Pentagon Seeks To Expand, Modernize Sealift Fleet

Defense Department officials, in the first major policy shift reflecting lessons learned from the war against Iraq, have drafted a multibilliondollar plan to expand and modernize the military's fleet of cargo ships.

Under the plan, as many as 25 large, speedy cargo vessels are proposed to be built or purchased over the next decade at a cost of $7.3 billion. Billions of dollars could be added to those costs because of longterm maintenance and operating costs, but the Bush Administration is expected to ask Congress to authorize only a small portion of the total this year.

In a recent memo to Navy officials, Navy Secretary Lawrence Garrett said that the acquisition of additional ships is a top sealift priority, and the start of detailed planning aimed at construction or purchase of commercially available ships was ordered right away, even before the complete plan is completed.

Final approval of the plan must be given by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

According to officials, the draft version of the plan circulating at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill suggests doubling the current fleet of eight fast cargo vessels available to the military. The acquiring of 15 or more slower ships that can be loaded and unloaded quickly (RO/ROs) is also envisioned by the Pentagon.

John Stocker, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, said the experience in the Gulf proved that these assets are badly needed At last, he said, the issue is being discussed and decisions are being made at the highest levels.

Other stories from May 1991 issue


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