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WEST: Sea Service Leaders Outline Challenges

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Michelle Howard and Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford on Feb. 12, 2015. US Naval Institute Photo

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Michelle Howard and Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford on Feb. 12, 2015. US Naval Institute Photo

Top sea service leaders spoke Wednesday at WEST 2015 of their concerns about the federal budget and acquisition process, their confidence in the state of recruiting, and how forces are adjusting to a world in which combat operations have been dialed back.

The remarks by Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the Marine Corps commandant, Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, and Adm. Paul Zukunft, Coast Guard commandant, closed the three-day convention in San Diego, Calif., sponsored by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

The byzantine world of acquisitions and contracting often prompts calls from military members, politicians and civilians for a smoother and more accessible process. Such a change, they say, might encourage commercial companies to venture into the defense world and attract small businesses and their innovation.

The country has a ways to go, Dunford said.

When work started on development of the joint light tactical vehicle, Dunford said he and Army representatives tried hard to attract a major U.S. automotive company to compete for the project. The company, which he did not name, was interested.

“But after about 18 months of frustration of dealing with the process as it currently exists, and the rigidity of the process, they decided not to do it,” Dunford said.

Howard pointed out that the Navy is the only service that builds aircraft carriers and submarines, projects that absorb a lot of federal dollars. But ships, she said, are the Navy’s top priority.

She pointed to the aging Ohio-class submarines as an example.

“We know we’re going to have to replace her and we know the cost for that is going to be on the order of $9 billion a platform,” Howard said.

Zukunft said the budgeting process for the Coast Guard necessarily has to look long term because its mission has unique ongoing aspects, including regulation and law enforcement.

The Coast Guard is in the midst of adding offshore patrol cutters to its fleet, a move that will allow the service to retire ships that have been in service for a half century.

Marines having spent more than a decade on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Dunford said he didn’t foresee any problems with putting the focus back on the Marines’ from-the-sea approach to conflicts.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    “Howard pointed out that the Navy is the only service that builds
    aircraft carriers and submarines, projects that absorb a lot of federal
    dollars. But ships, she said, are the Navy’s top priority.” I can see why she got the job; she has a concrete grasp of the obvious. Maybe she could use that grasp to wrest the dollars away from the worst (maybe second worst after the F-35) program in the military, the LCS.

    • old guy

      Oh, gosh, there you go again, being logical. (By the way you forgot to mention “Old Flopover,” DD1000), and
      the 23 passenger, $120 meg fiasco V-22.

    • magic3400

      When was the last time the US Navy fought a sustained surface action? The Battle of Leyte Gulf? So you (and many others) are saying we should spend billions upon billions to build destroyers and cruisers that haven’t fired their main guns in anger in nearly century?

      The biggest threat to the Navy right now is anti-ship cruise missiles. It won’t really matter if a 1 ton flying telephone pole hits a LCS or a DD, it’s going to the bottom and it’s WWIII. And if it’s WWIII then the mothball fleet will get dusted off or the nukes will fly, either way it doesn’t matter much.

      So we may as well save hundreds of billions of dollars and build enough ship to get the job done (LSC) instead of building way more ship than we need (DD & CG).

      Is it a compromise, of course. But we have to get away from spending nearly a trillion dollars a year on warships, planes and tanks and start fixing bridges and roads. Bridges are falling apart, ships are not being sunk.

  • OleSalt_1

    Jolly good remarks by the Commanders. Slogan coined by my good friend, the retired Chief of the RMN (1967-1976)Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam: “UP THE NAVY” (in this case USN, USCG & Marine Corps) is appropriate,