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32 Navy | Summer 2018 MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST SEAMAN CALEDON RABBIPAL with the unions to do this because their work force gets more exposure and experience, as well." Some of the MARAD ships have been activated to support relief operations for disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and MV Cape Ray was activated and modified to serve as an at-sea chemical weapon disposal site to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. e NDRF sites make ships available for training, and MARAD has several ships available for use by the Navy as well as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in South Carolina for security exercises. SS Del Monte is a former commercial breakbulk cargo ship that serves as part of the NDRF and now functions as a static platform for tactical training of Special Forces and security personnel at Little Creek, Va. Most of the RRF ships are dispersed among various U.S. ports, chosen to minimize sailing time to strategic loadout ports. e RRF ships are usually inactive, but need to be able to get underway within 96 hours of an activation notification. "We conduct a quarterly light-off to turn the engines over if we can. We also do system activations as part of planned maintenance. But it's not the same as getting underway." Some of the ships will conduct three-day sea trials, although Tokarski said it isn't enough time for the crew and ship to "shake off cobwebs." On one recent activation, roll-on/roll-off ship MV Cape Washington, based in Baltimore, carried cargo from Philadelphia to Port Arthur, Texas. "A decade ago we had 29 activations in one month," said Tokarski. "But now we get underway maybe seven to 10 times a year. e driver of that is money. Fuel and personnel costs are expensive." Recapitalization A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found that the "readiness of the surge seali fleet has trended downward over the past 5 years, as shown by increasing equipment casualties and decreasing scores on activation exercises." Maintenance budgets cannot remain static or be reduced as ships get older. If maintenance is deferred, the material condition of the ships declines along with readiness. e eventual cost of maintenance and repairs increases beyond what it would have been had maintenance been performed as planned. At some point, it becomes no longer cost effective to keep old and maintenance-heavy ships for surge assets. e Navy is developing a long-term recapitalization plan to replace the aging seali fleet. It will require funding, take time, and must compete with other priorities for resources. For MARAD, the available pool of U.S. ships to acquire and maintain as part of the RRF is very limited, but the RRF, also, must be recapitalized. Both will take a significant and sustained investment. n CAPT Edward Lundquist, USN (Ret.), writes for naval and maritime trade and professional journals. Civilian mariners aboard the Military Sealift Com- mand expeditionary fast transport ship (EPF) USNS Brunswick pilot the ship out of Naval Base Guam March 19 in transit to its first mission stop of Pacific Partnership 2018. The EPF is one of MSC's newest ships.

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