The USS Gerald R. Ford is a technological marvel. Its nuclear reactors can enable it to move for 25 years without re-fueling. It uses powerful electro-magnets to hurl aircraft into the sky. It has toilets designed so incredibly poorly that the entire system needs to be unclogged and flushed out with acid, yes acid, on a regular basis, at the cost of $400,000 a pop.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the United States Navy’s newest, shiniest, and best aircraft carrier has one of the weirdest toilet problems I’ve ever heard of:
The effects of more onerous day-to-day maintenance costs are hard to quantify using available Navy data. For example, the Navy used a brand new toilet and sewage system on the CVN 77 and 78, similar to what is on a commercial aircraft, but increased in scale for a crew of over 4,000 people. To address unexpected and frequent clogging of the system, the Navy has determined that it needs to acid flush the CVN 77 and 78’s sewage system on a regular basis, which is an unplanned maintenance action for the entire service life of the ship. According to fleet maintenance officials, while each acid flush costs about $400,000, the Navy has yet to determine how often and for how many ships this action will need to be repeated, making the full cost impact difficult to quantify.
To be clear, the GAO report, which was first spotted by Bloomberg, did not blame the sailors nor the cooks for all the clogged toilets. It’s entirely down to the design of the system, and that’s making the cost of the ship skyrocket over its lifetime, as Bloomberg notes:
Overall, the Ford’s estimated lifetime operations and sustainment costs have grown to $123 billion from $77.3 billion, the most of six programs GAO evaluated.
“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,” said Shelby Oakley, a GAO director who manages the agency’s ship acquisition reviews
“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.”
The Ford has an official complement of 4,539 sailors and Marines, and while in our ideal ship they will all defecate at evenly spaced intervals (at 1,440 minutes in a day, we’re naturally talking about 3.15 poops per minute, every minute, 24 hours a day, and NO MORE), apparently a whole bunch of them like to go right when they get up in the morning. Heathens.
I suppose the natural thing to do would be to simply install an entirely new system, but to do that, it would not only cost even more money just for the system itself, but you’d have to take the entire ship apart just to get it in there. Which also costs money, and isn’t really a thing that can be done.
So this is it. This is our lot in life.
Clogged toilets and acid.
The future only gets better.