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CNO, Commandant Call For Balance, Tight Integration As Fleet Grows To 355 Ships

Cmdr. Garrett Miller, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) greets the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) as it conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG) as part of interoperability drills between the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) and BHR ESG. The drills are meant to enhance readiness of cruiser-destroyer ships to rapidly integrate with an amphibious task force to provide increased capability for amphibious operations in support of crisis response or disaster relief. US Navy photo.

Cmdr. Garrett Miller, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73), greets the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) as it conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG). US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – As the Navy looks to grow from its 274 ships today to a new goal of 355, the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps say the fleet will have to remain balanced and netted to support naval and joint operations in the future.

Adm. John Richardson said at a sea service chiefs town hall event at the West 2017 conference that, if more money comes to the Navy as expected, the first dollar will go towards current-Navy readiness, and the next priority would be modernizing ships in the fleet to keep them relevant for today’s and tomorrow’s fight. That said, he acknowledged that the opportunity to grow the fleet in the coming years brings with it an opportunity to make smart decisions that set the future fleet up for success.

“I’ve got to, because I’m here (at West), talk about the role of information technologies” in the future fleet, Richardson told USNI News during a question and answer session.
“That’s the thing that allows us and the Coast Guard to stitch together so well, and we’re sharing it very much with the Marine Corps. Providing those data standards, communications standards that allow not only within the Navy but with our sister services to communicate, sense, target together – that’s going to be a real force-multiplier, so there’s a digital part of this that’s going to be extremely important.”

He also cited “those things such as directed energy, those things such as unmanned technology, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing” as playing an important role in future naval operations and therefore needing to be a consideration when designing and building future ships. The CNO made clear that the Navy didn’t know what exactly a 355-ship fleet would look like, and how ship classes – current and possibly new ones – might be balanced.

“But I will tell you that in the near-term, sort of the immediate actions, if given the resources to grow, we know right now a destroyer is something that is going to be relevant and capable as far as we can see into the future. Submarines, same thing,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to need amphibs, you never have enough. And the good news also is those production lines are hot; we can just see how much more we can build with those production lines, working very closely with our partners in industry. So immediate action, if given the resources, we have confidence that there are certain platforms right now we can just dial up.”

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller told USNI News after the event that the Marines do want more amphibs, but he stressed that “the fleet has to to balanced.”

The USS America (LHA 6), floats off the coast of California, November 18, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

The USS America (LHA 6), floats off the coast of California, November 18, 2016. US Marine Corps photo.

“Obviously we want to be able to have well decks to go surface and have a flight deck to go from the air, so we’re not single-sourced,” he said, signaling his support for the return of the well deck in the America-class amphibious assault ship Flight I design, after the first two ships in the class were designed with no well deck.
“So there’s the number (of amphibious ships) and there’s the capability and the types (of amphibs), but we’re also very interested that there’s enough submarines to provide protection for the force … and to do their mission to provide surveillance and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]. We’re concerned that there’s cruisers and destroyers to provide surface-to-surface fires ashore, that can do anti-submarine warfare, that can help protect the fleet, that can be used as platforms for smaller groups of Marines. I mean, we’re part of the Department of the Navy, and so we are interested in amphibs, of course, but we’re also interested in that the fleet has capabilities. And as a member of the Joint Chiefs, obviously I’m interested in the nuclear triad and that the (ballistic missile) submarine gets recapitalized.”

Neller added that the service may look at some new ways of moving Marines and their goods around – “there’s some interesting ideas about submersibles and moving people by submersibles,” he said, along with talk of having a fires barge to supplement warships – but those ideas are still premature.

“We believe we need to have a balance between big-deck amphibs that allow us to fly fixed and tiltrotor and rotary wing aircraft, and we’ve got to have the cargo capacity we get out of the LPD/LSD-type hull form,” he said.
“But we’re flexible enough, I think, to take advantage of any surface platform out there that would allow us to project Marines ashore, to have Marines operate on the oceans.”

  • @USS_Fallujah

    with 4 years of guaranteed greater support I think those priorities are smart, when it comes to new ship starts I’d push hard to get as much under contract and tied in on multi-ship procurements packages like the Virginia class so that if/when that support from the executive office goes away they won’t be left holding the bag. I’m sure industry is looking at that too, HII (for instance) isn’t going to risk capital improvements and large hiring surges if they think the 355 ship plan is going to go back to 275 in 2021.

  • Ed L

    No mention of New Frigates

    • Duane

      These guys aren’t fleet planners … so this discussion doesn’t address a granular fleet plan.

