WASHINGTON ― Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and John McCain have introduced sweeping legislation that takes aim at the U.S. Navy’s readiness and organizational shortfalls that came to light in the wake of last year’s deadly accidents in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Surface Warfare Enhancement Act of 2018, introduced Monday, would require, among many other provisions, a complete bottom-up review of Navy organization, something that could put the skids on some planned reshuffling that the Navy was pressing toward later this year.

The legislation also would expand the role of the Navy’s head of acquisition to include maintenance, citing a lack of any single accountable position in charge of the upkeep of Navy equipment. It also caps at 10 years the time a ship can spend at home port overseas.

The legislation spearheaded by the two senior Senate Armed Services Committee legislators aims at addressing an underlying anxiety among some in Congress that the Navy will accurately diagnose its issues, then fail to follow up to fix them as operational and administrative burdens stack up.

The bill also gets after a number of personnel and manning issues that arose in the reviews, including:

  • Requiring the Navy to man forward-deployed ships to the same levels as U.S. deployers.
  • Requiring watchstanders to log hours spent on watch.
  • Requiring the Navy to review and make adjustments to the standard Navy workweek.
  • Requiring the Navy use Navy Yard Patrol Craft to qualify surface warfare officers as officer-of-the-deck underway before reporting to their first ship.
  • Slowing down the implementation of a training overhaul that cuts training time for new recruits in favor of more training later in their careers.

The bill also mandates a review of joint duty requirements for officers throughout the Department of Defense, which is a requirement for making flag officer, and opens up a number of job billets for officers who want to continue as technical experts and are uninterested in making higher ranks and taking higher leadership roles.

The bill may or may not be taken up by the Senate, but it’s likely that many of the provisions will make it into the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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