WAR The US Navy Is Rusting Away


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The US Navy Is Rusting Away

John Rossomando
US Navy Rust

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 17, 2021) Naval Special Warfare combatant craft conduct maritime interoperability training with Marines assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) alongside the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) near Guam. Naval Special Warfare is the nation’s premier maritime special operations force and is uniquely positioned to extend the fleet’s reach and deliver all-domain options for naval and joint force commanders. (U.S. Navy photo) 210417-N-KK081-0175

"Last month I visited Naval Station Norfolk, headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. What I saw horrified me and reminded me of stories of the rusting Russian navy in the days following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The streaks of rust symbolized the decay of our naval shipyards due to decades of neglect and budget misallocations combined with an inadequate workforce.

What I Saw: A US Navy Rusting Away

Ships such as the nine-year-old USNS Medgar Evers, named for the slain civil rights leader; the USS Arlington, an amphibious warship named in honor of those killed at the Pentagon on 9/11; and a Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser whose hull number was obscured sat rusting at the piers. They weren’t the only ones, but they were the most noticeable as I toured the base.

I’m not the first to notice this problem

A friend and Navy veteran told me that he too had visited the base a few weeks prior and had seen what I saw. It infuriated him.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Stout made headlines a year ago after returning from a long deployment encrusted in rust. Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Richlyn Ivey blamed COVID for the increase in visible rust on U.S. warships in an interview with the military blog “Task and Purpose.” She claimed COVID resulted in decreased port visits during which the ships normally are painted.

A Sign of Decline?

Naval warfare commentator Chris Cavas has likewise documented the transformation of the U.S. fleet into a rusting eyesore. The U.S. Navy used to scoff at images of rusting Soviet ships as a sign of lagging seamanship and warfighting abilities.

“A service that once prided itself on looking sharp and being sharp has fallen by the wayside. For some years now normal exterior wear and tear on ships is left untouched or the haze gray is blighted by patchwork touchup jobs that sometimes render half a dozen shades of gray haphazardly close together,” Cavas wrote in a July 2019 “Defense News” column. “The dreaded “pinking” of paints introduced in the 1990s is being overcome, but ships don’t look any better unless they’re right out of the yard. Get too close to many U.S. Navy ships and rust streaks abound.”

Back in the early 1990s and in the Cold War that wasn’t the case, he said. He recalled visiting the late cruiser USS South Carolina as it was being removed from service. The cruiser was immaculate, Cavas said.

The U.S. Navy spent $3 billion on rust mitigation in 2014. Just as with the Soviet era, the Obama-Biden Navy has chosen to do things on the cheap and half-asked. Cavas noted the paint jobs he saw on the U.S. warships he observed were patchwork and incompetently done.

“We have to stay on top of it. We have to be willing to do the work necessary to limit corrosion on the ship. And it’s not just at the depot. It’s in intermediate maintenance and its with ship’s force. We have to recognize that this is a law-of-physics thing and stay on top of it,” Vice Admiral Thomas Moore, then commander of U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command told “Defense News” in 2019.

Moore served as an engineering officer on the USS South Carolina earlier in his career.

Moore blamed ship commanders for slacking on their responsibilities to keep on top of rust problems on their vessels.

Why Is This Happening?

A strong fleet must rest on a firm foundation. Dilapidated siding with peeling paint usually signifies a bad neighborhood and deeper problem. A rusting fleet symbolizes arrogance and a failure of leadership or at least a confusing chain of command that doesn’t impose discipline. A slacking ship captain who lets his or her ship rust clearly is not held accountable by their commanding officers.

Mismanagement seems to be the name of the game in today’s Navy.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found last year that the Navy improperly managed the workflow at its shipyards when it came to managing when its ships go in and out of maintenance. It also found that the Navy had only completed half of its planned measures aimed at streamlining its maintenance backlog and that it had not linked those measures to goals or action plans, Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management at GAO, said in Aug. 2020.

The Shipyard Challenge

Since the end of the Cold War, the Navy has gone from having eight shipyards to four. Its overall shipyard workforce likewise atrophied. At the same time, demand for drydock space to perform maintenance on the Navy’s warships has increased.

The Navy has struggled with bureaucratic red tape that has led to the maintenance backlog. Shipyards such as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state suffer from badly dated equipment that is in desperate need of replacement, Rear Admiral Howard Markle said in 2017 while he commanded the shipyard. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is not alone. Facilities at the shipyard were built between 1900 and World War II. Budget cuts made upgrading and replacing the shipyard impossible.

Navy struggles with aged drydocks that are not suitable for maintaining the current fleet let alone the additional hulls called for by current law.