      The addition of more heavily armed frigates as a new variant of the LCS class is already a decision made … design is now underway on the frigate variant, with the intent being to make it as heavily armed as any other frigate in the world.

      • Rocco

        It’s a wast of money like all the other variants!! Like putting money into a row boat & expecting it to be a PT river boat!!

        • Duane

          All the other major navies of the world have frigates, which are a very useful ship type and have been going back to the age of sail.

          • Rocco

            Yes I’m not saying that having frigates is bad! Just not the LCS classes! ……JUNK!!!!!!😮

          • Duane

            I disagree with you completely on the LCS, not junk at all. The problem was not the hardware, but poor training and crew management by the Navy, which the Navy brass admitted to when they completely reorganized the LCS fleet and crewing structure a few months ago. The Navy was trying to operate a 21st century highly advanced vessel using 20th century non-nuclear crewing concepts, and they failed. The nuke navy has been using a much more advanced crew training and management structure for more than 60 years with great success, but the non-nuke surface fleet never adjusted.

          • Rocco

            Well I disagree with you disagring with me!! I come from old school Navy! OK this hi tech stuff may all be well & good for the right purposes,but everything has its place in my opinion.the LCS has a history of leaving it’s crew in a jamb at the worst possible time. Regardless what you clam on how the Navy operates the ship’s makes no sense to me. Should a break down occur during a mission & it causes it to be scrubbed then what? You can say all you want but it won’t sway my opinion.

          • Duane

            It was the crew that failed the ship, not the other way around. Due to poor training and staffing which is what the Navy declared – in other words, the Navy brass blamed themselves, not the hardware.

            Heck nuke crews have been successfully operating far more complex nuke plants for over 65 years with a fantastic, nearly perfect, safety record. But nukes are trained much better than non-nukes, and the results show.

            I was a nuke myself, served a single tour on a 637 class SSN back in the 70s. I saw what the skimmers were like in those days – they were like a third world navy compared to the nukes. It’s all about quality of sailors and how they’re selected, trained, and developed and managed. There is literally no comparison between the world of the nuke navy and the non-nuke navy. The LCS is a 21st century high tech ship that needs a 21’st century high tech crew.

          • Rocco

            OK so we are both from the same era cool .But you can understand where I’m coming from right.theres not my obsolescence built in today’s ship’s which in my opinion is throwaway.

          • Donald Carey

            Given the Navy’s pay scale and the never-ending chicken-sh!t, the surface Navy will never have top-notch “21’s Century” sailors. Part of why I didn’t re-up was having a “superior” tell me an E-5 wasn’t paid to think.
            The navy has to face reality and design ships for the sailors it will be able to get and retain.

          • Duane

            Well, aside from the ever-present two classes of member, officer and enlisted, the attitude varies hugely depending upon the type of service you’re in. In smaller units where members heavily depend upon everyone doing their jobs correctly – be that in submarines, or small craft, or in Special Ops- the officer/enlisted divide is a whole lot skinnier. If you only served on a large surface command, then you don’t know what I’m talking about. I served in nuke fast attack subs, and officers still gave the orders, but the interaction and mutual respect between officers and enlisted were nothing like the Navy at large.

    • Rocco

      That goes without saying lol.

  • Duane

    It’s called “doing both” or “walking and chewing gum at the same time”.

    These admirals made it clear the first priority with any new or additional funding is for addressing the existing readiness issue. Then the second priority is integrating all the assets that we have now, and then the third priority is adding new assets to the fleet.

    That is a perfectly sensible “waterfall” of funding allocations.

  • WST23

    Well, obviously the Navy needs to plan for contingencies, but since there is no actual plan for funding a 355-ship force, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. The most significant phrase in the article is, “if given the resources to grow.” Maybe we can get Mexico to pay for it.

    • BudgetGeek

      Spot on. I don’t hear a chorus of voices in Congress discussing growing the Navy. Since they hold the purse strings, their plans count a lot more than the admirals’ and generals’. When those with the checkbook start talking 355, I’ll start listening. Meanwhile, such discussions are academic.

    • Rocco

      Lol good one!!😉⚓

  • PolicyWonk

    Given that several studies have been developed recently that now include re-creation of CVL’s based on the LHA-6 sea-frame, it’ll be interesting to see what they finally come up with.

    There are plenty of options w/r/t what could be done with the LPD-17 hulls as well.

