Does the Navy Suffer From Budget Blindness?
In the face of shrinking defense budgets and low tech foes abounding, it is almost as if 9/11 never happened, at least for the US Navy. Meanwhile, nearly every shipbuilding program is in trouble, including amphibious ships, according to this from Amy McCullough at Navy Times with “Amphib mission out of sync with needs“:
The 2010 review shows that the Corps won’t be getting the 38 to 40 amphibious ships it wants — a longstanding point of contention within the Navy Department.
The Navy has 31 amphibs, and the QDR says the department should have between 29 and 31. Commandant Gen. James Conway has said the Navy needs more if it intends to ensure proper maritime protection.
As the title of this article reveals, the Navy/Marines needs are conflicting with their wants. From Greg Grant at DoD Buzz, we discover that the “Navy Shipbuilding Gap Grows“:
The big question for the Navy in advance of the QDR and the 2011 budget release was would DOD reconcile the growing gap between the Navy’s shipbuilding and funding plans? The answer is no. They didn’t even try. The QDR pretty much defers on the subject of tying future shipbuilding to strategy. There is some vague talk in the document about the need for the Navy and the Air Force to jointly develop an air-sea battle concept to ensure power projection, but it provides no further details.
As for the Navy budget, the 2011 request increases funding for new ship construction from $12.4 billion in 2010 to $13.8 billion this year. But, as we noted yesterday, OMB recently pointed out the simple fact that a funding profile of between $13–15 billion a year will not get the Navy to its stated goal of a 313 ship fleet. OMB estimated that at least $21 billion per year was needed and that at $15 billion per year the fleet would fall to around 270 ships by 2025.
Except problems of seapower aren’t lessening, but getting worse. They are multiplying even as the Fleet shrinks:
The Navy plan came in for some criticism Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi noting that the fleet is the smallest it has been since the 1980s, fact that .Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former chief of naval operations, sadly acknowledged. Mullen said the Navy still plans to build a 313-ship fleet but isn’t getting there any time soon. “The Navy is very pressed right now, operating at a very high tempo,” Mullen said. The service, “is sort of at the edge of being able to meet out global commitments.”
Resistance to change, and a single minded strategy of only constructing high end warships are crippling other economies, notably Great Britain. Still refusing to make tough choices, Brown has instead upped the ante, promising even greater funds which do not exist, according to Marcus Roberts:
The Government is now in danger of eschewing the warnings of its own senior budgetary and strategic advisors. Defence economist Malcolm Chalmers’ recent RUSI report has warned of the grave dangers that await front line troops in terms of cuts if the government refused to take tough choices on big ticket items like the aircraft carriers or the joint strike fighter project. Similarly, the new Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, has likewise urged the government to make long-term choices between major procurement projects and front line resourcing.
This post from January by James Pritchett at the Atlantic Sentinel, also calls the Royal Navy to task for wanting too few high end warships. This is concerning the Future Surface Combatant and Other Myths:
The plan for FSC is a series of vessels numbering perhaps up to seventeen. This is wildly optimistic, even by Navy standards, but there is method in their madness. By asking for seventeen vessels, they may get five…
It looks impressive too, or would do if BAE’s computer designers put a bit more effort in. Bare in mind that the last Strategic Review suggested about thirty destroyers and frigates to secure British global interests. The chances of the new class being able to take the strain for such a projection are laughable, even in league with the currently expected total number of T45s. C’est La Guerre. This is all that can really be expected from the Ministry of Defence given their recent history of short changing the Navy. It seems to be a pervading thought amongst politicians and Whitehall mandarins that better ships mean fleet size cuts. The fact that a T45 can, say, perform twice as well as its predecessor, or cost twice as much, does not mean that you only need half as many of them. A ship cannot be in two places at once.
Finally Russia, which glaringly revealed to the world the state of its dejected Navy by seeking to purchase amphibious ships from France, still hasn’t totally given up her dreams of a revived Red Fleet. Here is a translated version of Moscow’s latest supercarrier fantasies:
Technical design of Russia’s aircraft carrier will be developed by the end of 2010… In February 2009 the Head of the state defense order the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), Anatoly Helmets said that Russia’s new-generation aircraft carrier will be atomic. He also clarified that the ship will have a displacement of up to 60 thousand tons. According to Shlemova, [Russia has] plans to build three to six aircraft carriers.
Even the reporter alludes to the bleak chances of this program. It seems then the World’s major navies are frozen in time, preparing to contend with one another for control of the world’s sealanes as in their colonial past. So they spend increasingly sparse resources on fewer giant battleships, while their economies crumble and while their splendid high tech militaries from the Cold War die of old age.
Meanwhile, pirates, rogue states like Iran and Korea, even new powers like China have few restraints for building fleets or using the sea to their advantage. While we are focused on tackling these nations on land, they are launching small warships, backed by converted motherships to attack Western merchant assets or support radical terrorist groups who we or our allies are fighting. They perform power and presence on the world’s oceans, with fewer resources and with far less funds than we spend on our Coast Guard.
It is interesting to see the rise of these new powers, their frugality and capacity to perform traditional sea control using sparse resources, while we insist only fantastically capable nuclear supersubs, giant supercarriers with the population of a small city, or super-cruisers able to destroy a bullet entering the atmosphere, can perform the most basic missions on the oceans. Any wonder we are stretched and getting smaller?