.