Home » Aviation » VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’

VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’

160917-N-TH560-249 PHILPIPINE SEA (Sept. 17, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) patrols the Philippine Sea in support of Valiant Shield 2016 (VS16). VS16 is a biennial, U.S.-only, field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas. Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax/Released)

USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) patrols the Philippine Sea in support of Valiant Shield 2016 (VS16). US Navy Photo

A historically small fleet and a relentless operational tempo are proving the Navy is too small to meet more than its bare minimum requirement around the world, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

“We know we’re too small for what we’re being asked to do today,” Moran told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support.
“A smaller fleet operating at the same pace is wearing out faster. Work has increased, and we’re asking an awful lot of our sailors and Navy civilians to fix [it].”

Currently, the Navy has about 275 active ships and about 322, 000 active duty sailors. According to Moran that’s down from a 2001 total of 316 ships and more than 400,000 sailors. That difference is also compounded by an increased demand on the service by the geographical combatant commanders – for whom the Navy can only meet 40 percent of their demand, he said.

Moran was one of four U.S. military service number-twos that spent Tuesday and Wednesday testifying before the House and Senate armed services committees on the woes in the services ahead of an anticipated Trump Administration 2017 supplemental spending measure that would likely do away with Budget Control Act of 2011 spending limits – the so-called sequestration caps.

While the Navy is keen on expanding its fleet size – in December the service issued a call for 355 ships over a 2014 goal of 308 – the service has been relentless in pushing that it needs modernization and maintenance money over new hull starts.

“It starts by strengthening the foundation of the Navy by ensuring the aircraft, ships and submarines we do have are maintained and modernized to ensure they meet the full measure of their combat power,” he said.

Sailors perform maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Top Hatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 USS John C. Stennis' (CVN 74) hangar bay on Jan. 22, 2016. US Navy photo.

Sailors perform maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Top Hatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) hangar bay on Jan. 22, 2016. US Navy photo.

Moran rang readiness alarms across the service – from more than half of the F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet unable to fly to the attack boat USS Boise (SSN-765) losing its diving certification because the public shipyards do not have the capacity to bring the submarine in for a maintenance availability.

“Because of the capacity limitations and the workforce limitations that we’ve had and our inability to get some of our work in the private yards, we’ve had to delay submarines like Boise for extended period of time,” he said.
“The priorities to fix ships in our public yards are our boomers, because of our national strategic deterrence, followed by our aircraft carriers and then we get down into the SSN world.”

High demand for Hornet strike capacity and low throughput in maintenance depots have led to the current backlog in fighters that can’t operate safely.

“For our entire Hornet fleet – the Hornet and Super Hornet fleet – we have 62 percent that are not flyable,” Moran said.
“On a typical day, it’s 30 percent if everything is going well, 30 percent that’s either in the depot or on the flight line that’s not flyable. We’re double where we should be.”

The hearings Tuesday and Wednesday fall in line with the tenor of similar readiness hearings over the last several years during the sequestration era in which service leader warn Congress of readiness issues with limited relief.

However, with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and a White House that has made military readiness, modernization and expansion a major priority, the services could find their readiness gripes more than answered before the end of the year.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Congrats congress, you’ve made the entire USN the Gator Navy. The maintenance budget, especially shipyards & depots, need to go to a multi-year procurement program like the shipbuilders get for the DDG & SSN construction. It would tie congress hands and allow procurement of parts and personnel at greatest efficiency.

  • Michael D. Woods

    There are alternatives: stop trying to do everything everywhere in the world. Cut Europe loose. Develop Asian nations’ own capability. Or if you insist on two-war capable forces, abolish civilian departments that are not federal business and leave those functions to the states. Stop trying to regulate everything and abolish the bureaucracies. I would focus on social programs too, but despite their prominence in our minds I’m not sure they’re all that much money.

  • old guy

    Maybe, if our bloated, antique, inefficient, anti-diluvian, one customer, non competitive, welfare dependent shipyards trimmed up and joined the real world, the resulting efficiency would free up enough money to build a modern navy, instead of junk like LCS and DD1000. Don’t argue the “low wage” B.S. (E.G. Fincantieri pays higher and gets better people than us and produces all manner of ships.)
    Dump SEA05, as we know it and make it a requirements interpreter and preliminary design sponsor. Then require all major ship producers to have at least 35% commercial business. That would wake up the industry.

  • blah blah blah

    This is all Smoke and mirrors. Scare tactis to get us to swallow higher budgets for military spending.

    • Robert A Sheridan

      Boom !!

    • Eric Clark


      • blah blah blah

        Im not against raising the defense budget. Im actually all for it.

      • blah blah blah

        And if you actually believe headlines like ” more than half our planes cant fly” “our navy is too small” “the british have zero working subs, borders are unprotected ” think again. We put those headlines out there so our enemies will think now is the time to strike. When and if they do they’ll be met with a defense so fierce they’ll never show aggression toward us or our allies again…muahahaha

  • James Bowen

    It is good to see that Navy leadership and others are finally admitting the Navy is too small and unprepared. Just four years ago they were trying to halve the cruiser fleet.

