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Will the Navy Find its Way?

April 2, 2010
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Greg Grant has a synopsis at Defense Tech of a longer piece he wrote for DoD Buzz that details “The Navy at a Tipping Point“. Here from the synopsis we read:

I was passed along a really interesting brief from the influential Center for Naval Analysis that says the Navy must radically rethink strategy and force structure or its going to find itself on a slippery slope of fleet decline, a loss of combat power and then the ability to maintain forward presence. Apparently, the brief, “The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake?” has had quite an impact on the folks over at OPNAV.
The gist of CNA’s argument is that the grim federal budget outlook, rising personnel and operations expenses along with skyrocketing costs of building new ships, will all put the squeeze on future shipbuilding. The prospect that the Navy will “get well” in future budgets is a myth. Continuing on the current shipbuilding course of about six or seven ships per year, the battle fleet will steadily decline over the next two decades, going from today’s 286 ships to around 230–240 ships from 2025 and out. The Navy faces the dilemma of maintaining forward presence and meeting maritime security requirements in the face of a shrinking battle fleet, CNA says.

He  goes on to detail several options within the CNA report, such as maintaining the fleet we currently have, trying to have some presence in the Gulf and in the Western Pacific. In this option we are strong nowhere and continuing to shrink toward that 200 number. One is to go all out with battleforce types, ignoring the ongoing troubles of the Gulf and deploy only heavy conventional forces in the Pacific. The problem with this line of thinking, is it is so “pre-9/11” and seems to consider that all would be well with the world’s most vital shipping regions and the flow of oil even if we weren’t there.

The more plausible one is to “sacrifice high end ships, such as carriers and Aegis, for building the largest fleet possible with cheaper and smaller ships, such as the LCS, JHSV and corvettes“.  This strategy, in my opinion, takes into account the drastic increase in firepower of USN warships since the Cold War, where even in our half-size, shrunken and stretched thin forces, we can say we have the equivalent combat power of 13 other navies combined. This is in conventional firepower mind you, and doesn’t take into account the tyranny of numbers, where such amazing weapons like the Nimitz supercarriers, Burke destroyers, and LPD-17 amphibs are unable to be in more than one place at a time.

A final factor calling for fewer high-end exquisite warships, is their complication and out of control costs. Because they are so few and take so long to build, we also see a steady decline in US shipbuilding capability, and the demise of expertise that will inevitably follow. The smaller, shrunken fleet has a ripple effect through our entire manufacturing community, causing unemployment and unneeded suffering where a bigger fleet geared toward sea control would ensure steady orders and dependable jobs, as well as enhancing our security.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mandal permalink
    April 3, 2010 12:18 am

    I would also like to point out that the CNA seems to forget that this year we are building 9 ships instead of the “usual” 6 or 7

  2. Mandal permalink
    April 3, 2010 12:13 am

    I love it how people blame congress for this issue….remember it is the navy that is REQUESTING too small a budget. Hell even the HASC has realized that the navy shipbuilding budget is too small and has basically offered to give them more, but the navy aint takin it.

    Maybe next year the navy should request 20 billion instead of 15…..lets see what happens; hell they may get lucky and get it. My mother always said it can’t hurt to try

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 2, 2010 4:10 pm

    For instance, I’m reading the following article that states “Navies struggle with ‘swarming’ pirates“, with the following quote:

    “The navies operating off Somalia have to contend with the question of why, with such sophisticated capabilities, they cannot stamp out a threat based essentially on men in motor boats.”

    Because their traditional answer is to trade numbers for capability. This entails shrinking ship numbers to pay for high end warships. Extremely capable, they can cruise the world, keeping their crews in luxury and style. But you still have this problem:

    “…according to Adm Hudson, there are altogether about 20 warships to cover an area 10 times larger than Germany.”

    That to me sounds like the call for more ships, not fewer, and they must be low end warships, even off the shelf, or you get shrinkages and delays. But the British and American future ship programs all entail further decline. In my ignorance, I just don’t see the logic being carried out here.

    But here is more of my stupidity showing, something I learned in public school:

    “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

    What I get from this is, if the Navy shrinks, naturally they are going to be stretched thin, and a more numerous and bolder foe will slip through the cracks, left by the absence of naval vessels. Pirates in speed boats. Motherships converted from captured merchantmen, expanding on the ocean, where we insist only 3000-10,000 ton ships can operate effectively. A new power rising at sea from one of the world’s most impoverished regions.