    Unfortunately, it seems that USN is going to double-down on the miserable failures that comprise both of the LCS classes, despite the all-but-total failure of these classes to deliver on their promises – let alone the appalling costs.

    Then we’ll get to see how well the plan works out w/r/t long-term budgeting, along with the maintenance for all the new (let alone existing) sea-frames. Where the money is going to come from is another major problem – because there are many budget hawks even in the GOP that’ll be opposing spending this kind of money.

  • b2

    CNO Richardson should be discussing the US Navy’s growing 355 ship force alone during these times of transition and big talk.

    During the late 1990’s search for relevance in a seemingly peaceful world…. the Navy teamed too close with the Marines for all the wrong reasons in “From the Sea” and it’s follow-on strategies; as a result our Fleet is much smaller and almost inadequate to meet its requirements and we even have aluminum non-frigates like LCS in the acquisition pipeline (proof of our failings) to discuss….

    The nation and the US Navy need Warships for a blue-water fleet, first and foremost. Real, big deck carriers with potent air wings, SSNs, Burke class destroyers and cruisers and a new frigate TBD. In that order- ASAP. I would advise the CNO he is “Navy” and to consider what real sea power is that he was taught about at Canoe U, and remember back to that era when he was a JO and we had the most powerful Navy that ever sailed the earth. Hopefully he remembers…There should be no tradeoffs to obtaining that objective alone.

    Bottom line is- do we want a “Sand Pebbles” Navy or a powerful blue-water force to sweep the seas for our nation? Make the US Navy great again! We can still retain a Gator Navy but we should not grow it now as part of the 355 strategy alone. The Marines will survive just fine, uncoupled from our “core” USN needs. …They have Mattis and the F-35B, right?

    • Duane

      We’re still a bluewater navy, the most capable in the world by far, it’s not even remotely close. Other Navies, even including the NORKs may claim more ships, but in tonnage, which is where capability figures in, the US Navy is at least four and a half times the size in tons of the second largest (China) and third largest (Russia).

      We definitely have a problem with readiness, though, as it relates to maintenance of both ships and aircraft. That has to get fixed ASAP.

      Growing the Navy is less urgent, given the vast gulf in capability over other potential adversaries. Not saying we don’t need to grow, but I doubt seriously that 355 ships is reality … more doable given the realities of Federal spending is somewhere closer to 330 ships, with the current 2030 approved fleet plan being 316 ships.

      Trump may run around giving speeches about how big he wants to make our military, but he doesn’t have a say. Only Congress can appropriate money, and appropriations bills require 60 votes in the Senate, meaning he’s got to get nearly all Republicans and a sizeable number of Democrats to agree. That’s not going to be very easy to do, and certainly there will be no big spending binges.

      • Rocco

        Agreed Thankyou!!

    • Rocco

      Because our fleet is smaller has nothing to do with the Navy having a good relationship with the Marines!!! For the most part your comments are pretty biased in that because they have the F-35 & anphibs their fine!!! Did you ever think that maybe they want to be better? As for they carrier fleet !!! Yeah it sucks!! It needs better direction. The subs are a no brainer the more the merrier

      • b2

        No Bias Rocco/Duane/Leroy, just an analytic view of US Navy needs less the secondary USMC needs. We can’t afford it all of course so the basic Navy core capabilities come first. It’s still the Navy department that Mr. Bilden (?) will lead… though under May-bus that has been less recognizable, for years now…. I remember when the Commandant was a three star….
        The mindset needs to change if we want to achieve Naval dominance without bullock bulliness detracting the primary strategic needs of a maritime nation that we are.

  • Duane

    We don’t know what the funding going forward will be until Congress completes its long-overdue FY-2017 Defense Authorization Act (we’re still operating on a continuing resolution from the end of FY-2016), nor what will be in the FY-2018 DAA which needs to get going immediately, or we’ll end up being on yet another CR come October. The real funding problem for the Navy is two fold – both the actual amount (a CR allows for no growth in funding from the prior fiscal year) and the short-term aspect of running off CRs. The military, all services, cannot plan their spending properly when it is always forced to lurch from one CR to another.

  • muzzleloader

    Ronald Reagan managed the biggest military rebuild this side of WW2 with a democrat dominated congress. I am most hopeful that Trump can work with his Republican majority to at least regain the funding lost through sequestration. A 355 ship fleet? Perhaps not, but at least restore it to size of yore, when ships could deploy for full deployments without having to forgo or curtail SA repair evolutions or our sailors doing extended deployments because the relieving CVN is still in dry dock.

  • Rocco

    Agreed