“These dry docks on average, as you know, are over 100 years old and we’ve neglected them for too long,” Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday said last year. “And this is a strategic decision by the department to make this a priority and put the money where we need to, or we can’t sustain the fleet of the future. As you know, we’re challenged to sustain the fleet that we have now.”

Virginia-class submarines, the newest class in the fleet, can’t be serviced in many of these older drydocks. Supply chain problems recently caused the USS Gerald R. Ford (CV-78) to cannibalize parts from the future USS John F. Kennedy (CV-79).

“Despite the increased number of shipyard workers and the anticipated improvements in productivity, CBO projects that the demand for maintenance over the next few decades will exceed the supply of labor in most years,” the U.S. Naval Institute reported the CBO as having said last spring.

This leads to having ships deployed longer, which has further negative costs because their replacements aren’t available. This taxes crews and ships alike.

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) adds $21 billion to the nation’s four public shipyards in Norfolk, Va.; Portsmouth, N.H.; San Diego, Calif.,; and Puget Sound to assist with modernization. A further $4 billion would fund repairs to naval vessels in the next fiscal year.

Congress must hold the Navy accountable for the mismanagement of shipboard repair, mismanagement of its shipyard maintenance schedules, and its shipyard staffing levels."

John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.


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The Navy’s surface fleet is turning into a floating advertisement for Rust-Oleum
'We have become the worst-looking Navy in the world — with no competition.'


The Navy’s surface ships are so covered in rust that they look prematurely aged and unseaworthy, which isn’t exactly the message the U.S. wants to send China and Russia.

When the destroyer USS Stout returned from its unprecedented 215-day deployment in October, there was no way to hide how much of the ship was covered in rust. The vessel looked as if it should have been renamed USS Tetanus.

“We have become the worst-looking Navy in the world — with no competition,” said longtime naval journalist and commentator Chris Cavas.

Cavas recently re-tweeted a picture showing the destroyer USS James E. Williams with skid marks of running rust as it pulled into Naval Station Mayport, Florida, on Feb. 27. The ship deployed in January to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific on counter-narcotics and other missions.

The Navy takes preventative maintenance very seriously, but the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has limited port visits, which is where ships normally get painted, said Cmdr. Richlyn Ivey, a spokeswoman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

But the issue of the Navy’s rusting surface ships pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cavas has been documenting the Navy’s rust pandemic for a while. In August 2019, he tweeted a picture of the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry looking as if it had not been painted in years.

One reason why Navy ships look so beat up is they are made of alloys that are designed to rust on the surface while protecting the metal underneath from further corrosion, said retired Navy Cmdr. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, D.C.

“That surface rust can just be scraped off and you’re good as new — but it looks terrible,” Clark said.

Clark acknowledged that ships from other countries do not look nearly so worn and torn, but he said that is because they do not deploy nearly as often as Navy ships, which are constantly underway or preparing for upcoming deployments.

For the USS Stout, being at sea for so long without any port calls meant the ship’s crew could only do limited maintenance on the vessel, as veteran Defense News reporter David Larter told The War Zone in October 2020.

Top to bottom: USS James E. Williams, USS Fort McHenry, USS Stout.

“These long deployments and 208-day underways are going to take a toll on these ships inside and out,” Larter said. “It’s honestly impressive they kept a quarter-century old ship in running form that long! But the Navy will have to pay the piper. This is unsustainable.”

There does not seem to be any letup in the near-term for the constant demand for Navy surface ships around the world, despite two separate ship collisions in 2017 that involved the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, costing the lives of 17 sailors in total.

“When you look at a ship from a European navy or the Chinese navy, for example, they will make that ship pristine before it deploys,” Clark said. “It will deploy for a relatively short time and then come home — and then not deploy again for some number of years until it has to go out again.”

Clark also pointed out that when rust develops on the side of a ship, it requires the vessel to pull into port so sailors can paint it.

But Cavas said he does not believe the Navy’s rust problem has anything to do with technology or constant deployments.

For some reason, some Navy commands have not put a high priority on ensuring that their vessels are ship-shape, said Cavas, who noted that rust degrades equipment and causes other problems.

“There are many ships where — for whatever reason — they’re just not be taken care of the way that we know they should be taken care of,” Cavas said."

Featured image: The destroyer USS James E. Williams pulling into Naval Station Mayport, Florida, on Feb. 27.


Veteran Member
Would be pretty cool if it was just patina painting...fool our adversaries into thinking they are run down heaps...

But that is just a bit of wishful thinking, and how I would do things.


Veteran Member
My dearly departed Navy relatives are twisting in their graves seeing all that rust.
You wouldn’t have ever seen a spot of rust back when our forces were respected AND members were proud of their country. I e heard stories of all the scrubbing that went on.

