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The Navy’s two newest aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush, have a serious toilet problem, reported this week Bloomberg. Their toilets clog frequently, requiring a sewage procedure that uses specialized acids costing about $400,000 a flush.
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The news came about in a new congressional audit that revealed $130 billion in underestimated long-term maintenance costs for the ships. Regarding the toilets, the report stated that the expensive “unplanned maintenance action” will be needed “for the entire service life of the ship."
The report was written by GAO and requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee. It highlights how unaware the organization was of the many extra costs that would be incurred by the carriers.
“The Carrier toilet system is indicative of the kinds of issues we highlight in our report that are requiring more money, time, and effort to fix than originally anticipated due to a lack of adequate sustainment planning during the acquisition process,” Shelby Oakley, a GAO director, told Bloomberg.
“The pipes are too narrow and when there are a bunch of sailors flushing the toilet at the same time, like in the morning, the suction doesn’t work,” said Oakley. “The Navy didn’t anticipate this problem.”
Not all costs are toilet-related of course. As much as $26 billion of the $130 billion estimated increase in costs “could be accounted for by process changes that resulted in including more indirect costs, such as health and child care for sailors," stated the GAO report.
The Trump administration has set a goal of expanding the current 293-ship Navy to 355 by mid-2030. The goal is now being debated in Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House. There is no word yet on how GAO's report will influence this decision.