The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet told a morning audience at the WEST 2013 convention that the Pentagon’s decision to rebalance its focus to Asia and the Pacific is strategically sound militarily and is vital in helping to ensure a stable world economy.
Adm. Cecil D. Haney noted that 15 of the world’s 20 largest seaports are in Asia and the Pacific, and $5.3 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea alone. “Clearly, we, the United States of America, have an interest in that area,” Haney said.
Sequestration dominated the first day of WEST 2013 at the San Diego Convention Center on Tuesday, with Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offering a sober assessment on the limits of American military power should the additional $500 billion in military cuts go into effect.
Navy Under Secretary Robert Work torpedoed nostalgia for a 600-ship Navy on Thursday, arguing that today’s Sea Service would far outmatch the peak Fleet size of 1989, and adding that it may be downhill from here.
Work, who spoke at the Surface Navy Association’s 2013 symposium, methodically rebutted claims that the Navy had ever been as large as 600 ships. He pointed out that goals for a much larger Navy than today’s were based on reports that never received official approval or were interim targets as the Fleet drew down.
While acknowledging that the surface combat fleet has shrunk by about 28 ships, he pointed out that the tradeoff has been for more capable cruisers and destroyers, all of which have guided-missile capability, unlike the ships of old.
Even as the Coast Guard gets a grip on the Arctic, drug smugglers in the eastern Pacific are slipping through its fingers, Commandant Adm. Robert Papp acknowledged Thursday.
At the Surface Naval Association Symposium, Papp told reporters he has been forced to give some things up as demands on the Coast Guard increase in the warming Arctic. As he has sent the service’s new National Security Cutters into the frozen north, it has been at the expense of man- and ship-hours for other missions, including drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.
“We don’t have enough ships out there to interdict all the known tracks that we’re aware of,” he said. “We intercept as many as we can.”
Navy leadership responded Wednesday to a Tuesday Pentagon report saying both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) are “not survivable in a combat environment.”
Rear Adm. Tom Eccles, Deputy Commander for Naval System Engineering at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and Director Navy Staff, Vice Adm. Rick Hunt both defended the survivability of the ships during a Wednesday panel discussion on the LCS at the 2013 Surface Navy Association Symposium.
“Survivability issue is one that comes up quite a bit. The question: Are all ships survivable to the same level? Clearly they are not,” Hunt said.
“That’s where tradeoffs come in. Do you have smaller things or do you have single massive ships across the board? The scaling has been different throughout the history of navies and continues to be different today.”
The head of naval surface forces fears the sea service is teetering dangerously close to an operational cliff where ships simply won’t be available to do what they need to do.Vice Adm. Tom Copeman told the Surface Navy Association Symposium on Tuesday that sailors are being pushed to keep their ships up to snuff without being given enough time, spare parts or training to do proper maintenance. The Navy, he said, has been pushing personnel harder and harder, to do more with less, for years. Copeman pointed to rampant cross-decking, where sailors are snatched from docked ships and put on board deploying ones, often hindering maintenance on the docked vessel. He also said sailors are likely as not to be unable to find the spare parts they need on board their ship when something malfunctions or breaks. Eventually, he said, a day will come when a ship that needs to deploy won’t be able to. “It’s getting harder and harder, I think, for us to look troops in the eye and say, ‘Hey, just do it and meet the standard,'” Copeman said. “Some ships can do it. Some ships can’t.” Copeman said that the surface navy’s depot maintenance budget is practically at rock bottom right now for the size of the Fleet. If the budget gets any lower, he warned that the Navy risks creating a “hollow” Fleet.
The following is an excerpt from a January interview with Sean Stackley on shipbuilding, which will appear in the February 2013 issue of Proceedings.
The U.S. Navy has released few details of its planned Ohio-class replacement program. The class of 12 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) will replace the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs currently on patrol starting in the early 2030s and continue in service into the 2080s. The boat is among the most expensive Navy shipbuilding programs and has been part of a larger Pentagon drive to reduce cost by scaling down the capability of the boat.
The reductions scale back from the initial Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for the program, then dubbed SSBN(X), conducted by NAVSEA in 2009. The initial AoA called for a boat that would have cost $6 to $7 billion but with the reduction in capability the Ohio Replacement (OR) drove costs down to $5.6 billion a copy. The scope of reductions from the AoA is unclear as the Navy never publically disclosed the initial capability goals of the program. The eventual goal of the reductions is to produce the boats at $4.9 billion each.