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.
Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work offers remarks during the fiscal year 2011 Department of the Navy Acquisition Excellence awards ceremony at the Pentagon in June. U.S. Navy Photo
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.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf sails in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
“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.
A Pentagon report claimed both versions of the Littoral Combat Ship were, “not survivable in a combat environment.” U.S. Navy Photo
“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.
Mike Petters has been the chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries since the shipbuilder was spun off from Northrop Grumman in 2011. On Thursday, Petters briefed reporters in the state of the company almost 18 months after the spin-off.
It was our first full year as a public company. We spun off in 2011 from Northrop and we did that in the end of March. We really had three quarters in 2011, but last year was the first full calendar year. As a public company there are lots of things you are doing that you weren’t doing before that you do for the very first time. There are lots of things that were done by other people before you became public. And our team did a very credible job working its way through that and we’re at the point where we’re doing it again. . . . We did that in an environment where there’s more than usual uncertainty in the economy, the business environment, and politically. . . . You couldn’t go a day without hearing someone talk about the level of uncertainty in the business climate.
For businesses in that environment it was a turbulent year. Usually aerospace and defense companies tend to be a little bit insulated from that kind of discussion. But I think the Budget Control Act of 2011 put defense contractors front-and-center in that conversation in a way that we were not before. I think as the year played out you saw different companies react to that in different ways. For us the issues were to pay close attention to our own knitting. When we spun the business from Northrop Grumman we said we have five contracts that we have to negotiate. We have five ships that we have to deliver that are troubled ships. It’s going to take us a couple of years to get those ships out of the way.
I’m happy to tell you that three of those five ships have been delivered. In 2012 we delivered LPD-23 and -24. LPD-22 was delivered at the very end of 2011. We still have two ships to deliver this year, LPD-25 and LHA-6. . . . Getting those ships delivered has been our focus. . . . We have to finish those two ships and get them delivered. In that regard execution and operations have been continuing to steadily improve. On LPD-25 and LHA-6 we had quality launches last year.
Naval History Magazine, January 2013
The shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, turned out boats at a torrid pace, setting the gold standard for submarine construction during World War II.
On 27 January 1944, the Portsmouth Navy Yard achieved two things no shipyard had ever done—launching three submarines simultaneously and a fourth on the same day. The Ronquil , Redfish , and Razorback lifted off their blocks in Dry Dock #1 at 1300, and a few hours later the Scabbardfish , slid down Building Way #4 into the Piscataqua River. 1 Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox sent a congratulatory message to the yard: “In the launching of four submarines in a single day, the Portsmouth Navy Yard sets another record in the submarine program.” 2 Before 1945 arrived the yard would complete a record-setting 32 submarines. No U.S. shipyard before or since has built so many submarines in a single year. 3
Pressure-hull sections in a submarine basin at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in March 1943. The shipyard had developed and refined sectional construction in the years leading up to World War II, and when war came the yard was poised to capitalize on a sudden surge in demand and the need for mass-production methods, University of New Hampshire Library.
After averaging the completion of less than two submarines a year in the 1930s, the Portsmouth Navy Yard built 79 submarines between 1 July 1940 and 1 July 1945. 4 The average construction time for those boats was much shorter than those of the same class built at other yards. Shipyard employment also reached unprecedented heights during that time. After providing jobs for an average of about 2,000 people annually in the 1930s, in November 1943 employment peaked at 23,465.5
To examine the yard’s wartime success it is necessary to first review events in the interwar years that set the stage for the remarkable wartime production record.
Congress closed its 2010-2012 session by passing a fiscal package that delays deep cuts to the defense budget and other executive branch agencies for two months, averting the “fiscal cliff” that threatened to slash nearly $50 billion from DOD’s 2013 appropriations ledger.
The negotiations offered a very public look at the high-drama posturing that has become a hallmark of dealings between the White House and Capitol Hill. To many casual observers, the back-and-forth signaled a new low in relations between the two branches, but to many on the inside, it was symptomatic of the legislative process that grinds on every day, usually outside of public view.
The hard work of crafting bipartisan legislation may take months of talks behind closed doors but produce only a few days of newsworthy drama. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of those must-pass measures that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support but take months of meetings, briefings, hearings and tense negotiations among members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle and DOD. The Hill and Pentagon trade budget requests, legislative proposals, cost estimates, testing data, planning documents and long-term strategy to craft each year’s spending priorities and an overarching national-security policy. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leads the four defense committees each year, followed by House and Senate Defense Appropriators — the HAC-D and SAC-D — and finally the Senate Armed Services Committee — SASC.
In 2010, Rear Admiral Zhang Huachen, China’s East Sea Deputy Commander, said, “With our naval strategy changing now, we are going from coastal defense to far sea defense.” Over the past 30 years the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has built a defensive navy operating within coastal waters, but in late 2008 the PLAN seemed to be transitioning towards becoming a global naval force—the capability to project power or diplomacy through sustained maritime operations anywhere in the world.
China’s far-sea defense—far-seas operations—comprises the maritime area 1,000 nautical miles beyond its territorial waters. Based on that definition, far seas operations equate to approximately three days’ travel from China’s mainland and require at least six days of total transit time to include at-sea refueling operations. Since late 2008 the PLAN has achieved four significant metrics in the far seas:
- Task forces deployed to the Gulf of Aden
- A flotilla of warships operating in the Philippine Sea
- The “Harmonious Mission” of the ship Peace Ark, and
- The training ship Zheng He’s worldwide deployment
Proceedings, January 2013
A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.
Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.