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Will the Knife Save the Navy?

December 10, 2009

The ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738).

The cuts in the upcoming QDR mentioned earlier concerned the 2 supercarriers, the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and a great chunk of the Joint Strike Fighter buy. According to the Cato at Liberty blog, there’s even more trimming planned:

The Navy’s draft ship-building plan apparently warns of massive cuts in the size of its future fleet and consolidation of the ship-building industry unless Congress provides new funds for shipbuilding.  It wants $80 billion extra over the fourteen years starting in 2019 to cover the cost of buying twelve new boomers (SSBN or ballistic missile submarines) to replace the fourteen Trident SSBNs slated for retirement starting in 2029. Without the extra cash, the Navy says it will have to buy less of everything else, shrinking the fleet to roughly 237 ships rather than the planned 324. The bulk of cuts will come from large surface combatants; we will wind up with 53 rather than the planned 96. The number of amphibious ships and attack submarines will also decrease. With so few ships coming into the fleet, the document implies, we’ll have to close some shipyards.

First off, I support the replacement of out Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines, long overdue IMHO. Even more, I see the boomers as our most survivable deterrent by far, and there’s little reason why it shouldn’t be our ONLY strategic deterrent for this fact.

I also consider that if the Navy would build fewer high end surface ships and submarines, we could be expanding instead of decreasing. Because the Aegis destroyers, attack submarines, supercarriers ect, are so much more capable, we could build fewer of them. Even the ones we now construct could be done cheaper, with little decrease in their effectiveness. Do warships like the Burke with precision missiles need 100 of them? But I recall when we built single end missile ships. So why not destroyers with 60 or 45 missiles and you could buy more hulls?

Would a nuclear boat half the size of the 8000 ton Virginia be any less effective, since its primary asset is unmatched range and sustained cruising speed?  These are just out of the box ideas which should be considered, and as I noted earlier this week, budget cuts would actually make us more creative, teaching us to do more with less.

Perhaps I am in the minority with this view, but I see cuts not only as beneficial but actually the Navy’s salvation if it changes the admirals from their free-spending ways, and battleship-only mindset which have little place in today’s conflcit.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe permalink
    December 13, 2009 1:36 pm

    Graham said: One more thing folks: NO MORE NATION-BUILDING! EVER!


  2. Graham Strouse permalink
    December 13, 2009 4:56 am

    One more thing folks: NO MORE NATION-BUILDING! EVER!

    Afghanistan bled the USSR dry. Charlie Wilson & the CIA helped, of course & it was a slightly different situation: The USSR was literally trying to annex Afghanistan. We’re trying to…ah, what the hell are we trying to do there? The Taliban is barely IN Afghanistan. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Iraq is stupid, too, but at least they have something they want–oil.

    Anyone else notice that Putin doesn’t start fights he can’t finish? Bush & Obama…Don’t get me started.

    America doesn’t know how to finish a fight anymore. We treat wars like comic book conflicts. They’re endless, pointless, flashy & they sell but in the end…there is no end.

    We’re letting people bleed us out economically by allowing enemies to goad us into unwinnable wars waged using our predictable, over-expensive tactics. It’s the USSR & the British Empire all over again. Does anybody in the military now understand the connections between force projection, logistics & economics? ANYONE?

  3. Joe permalink
    December 11, 2009 10:45 am

    Mike, I know your personal feelings about big ships and the role of nuke subs and a/c carriers by having read past threads you’ve posted. After all, your ideal “navy after next”, from my birthday in September, omits either from existence if you were given the chance to design a “virgin birth” navy.

    By all means promote what you believe in. I believe in change for fiscal reasons…but differently than you. I just think the idea of change (at least what would pass for the first generation of it) is best pursued by showing those in denial of its importance how it can be achieved by giving “them” what they are used to having but in a slightly different conceptual package.

    I compare it to an obese person realizing for the 1st time they need to lose weight. You’re more likely to lose them if you recommend 180-degree changes in everything versus a program of specific substitution in slowly but surely increasing areas of their diet.

    To wit, if you want manned air, like I do, a modified LHA-6 (guaranteed able to launch F-35B/C plus Supers) would be one path to take. “Conventionalizing” the Fords/Nimitz, or the French PA2 would be “less filling, tastes great” ways of giving the Navy manned air platforms but with less nuclear fat. Fewer $$$ there could obv free up money for more & varied smaller platforms for fleet numbers.

    The specter of Fonzie vs the shark came out of my fingers because when I think of a 50% cut in spending, the folks I see in my mind’s eye most joyously applauding the idea of it aren’t those most interested in reform and reallocation within the military, but rather those that would have our armed forces reduced to a coastal defense force with a few land-based interceptor jets – only – if they had the power to effect it. If I’m right, then the supporters you’d garner would help you on the front end (massive cuts) only to oppose you on everything else once that was achieved. At that point, who needs enemies?

    Last thing I’ll say is that if there is a door prize for long posts, I want to be entered in it.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 11, 2009 8:13 am

    Joe, you are likely right, but I’m still going to hold out for fiscal reality. It’s only a matter of time.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 11, 2009 6:05 am

    elgatoso-Thanks for the links!

    Josef-I agree with your thoughts on the Arleigh Burkes. I don’t think we need as many of them but consider their capabilities have raised the destroyer to capital ship status. The use of Tomahawk missiles gives it a power projection role not unlike that of the aircraft carrier, against land or sea targets. The best thing, it can deploy this power without costly escorts or combat air patrol, since with Aegis it is its own escort! This is a revolutionary capability which has yet to be taken full adequate advantage of by our “stretched thin” navy.

