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Questions Needing Answers

February 25, 2010

More apt comments from Congress, this time from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. This is via Scoop Deck and the unstoppable Phil Ewing:

“Admiral, I guess what you see depends on where you sit. My understanding is that the Navy is able to respond to little more than 40 percent of the requests of the combatant commanders for submarines. So I guess critical depends upon where you sit. I think that the new Chinese anti ship missile may be a huge game-changer. I see little recognition of that in the QDR, in the budget, or in your testimony today.

Admiral, you mentioned that you were aggressively pursuing unmanned aircraft in the Navy. And yet we’re not aggressively pursuing unmanned ships in the Navy. I know why. It’s because we have too few ships. They are too valuable. We have people on ships not because we need them there to sail the ships, but because we need them there for damage control.

We need to be moving to a very much larger Navy with very much smaller platforms so that we can move away from manned platforms. Half the cost of keeping the ships at sea as you know, sir, is the personnel. Which means if you get rid of half the personnel, you can have 50 percent more ships. If you get rid of all the personnel, you have 100 percent more ships.

We’re going to be attacked where we are the weakest. I know that during the Clinton years we largely waived EMP hardening on most of our new platforms. To what extent are you EMP hardened? How much fighting capability would remain if you had an EMP lay down of 100 kilovolts per meter, which is but half of what the Russian generals told the EMP Commission the Soviets had developed, and the Russians had available?”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 10:36 pm


    Roscoe Bartlett said:

    “Half the cost of keeping the ships at sea as you know, sir, is the personnel. Which means if you get rid of half the personnel, you can have 50 percent more ships.”

    The congressmans maths is not correct.
    On the basis of the figures given,halfing the crew size would save 25% of total costs which could then be spent on more ships and their crews.
    Thus two thirds of this 25% saving would pay for more ships and one third would pay for the ship’s crews.
    This would give a one third increase in the number of ships,if those new ships cost the same as the old ones.

    Unfortunately,if you remove men from ships,you will need automated systems to do the work of those men.
    Those systems cost money so the ships become more expensive and fewer of them can be bought.
    There is a trade off between the higher purchase cost of a more automated ship and it’s lower operating cost.
    To quote from a RAND report on C.V.F.:

    “A means of trading off acquisition and operating costs. This
    approach suggests that a £1,000 per year savings for each of the
    two planned carriers would justify a £25,962 up-front investment
    across both ships.
    • A way of making a similar trade-off between initial technology
    and subsequent manpower costs. Replacing the median crewmember
    would save £1.2 million.”


  2. Matt permalink
    February 25, 2010 9:11 pm


    4) Citing the COCOMs unfulfilled desire for submarines is a bit misleading. He’s right that what you see depends on where you sit. The COCOMs appetite is enormous, insatiable, and always unfulfilled. They are always going to demand more of everything because they aren’t required to look at things from any perspective beyond their AOR, nor do they need to look at things from the perspective of force management.

    5) I’ll also repeat what I’ve tried to make clear on earlier posts. UASs are not going to SAVE much in the way of manpower – they are simply going to TRANSFER it to another location. If anything, aviation manpower is going to increase over the short run as we bring new UASs on-line. However, the nice thing about unmanned air vehicles are they are relatively expendable.

    I would imagine with an Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) you COULD theoretically move folks off-board who might be involved with engineering or damage control. But wouldn’t that in effect be building an expendable surface platform which would have little to no resilience in the event of a hit? I’m just a humble aviator, but this doesn’t seem like a smart course of action — although small expendable USVs as complements to the surface battle force might make sense.

    Other than these minor points, the honorable gentleman from Maryland is very “apt!” I would recommend he fire whatever staffer he is using to do his research.

  3. Matt permalink
    February 25, 2010 5:26 pm

    Wow – where to start?

    1) The Chinese ASBM is a long way from being a game changer. I think we are giving the PRC a lot more credit than is due for solving the mobile targetting piece — which is much harder than just building the weapon.

    2) As far as going to unmanned ships — that’ll be a nightmare. USN SWO’s are barely competent enough to keep the few ships we have from running aground or colliding. Imagine if there were 2-5x as many with no visual lookouts!

    3) The overwhelming share of life-cycle costs as far as ships is not manpower — it’s R&D and ship construction. Getting rid of 50% of the personnel doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to afford 50% more ships. Apparently math skills and knowledge of the budget aren’t necessary to be a Congressman.

  4. Scott B. permalink
    February 25, 2010 4:17 pm

    Roscoe Bartlett said : “Which means if you get rid of half the personnel, you can have 50 percent more ships. If you get rid of all the personnel, you have 100 percent more ships.”

    Did Bartlett even bother looking at the LCS operating and support costs, – comprised somewhere between $46.5 million and $61.7 million per ship per year, before making such a ridiculous statement ?

    What’s Bartlett credibility on this matter anyway, considering he was the most rabid supporter of battleship reactivation until recently ?



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