    • Ctrot

      Where were they the last 8 years? Cowering behind their advancement/retirement plans?

      • old guy

        You forget:
        Ny career,
        My service,
        My country,
        in that order.

        • Randy Trainor

          Thank you SIR, for your service to our country.

  • Curtis Conway

    What is required in the short term is a less risk path to restore combat power for the next decade ASAP. That path for Carrier Air Wings is to increase the readiness of current F/A-18 aircraft across the board with AESA radar, EW, avionics and engine upgrades. Upgrade of current models and introduction of more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and addition of EA-18 Growlers to required force levels will provide the shortest path, and least risk remedy.
    The F-35C problems will work themselves out in time, but that may take some time. In the meantime the F-35B is maturing very rapidly and already on deployment. The USMC should be relieved of its requirement to adopt the F-35C and restore the original plan to have an all F-35B force. The US Navy should consider the adoption of F-35Bs for use on USS America (LHA-6) Lightning Carriers along with their USMC brethren. Further the US Navy should conduct the suitable studies and required changes to employ F-35Bs on a Super Carrier. When CAS support is required for the MAGTF USMC upgraded F/A-18s can operate from the super carrier as they have for decades.
    Rotation between well-deck and non-well-deck LHA(s) should begin with LHA-9, and continue alternation until we have a force of no less than six (6) Lightning Carriers. The advent of USMC Mobile Basing has added the additional Landing Craft Air Cushion/Ship-to-Shore Connector (LCAC/SSC) craft needed to support amphibious landings. Costs for F-35Bs will come down with the greater procurement activity, and perhaps other services, and other countries will embrace the wisdom and cost effectiveness of a Jump Jet Carrier.
    The United States Navy NEEDS 50+ multi-warfare, all-ocean Arctic capable frigates that should look something like this:
    Change the superstructure to be similar to the Spanish Bazan Class Frigate with a 5″ gun forward and a 32 cell Mk41 VLS. There will be four platforms below, or between the four array faces, with perhaps a shield above and behind it to protect from the energy coming our of the radar, and provide a mounting for hanging sensors. Passive-centric detection, tracking, and fire control via SIMONE-like (Ship Infrared Monitoring, Observation and Navigation Equipment), and dedicated EO/IR (four hanging [above & behind the DEW weapons], two standing [centered fore & aft on main Mack], and four Laser Weapons [very capable EO/IR devices in and of themselves]). Highest priority threat tracks are always observed by the Directed Energy Laser Weapons. You have a problem ? . . just take off the safety and pull the trigger. The next six tracks will be observed and tracked in real time by the two standing EO/IR sensors (high priority but just below that of DEW tracks), and four hanging EO/IR sensors (lowest priority tracks that require attention). Everything else is tracked by SIMONE-like system. The SIMONE-like system will generate and maintain the tracks for correlation and display, and a weapons control system will govern activities of the fire control tracks providing precise information for engagement by weapons system elements, perhaps multiple weapons on one target at one time. The SIMONE-like system will track everything from close aboard to zenith, 360⁰ about the ship. The standing EO/IR sensors will be placed fore and aft of the main superstructure as high as practical, yet still easily maintained, and the four hanging EO/IR will be near and behind the four DEWs (perhaps hanging from the barrier shields), all with ready maintenance access. These six EO/IR sensors will be multi-spectral capable for maximum target discrimination. This is the combat system elements that should be on the new Uber Frigate. The Passive Picture is the Emissions Control (EMCON) operations mode, particularly at night. If EMCON is not required then the 3D AESA radar is used for the tactical data picture. The combat system picture is always available on the FORCEnet-21. When the DEWs are on line, and the ship is under attack, each threat close aboard can be taken under illumination with some kilowatts until it explodes or catches on fire, perhaps being illuminated by more than one weapon at a time. The Mk15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS) is available for any leakers that break 1,000 yard range for optimal engagement. If we could just get a ships gods-eye-view layout of this concept around a Bazan Frigate superstructure, then we would have our Uber Frigate Layout.

    • w2lucky

      Why go after another new design (after what we’ve just seen with the LCS and DD-1000) when the Flight III Burkes are tested and reliable already. Think of the in-between deployment repair cycles and all the knowledge (both enlisted crew and civilian techs) that gets thrown out the window when a new design gets implemented. It’s just bad business.

      • Curtis Conway

        Bad business is continuing a design that cannot perform, or survive (LCS/frigate). The National Security Cutter is out and working. Upgrade that hull with the added combat system elements. It has been suggested that ‘every platform is a shooter’ so bolt-on is in our future. That capability requires weapons (Mk41 plumbed in, or canisters bolted on the upper deck) cabled up to common combat system elements that require space, cooling and power. Then you have to have a fire control radar for local engagements and other services (3D non-rotating AESA radar with 3 or 4 array faces). Now there is the ‘bolt-on kit’. Put that kit permanently on the new NSC hulled frigate and we have a common, and capable combat system program with which to arm our new frigate, and the Amphibious Fleet.