    Retire the Ticos. I think we have enough DDG-51s with 60 on hand and 50 would still be by far the most powerful surface force on the planet. Spend the savings on a renewed escort flotilla of corvettes, motherships, HSVs, and OPVs.

    Keep building Virginia’s but accompany them with conventional submarines better able to get close to shore (more on this subject later today!), and flush out the required numbers of submersible. 50 is not enough, 100 would be getting there. You can build at least 4 d/e boats for the price of 1 nuke sub. What are we waiting for!

    As for carrier air-I am just sitting back enjoying the show as they sink under their own weight of costs, and increasingly pricey and difficult to build naval aircraft. Still useful? Certainly, but long past cost-effective while new technology has greatly lessened the need.

  6. Joe K. permalink
    December 11, 2009 6:00 am

    Mike, you do realized that the CVN-78 is still slated for being completed in five years, right?

    And looking at both the current capabilities and legacy of the carriers I doubt they’re going to cut much from them.

  7. elgatoso permalink
    December 11, 2009 12:53 am

    And not related but…

  8. elgatoso permalink
    December 11, 2009 12:51 am

    Related to offshore patrol vessel .

  9. December 10, 2009 9:45 pm

    I take the view that if I had my druthers…

    *We’d quit playing around with battleships and calling them destroyers as if somehow an Arleigh couldn’t wipe out an Iowa-class battleship or two couldn’t smack down most of the world’s air forces. We don’t need the Zumwalts. Future surface combatants should have amphibious roles first and foremost as the US Navy should be responsible for peacekeeping and peacemaking on and from the sea – just as the LCSes are aimed for. Keep all the Arleighs though – they’re enough protection for our carriers and let the Ticos retire in peace the way we finally, painfully let go of the Iowas and the California-class cruisers and most of the Perry frigates.

    *We’d chuck all but maybe four SLBM submarines – and keep the rest of the Ohios as arsenal ships as some are today.

    (Who the hell would be so stupid as to saturate the USofA with a nuclear weapons barrage to take out all of our Air Force Bases and all of our land-based ballistic missile sites anyway? Certainly not Russia or the PRC. Iran won’t have that capaibility, nor will North Korea.

    I’m all for keeping just enough nukes around to stave off great power war however.)

    *We’d keep our aircraft carrier fleet fast enough to either surge to a crisis or big enough to maintain current ops and certainly, unquestionably able to defend themselves. Yes, buy the JSF – but for each squadron of F-35Cs, have three of Super Hornets since the stealth is of at least some reproach on the F-35. Let the Marines have the F-35Bs they need plus some.

    *We’d ask ourselves why do we need so many SSNs when the threats to world peace today are either in caves or in castaway boats?

  10. Joe permalink
    December 10, 2009 5:41 pm

    As to what “funds” are/aren’t available, try telling the political leaders advocating more social spending that there’s a drought in town. There is plenty of red ink to go around so long as its for the favored cause du jour.

  11. Hudson permalink
    December 10, 2009 5:37 pm

    “Its like Sept. 11 caused our decline as a superpower. Were stuck nation-building in 2 warzones and now we have to cut future capability.”

    Sad, but true. Nine-eleven cost the airline industry billions alone and turned NYC into a city under siege (it was on alert after the 1993 WTC truck bombing and those measures—checking IDs at turnstiles before getting on the elevators in the twin towers–were in place on Sept. 11, 2001). The 1993 attackers were aided and abetted by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11, set to stand trial in the city he bombed.

    The second attack on NYC set off our operation in Afghanistan, which though successful at first, continues into its ninth year. Nine-eleven opened the door to Iraq, which President Bush had been seeking to smash, most likely to avenge the car bomb set up to kill his father by Saddam’s men in Kuwait, I believe. Thus prompted, Bush pulled the lever of fate.

    So, yes, we are stuck nation building in two war zones, with no end in sight—official ends, but no practical ends. Thus, bin Laden is achieving his goal of bleeding us dry, step by step, war by war, fought in the shifting sands of the Middle East, at home, and around the world. As a result, we now contemplate a bathtub fleet in a world with other dangerous sharks in the water.

  12. Joe permalink
    December 10, 2009 5:03 pm

    X…I think what I’d call ‘defense trading partnerships’ make a great deal of sense in the modern world. Among equals, it’s one of the better expressions of “free trade” and a tremendous way to lower costs.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 10, 2009 5:02 pm

    Joe, I am flattered you think this is about me, but this is happening anyway. All I do is follow the numbers, and the funds are no longer there for the giant flattop, nuclear submarine centric navy. It’s out of mine and your hands. Welcome to the 21st Century reality, eh?

  14. December 10, 2009 4:54 pm

    I wonder if we Brits could buy into your bomber/boomer programme?

  15. Joe permalink
    December 10, 2009 3:36 pm

    I’ve complimented Mike’s pursuit of sounding the bell in the name of reform…it needs to happen. But what does one define as “reform”? I think when you advocate a 50% cut in the defense budget or turning the navy into an all-sub force (the 2007 link), those come across as classic ‘jump the shark’ moments in the cause.

  16. Matthew S. permalink
    December 10, 2009 3:03 pm

    Its like Sept. 11 caused our decline as a superpower. Were stuck nation-building in 2 warzones and now we have to cut future capability. Although, I will say the EFV should have been fully canceled 5 years ago. Somehow i cant see congress allowing all of this to happen. There will be big cuts but not like this.

  17. Joe permalink
    December 10, 2009 2:13 pm

    Do you still support, as you did in March, a 50% cut to the defense budget of the United States as the answer to our ills?

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