The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) steam alongside off the coast of Hawaii. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/Released)

WASHINGTON — The Navy and Marine Corps’ top officers announced today they signed off on new guidelines designed to keep the services’ fleet of amphibious ships ready — even after the officers themselves retire.

The formal document, dubbed a “Memorandum of Understanding on Amphibious Warfare Ship Terms of Reference,” is associated with a separate letter the service chiefs — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith — signed out earlier this year ordering their respective three-star subordinates to do a “deep dive” on amphibious ship readiness.

“The new terms of reference serve as supplemental guidance to existing readiness reporting criteria and will ensure consistency and uniformity in Navy and Marine Corps amphibious force planning, assessment, and operational mission execution,” according to the announcement from Franchetti and Smith’s offices.

Asked about the new memorandum and deep dive in May, Smith said its significance was in its permanence and its ability to “outlast” him and Franchetti.

“Lisa Franchetti’s signature is worth something. My signature is worth something and [Navy Secretary Carlos] Del Toro supports it. So, it’s something,” he said then. “And when you see that visible signature, it’s a reminder to all hands that it’s all hands on deck to get amphibs ready.”

The deep dive and associated guidelines for readiness follow the service chiefs’ testimony to lawmakers this spring during which both Franchetti and Smith repeatedly emphasized they had “locked shields” on the issue of amphibious ships — a subject that had at least ostensibly been a point of contention between Navy and Marines last year.

Del Toro also appeared to change his own messaging on amphibious ships this year following numerous attacks by lawmakers who had fumed over his “strategic pause” for certain amphibs last year.

“There’s no question in my mind that we should have been buying more amphibious ships earlier,” Del Toro told the House Armed Services Committee in May during a House hearing to review the Navy’s fiscal year 2025 budget request.