    So not only are the future shipbuilding programs breaking the rules of warfare, as Corbett says you can’t maintain control with battleships alone, they are also defying the laws of physics.

  4. Matt permalink
    April 2, 2010 4:00 pm

    “Matt, have you actually got the point of New Wars yet, or do you just troll the site looking for people to insult and misrepresent?

    The entire central tenet of the website is that the US Navy need more keels in the brine. What makes you think Mike Burleson has no right to put that opinion across in a response to a navy briefing paper?

    I read Mike’s post and I don’t see any misrepresentation or stupidity on his part. Maybe you are the one who skim read and did not understand the gist of his grammar or phrasing. “It sure doesn’t sound like you read it”, sport.”

    *****************************************************

    Well, I never said he had no right to put his opinion out there, nor did I insult his grammar. And I’ve been insulted on this website before, so please don’t cast me as some sort of villain.

    I did have issue with his interpretation of the paper — which clearly didn’t support the point he was trying to make. I’ve seen a lot of soundbite grabbing and superficial analysis on this site, and quite frankly it probably got on my nerves and made me come off a bit harsh. For that I’ll most certainly apologize.

    I will contend that I’ve never called anyone “sport” either on the web or in real life. Some might consider that a bit insulting…

  5. Matt permalink
    April 2, 2010 3:47 pm

    “Of course it does, except it doesn’t offer a proposal to reverse the clear trend in the graph. So the “refutation” doesn’t hold water. When they reverse the trend, I’ll hush.”

    I really don’t think that’s the intent of the paper. Reduction in numbers are a given fiscal reality. In fact, the author’s lay out that the defense budget and the Navy’s share of it are unlikely to change, and as a result there will be a 20% drop in ship numbers over the next 15-20 years. Essentially the paper tries to show how the USN should make the best of a bad situation and lays out 2 preferred options — assuming we want to remain a forward present and combat credible force.

    The “2 Hub” option maintaining resources for CVN and increasing resource for Aegis and SSN, while decreasing resources for the low-end ships you favor. I will grant you that the “1+ Hub” option does call for decreasing resources to CVNs and increasing low-end ships, but it maintains resources for Aegis and SSN — essentially trading one high-end capability for another. I don’t read this as being a dramatic reduction in CVN strength.

    Neither of these two options supports a complete up-ending of the force structure to field the low-end, low capability ships which you are so fond of. That’s why I was so surprised when you posed an article on this paper. I figured you’d just ignore it.

  6. crow's nest permalink
    April 2, 2010 3:35 pm

    Matt, have you actually got the point of New Wars yet, or do you just troll the site looking for people to insult and misrepresent?

    The entire central tenet of the website is that the US Navy need more keels in the brine. What makes you think Mike Burleson has no right to put that opinion across in a response to a navy briefing paper?

    I read Mike’s post and I don’t see any misrepresentation or stupidity on his part. Maybe you are the one who skim read and did not understand the gist of his grammar or phrasing. “It sure doesn’t sound like you read it”, sport.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 2, 2010 3:14 pm

    Note, every proposal the Navy and its backers make is”more of the same”. No one ever proposes a slow down or reduction in the number of battleship types-large carriers, nuke subs, Aegis destroyers, giant amphibs. They are the source of the budget woes, not the answer. Only Congress’ refusal to allocate the funds the admirals want has slowed down purchases.

    So they will continue to buck the trend of warfare until the budget forces them to cry “uncle”, or a major war does as happened with the ground forces, because the funds are being diverted to social concerns as we speak.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 2, 2010 3:06 pm

    “you’d realize that CNA essentially refutes the option you propose”

    Of course it does, except it doesn’t offer a proposal to reverse the clear trend in the graph. So the “refutation” doesn’t hold water. When they reverse the trend, I’ll hush.

  9. Matt permalink
    April 2, 2010 2:52 pm

    Mike,

    Did you actually read the same article I read? Or did you just skim it to pull out a phrase or two? It sure doesn’t sound like you read it, because if you did, you’d realize that CNA essentially refutes the option you propose.

    CNA lays out five fleet options: 2 Hub, 1+ Hub, Shaping, Surge, and Shrinking Status Quo.

    Shaping — which is the one you cite as most plausible — reads to me as a strawman to be knocked down. It places us below the eponymous “tipping point” beyond which the USN is no longer a combat credible force. To quote on pg. 41:

    “The Shaping and Surge options sacrifice either presence or combat credibility to the an extent that threatens the Navy’s ability to maintain its status.”

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  1. Links of Interest 3 April 2010 « ELP Defens(c)e Blog

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