Transcom chief: U.S. sealift fleet needs an upgrade

March 8 (UPI) — There is an urgent need to refurbish the fleet of the seagoing U.S. Transportation Command, its chief told a Congressional committee.

Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, Transcom commander, testified on Thursday at a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s panels on readiness and on sea power and projection forces.

The “sealift fleet is able to generate only 65 percent of our required capacity, and is rapidly approaching the end of [its] useful life,” Lyons said, adding that 65 percent “is not a passing grade.”

Transcom is the sole deployment manager of the United States’ global defense transportation system, and coordinates personnel and assets to move and sustain forces and equipment around the world.

“Every day, [Transcom] protects and sustains the force globally, our global deployment networks, our transportation capacity in the air, over land and over the seas, and our global command and control capabilities combine to provide the United States with a strategic advantage unmatched by any other nation around the world,” Lyons said.

While the command has Army, Navy and Marine components, Lyons concentrated on its maritime mission at the hearing. He promoted a program to buy more used vessels to fix what he termed an at-sea readiness gap.

“I want to accelerate the used [ship] buy… We’ve got to put some actual dollars to that,” Lyons said.

He added that he approved of a presidential executive order signed this month to ease a transition from maritime service to joining the merchant marine. The secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security were charged to develop relaxed procedures for active duty and retired sea service personnel to become credentialed in the merchant marine.

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