        In addition we get two (2) plus Uber Frigates for the price of one DDG-51 Flt III. Still need the DDGs, just replace some of those orders for two Uber Frigates.

        • Ed L

          There is a Video on the web where Huntington Ingalls Industries has 4 variations of the National Security Cutter in a US Navy Frigate form. It is like they designed it to be expanded into a Frigate with the Detection Sensor, VLS, Gun, Sea RAM, etc.

        • old guy

          I might suggest that if we are to seek a new frigate class, we might reexamine the 100 knot 3K SES, and the truly innovative SEAMOD concept of the ’70s, which is what LCS was supposed to be.

  • Ed L

    Only mentions the Surface Fleet in the number of Hulls available. Well, it’s time to stop construction on the LCS. Huntington Ingalls Industries has an immediate replacement for the Perry Class Frigates. At the Surface Navy Association conference in Crystal City, Virginia The proposed HII design—called the FF4923 is on display. It evens appears that the Navy could have the first one in less than 2 years

  • Rick Belmont

    How many times is the capability to destroy the entire world necessary? Submarines and aircraft carriers are primarily vital, but surface ships are targets.

    • Ed Sobien

      I’m sorry but as a retired GM from the Destroyer & Cruiser fleet, those Aircraft carriers need those targets to defend them as they & their aircraft do their jobs… obviously you watched Top Gun to many times, it is not just the carriers winning the war…

      • Rick Belmont

        We Squids just have a different perspective than Skimmers, Ed. As for Top Gun, the F-14 was built by Grumman on Long Island, where I live. Way back in the 60’s we evaded all forms of ASW, saw the rivets on the side of a NATO carrier and watched the Russians missing a barge with ship-to-ship missiles. Sometimes, Navy Seals can be more effective than an Army regiment – quality vs. quantity. USS Jack SSN-605. Right now, I’m sailing on the biggest “target” in the world, Royal Caribbean’s, Harmony of the Seas. 🙂

  • Melvin Miller

    All I have heard from the powers that be is we have the technology. One ship can do the work of many others. It still comes down to bodies and the multiple locations we cover. We cannot continue to be the police force for the world. A lot of countries need to step

    • step

      They are not bodies they are ppl. Personnel.

      • Melvin Miller

        how about numbers. No disrespect. Sounds like you might be part of the new navy

  • w2lucky

    We’re less ready because as the manning and billets disappear, promotion rates tank, deployments get longer, time between deployments get shorter, ships getting fixed are at the mercy of civilians, and we lose our talent. No one wants to address this properly so we spend a fortune on new ships (LCS and Zumwalt) that are all but useless, when we need to build reliable carrier groups. It’s rather embarrassing to watch. (Retired Warrant)

  • Red Brixton

    So the Navy’s solution to low readiness is to spend more on construction? Putting more ships into service just eats up even more operations and maintenance budget. If you don’t have the resources to do every mission, reduce the missions.

    • Terry Farley

      Reducing the missions only increases the threat abroad, which allows terrorism to multiply without a constant presence. Open up recruiting is the answer. Bring more qualified candidates into the service which allows the ships that are in service to be fully manned and keep the same mission readiness. Once that happens, then you can increase production of new ships to meet the ever growing need for presence around the world. We have the only platform in the world that can put 97000 tons of diplomacy off any continent within a week and most of the time, within 48-96 hours.

  • John Olson

    Not ready because they spend too much time concentrating on uniform designs

    • old guy

      And, don’t forget trans gender johns.

  • old guy

    He left out one word at the end of the sentence, “We’re too small…..MINDED.

  • honcho13

    Must be getting near “March Madness” time, ‘cuz the CNO and his minions are putting a “full-court-press” on the new El Presidente and DOD in hopes of getting more “assets”. I think we all could have seen this coming a couple of months ago when it was announced there would be NO Carrier Battle Groups available for deployment to the Gulf. Last I heard The USS Makin Island ARG is filling “the gap”! Perfect time for the Navy higher-ups to start whining! JEEEZ!

  • Randy Trainor

    WTF is wrong with the commenters on this article. WE NEED MORE SHIPS AND SAILORS……..regardless!

  • Celtic

    Bring back the battleships! And, while your at it, how about a carrier based air superiority fighter, like….the F14 was…..

  • stephanie

    What about these old ships that houses sailors… Sailors who come to fight for their country and they live like slums, leaking pipes above our racks, leaking toilets, too hot and too cold berthing. Granted I will never understand the (small minded, prideful, egocentric founders and still present) the concept of those who work the hardest get treated like crap, does the bulk of the work, still have to come home crappy lifestyles (berthing). As though they don’t need the subordinates to do the job. Without sailors you have nothing, I’m sure if you treat your sailors better, you will see the relationship btw retention and morale increase ultimately affecting the figures concerning the number of sailors in the fleet stated in this article.