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Navy fleet boss: 9-month deployments unsustainable

Apr. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Surface Navy MWM 20140115
Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, addresses the Surface Navy Association Symposium on Jan. 15 in Arlington, Va. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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A new deployment plan billed as a way to make Navy life easier on sailors and their families will provide more time in port than the six-month deployment model, the fleet’s top boss said Tuesday.

Adm. Bill Gortney, head of Fleet Forces Command, told the crowd at the Sea-Air-Space expo that the latest deployment scheme, known as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, would have sailors in port roughly 68 percent of the time during a 36-month cycle.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the ‘good old days’ when we had six month deployments,” he said. “Well the good old days weren’t that good”

Gortney said that the six-month model added up to roughly three months of work-ups, onerous inspection cycles and even less family time than his new plan — roughly 52 percent in-port time during the 24-month inter-deployment cycle.

Gortney said the eight-month deployments were not ideal, and were on the “ragged edge” of what would be an acceptable deployment length, but that sailors have been receptive to the change on the likelihood that deployment schedules will become more predictable.

The plan will begin with the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman later this year, Gortney said, and will look to get each carrier strike group fully manned as they come out of their post-deployment maintenance cycles.

The plan, Gortney said, accounts for about 30 percent of the fleet being deployed at any given time, including a carrier in the Pacific and a carrier in the Middle East.

Navy leaders have talked about returning balance to the fleet, which has been straining under longer and more erratic deployment schedules. Gortney warned that 9 1/2-month deployments are “not a sustainable model.”

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