With the passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA) in 2011, Congress and the President set up a series of mechanisms meant to compel consensus on a roadmap for the nation’s long-term fiscal stability. But instead of compromise, bickering and discontent among the nation’s political leadership led to successive fiscal showdowns and short-term budgetary patches, the latest of which expires in just a few weeks. The effects of the budgetary stalemate have been particularly acute in the Department of Defense (DOD), and the threat to the nation’s armed forces is growing every day.
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.
Proceedings, Jan. 2013
The Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyers are the backbone of the Fleet. For the past 20 years, the DDG-51s have evolved to meet the latest threats. Originally designed to combat Soviet aircraft and submarines, the Burkes proved their versatility and flexibility in two Persian Gulf wars and cemented the Navy’s role in ballistic-missile defense (BMD).
The Pentagon announced yesterday it would end its official policy banning women from serving in ground-combat roles, opening an estimated 230,000 positions to female servicemembers. The unexpected move by departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has met mixed reaction, and numerous questions remain about the practical effects of the decision.
The Thursday announcement by Panetta—who was joined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—settles one of the last remaining policy disparities between men and women in combat, allowing females to join infantry, artillery, armor, and other combat-coded posts previously reserved solely for men, including the special operations components. But, while the policy change topples some of the last remaining walls for women in uniform, it also poses serious questions for policy makers, chief among them being the status of women vis-à-vis the Selective Service System.
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.”