I’m sure most enlisted left ARE proud and work hard but in my opinion, sorely outnumbered. Can’t do this kind of upkeep unless every single person is working alongside each other.
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Rusting away on the outside is a reflection of the inner rot in the senior officer corps and civilian leadership. Plenty of money in DOD but how it’s spent is something else altogether.
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Resident Spook
The reason for this is really quite simple. The Navy has been placing racial equality above performance for quite a number of years. When I was active duty navy (1980-86) it didn't really matter what your skin color was, you did your job and were rewarded for your performance. However that was changing back then and why I did not re-enlist.

Go forward 20 years (when my son was in the Navy) and the situation is really bad. You pretty much have to be black to get promoted, and if you aren't black you won't get approved for advanced training or promotion. And if you are a white officer and you try to enforce discipline and maintaining your ship, you are a racist.

Now, as much as I love the Navy, I would not recommend it to anyone.


Senior Member
I would bet lots of money that each and every one of those ships are fully up to date with all their crt and I have 5 mommies training........combat readiness training, not so much.


Has No Life - Lives on TB
Well Trump can accept some of that neglect. But perhaps much of that refit money was redistributed to building the border wall as the Demonrats would not approve funding it ( they planned our invasion). Biden threw completing the wall out the window his first days in office, and is allowing us to be invaded as we speak.

Rusty ships isn’t stopping the destruction of America. It’s walking across our borders.


Designated Old Fart
If a Commanding Officer had pulled his ship into port looking like that back in my day (20 years ago).....the CO would have been fired on the spot. Along with the Executive Officer, the Deck Officer, the Damage Control Officer, the Master Chief of the boat and the Chief Bos'n Mate. And if the exterior of the ship looked like that I can only imagine what the interior and especially the Engine Room and Combat Stations looked like! So the Chief of Engineering, the number three in command would probably been booted as well as the Gunnery Officer.

There is no excuse for any ship to be in that kind of poor material condition unless in a time of war and with over half the crew dead and buried at sea. And even then everything would at least be primered! There is no excuse for that disgusting image....none.

On every ship I was ever on in my 22 years, even when underway there was the constant sound of needle guns, grinders and the smell of fresh paint EVERYWHERE. On my last ship an LPD we painted Medical twice in a one 6 month period at sea, underway deployment. Rust was something you NEVER SAW anywhere on my ship....

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I want to know where the hell are the CHIEFS on those ships??


Veteran Member
Easiest thing to cut to save money is maintenance. THey arent going to stop building new ships because those contracts get a lot of attention. Nobody but the sailors care if a Maintenance period is missed but try to cancel a new build to save money and TSHTF. Look at the Zumwalts. THink of how much maintenance could have been accomplished with that money.

Roger Thornhill

Some irascible old curmudgeon
Clark also pointed out that when rust develops on the side of a ship, it requires the vessel to pull into port so sailors can paint it
What a crock of shit. Ships have been scraped, primed, and painted while underway since the 1870s. I can find you photos from the Second World War where a half-dozen bosuns chairs are slung over the side, and the ship is being painted even while steaming toward the theater of combat.


It's painful to see French and German naval ships which look pristine next to our current fleet.

Doomer Doug

TB Fanatic
Trump had four years, so what was he doing?
Xi and Putin are Licking their chops.


How we made it past Thanksgiving I don't understand. Maybe waiting for Christmas?

The Snack Artist

Veteran Member
The United States has become second class (if that) in too many ways to count.

TPTB want us as a turd world nation. They are succeeding. We don't have the money to buy anything let alone paint ships. We've bought the world banks new, shiny, things they really like and put it on a cc. Time to pay more than the minimum. This is going to hurt.


Designated Old Fart
What a crock of shit. Ships have been scraped, primed, and painted while underway since the 1870s. I can find you photos from the Second World War where a half-dozen bosuns chairs are slung over the side, and the ship is being painted even while steaming toward the theater of combat.
EXACTLY!! Ships have been maintained, preventive maintenance conducted continuously at sea, underway, in port, in the yards, anywhere it needs to be done, any day of the week, anywhere in the world, around the clock on every watch. There is absolutely no excuse for our warships to look like that.

If need be they need to fire everyone from the SecNav to the CNO and every single admiral and officer in the Pentagon on down until they find someone with real balls of naval steel and salt water in their veins. And any Chief not properly wearing his anchor needs to be keel hauled until some REAL BLACK SHOES show up. You sailors here know what I mean.

sailor001.jpg sailor004.jpg

Warfighting is not for the politically correct, gender confused, woke and (pardon me ladies) a bunch of candy assed pussies. That's not to say there aren't some seriously tough warfighting ladies out there, but the front lines are no place for a lady. Trust me.....I've been there.
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