Lyons says Pentagon is looking for funds to accelerate used sealift ship purchases

By Justin Katz / October 3, 2019 at 2:34 PM

The Pentagon’s top officer overseeing military sealift capabilities said this week he is working with the Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian to find funding starting in FY-21 to accelerate the procurement of used sealift vessels.

TRANSCOM Commander Army Gen. Steve Lyons told reporters at an Oct. 2 Defense Writers Group breakfast there’s “work right now at the department to fund the seven” ships authorized in the fiscal year 2018 and FY-19 National Defense Authorization Acts.

“The Navy’s program right now would need to be plussed up to do what I’m asking them to do, but the deputy secretary and others are supportive of finding the money to do that,” he said.

“We wouldn’t do them all in one year, but starting next year -- to be able to start that process,” he added.

Buying used sealift vessels is one part of the military’s three-pronged strategy to recapitalizing the surge sealift fleet, comprised of various auxiliary ships operated and maintained by the Maritime Administration and Military Sealift Command.

Lyons earlier this year told lawmakers sealift is his top readiness concern.

“Due to the increased age of the sealift fleet, degraded fleet readiness, and wartime requirements, sealift is U.S. [Transportation Command’s] No. 1 readiness concern,” he said in written testimony.

During that same testimony, Lyons agreed with a comment by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, that accelerating the purchase of used sealift vessels is the “most practical way ahead.”

Separately, Lyons said this week he expects to receive a report at the end of the month about the results of the recent turbo activation of more than two dozen sealift ships.