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SECNAV: Adversaries Remain but Expect Defense Budget Increases to Disappear

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks to sailors at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. on Dec. 18, 2018. US Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. – With increasing threats abroad and anticipated tighter defense budgets ahead, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer will spend 2019 instilling a sense of urgency into how the Navy and Marine Corps operate.

Since taking office, Spencer has focused on training, capabilities and the way the Navy and Marine Corps invest resources.

Now, a year and a half on the job, the lethality of the force is better, but sailors and Marines must pivot to embrace change, Spencer said during his keynote address at the 2019 Surface Navy Association symposium.

“We have a very dangerous world out there; a world that is changing very dramatically. We cannot operate under the old adage business as usual. It will not work.” Spencer said. “We must be accountable for how we invest, and we must understand the return we are getting for that investment as it pertains to readiness and lethality.”

The Navy and Marine Corps are in the second half of a two-year budget passed by Congress that significantly increased funding for weapons purchases and personnel recruiting, training and retention.

“We have the money,” Spencer said. “One thing money can’t buy is time.”

However, the Fiscal Year 2020 budget approval process is about to heat up with no guarantee of funding at the same level of previous Trump-era budgets and foreign adversaries are not waiting for U.S. forces to improve, Spencer said. The Department of Defense FY 2020 Budget is expected in February.

“We do have a national debt issue,” Spencer said. “If we think we’re going to get increasing dollars ad infinitum folks, think again.”

He challenged the attendees, especially those in uniform, to be creative when considering acquisitions. Spencer wants industry and active duty program planners to work together to keep costs in check when developing new capabilities.

“We need a sustainable path to support the way we’re going to grow, and a lot of that is going to have to come from us because it’s not going to come from Congress,” Spencer said.

  • Centaurus

    Yeah, I think it might have to do with that elephant in the room, no one is talking about…the Budget Deficit…hmm ? What’s up with that ? Time to get out grandma’s silverware….Yes…Yes…lethality, which we will need a lot of real fast.

    • John Locke

      Right, CDR Heelspurs’ shell game with the budget and taxes is coming home to roost.

  • Ed L

    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States Of America. Nothing about welfare, workfare I can go with

  • Duane

    We’ll be OK if we do maintenance budgets for the next few years or more, with just annual bumps to cover inflation and decent pay raises for the uniforms.

    What is most important is that we spend our limited funds effectively.

    1) For example, I am not sure that we really need a significantly larger surface fleet … I tend to think more that we need more small surface combatants, more unmanned systems, and more SSNs that get out of the land attack business and stick strictly to anti-shipping. And we need fewer CVNs, more America class LHDs.

    2) Stop it with thinking that ships and subs are cost-effective land attack missile platforms .. they aren’t. Far better to focus land attack missiles based on land launchers and aircraft.

    3) Buy long range land based tankers rather than fooling around with tiny carrier based tankers … the big iron can support many more attack aircraft on much longer missions, allowing us to leave our big iron CVNs far outside the known range of Chinese intermediate range ballistic missiles.

    4) Invest in EM weapons at a much higher rate than we have been … those are going to be the saviors of the surface fleet in an era when China can literally launch thousands of ASCMs at our surface fleets from a wide variety of platforms. Missiles are too expensive and allow only small magazines of defensive weapons on board our ships.

    5) Get CGs and DDGs out of the business of doing missile defense for land targets … it is much more cost efficient, as CNO Richardson has said quite loudly, to use AEGIS Ashore installations for that role, and not build and operate very expensive big surface combatants just to steam in circles at a cost many times that of AEGIS Ashore.

    6) Stop buying obsolete Super Hornets, buy only F-35Cs for the Navy, just as the Marines are buying only F-35Bs and Cs. Much more capability for the airedales that way.

    7) 6 or 8 Ford and Nimitz CVNs with nothing but F-35Cs, supplemented with America class LHDs with F-35Bs, would be much more lethal than a dozen CVNs with Super Hornets. And would cost a lot less to build and maintain.

    8) Small to medium unmanned ships and subs could greatly augment our surface and sub fleets, at a cost far less than building manned subs or ships.

    I think we can get a lot more bang for the buck than we are today on the very same dollars, adjusted for inflation.