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.
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.
Proceedings, January 2013
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated sites found throughout the World Ocean that are set aside for special protection and management. They conserve and protect sensitive ecosystems as well as cultural history. Governments ranging from the national to the local levels have established MPAs in almost every coastal nation in the world.
At 132,000 square miles, Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of the world’s largest protected oceanic spaces. But the total global area of such preserves is still just a drop in the bucket. NOAA Photo
The United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty (UNCLOS) gives signatory coastal states a 200-mile wide Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This includes a 12-mile-wide territorial sea where those countries have full sovereign rights. Beyond that point, states have quasi-sovereign rights to regulate almost all activities out to their 200-mile boundary. Thus coastal states have clear authority to establish MPAs within their EEZs. However, at present most are located within territorial waters. Read More
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.
Naval History Magazine, Dec. 2012
From the 1920s into World War II several nations developed high-performance floatplane aircraft. Indeed, some were among the fastest aircraft of their time. During World War II, the British evaluated float configurations with several versions of the famed Supermarine Spitfire fighter, and the U.S. Navy fitted a single Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat with floats. But only Japan pursued large-scale operational floatplane fighters during the war, primarily with the Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe, a variant of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, or Zeke.
After the war the British developed a flying-boat fighter, the turbojet-powered Saunders-Roe SR.A/1. 1 And the U.S. Navy undertook development of a supersonic “water-based” fighter, the Convair F2Y Seadart. 2
Convair had previously produced several successful seaplanes, most notably the PBY Catalina flying boat. That aircraft—produced in larger numbers than any other seaplane by any country—was flown in every theater of World War II by the United States and several other nations. But the company had limited turbojet and fighter experience. However, Convair’s Hydrodynamic Laboratory was exploring several subsonic seaplane concepts, some given the project name Skate. At the time, the U.S. Navy was considering advanced seaplanes for a number of roles—cargo, strike, minelaying, reconnaissance, patrol, and fighter. Fitting a fighter with floats—or using the British flying-boat configuration—would introduce considerable drag on the aircraft. Convair engineers conceived a plan to employ retractable hydro-skis for waterborne operations.
The Navy awarded Convair a contract for two XF2Y-1 prototype aircraft in January 1951. The first test flight occurred on 9 April 1953, in San Diego Bay, with the company’s E. D. “Sam” Shannon at the controls.
Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Shortly before the end of the midwatch on 8 December 1941, a radioman on board the destroyer-seaplane tender USSWilliam B. Preston (AVD-7), at anchor in Malalag Bay off Davao Gulf, Mindanao, in the Philippines, picked up an urgent message: JAPAN HAS COMMENCED HOSTILITIES. GOVERN YOU[R]SELVES ACCORDINGLY.
Lieutenant Commander Etheridge Grant, the ship’s commanding officer, seeing no mention of exactly where the Japanese had “commenced hostilities,” immediately put his ship on a full war footing. Bluejackets belted ammunition for the ship’s four .50-caliber water-cooled Browning machine guns on the galley deckhouse amidships.
Within hours, 13 Nakajima Type 97 B5N “Kate” attack planes and nine Mitsubishi A5M4 Type 96 “Claude” fighters from the carrier Ryujo swept in, destroying two Consolidated PBY-4 Catalina patrol bombers moored a mile from the ship, killing one man and wounding two. The William B. Preston slipped anchor and zigzagged out of the bay Noting the enemy approaching from downwind, Grant remembered he “had always had a tendency to over-shoot [in those situations] . . . thinking that the Japs weren’t any smarter than I had been I applied that lesson to good advantage.” Thus when the B5N pilots reached the drop point on the beam, Grant had the ship turned toward them. “We took aboard some muddy water and a few bomb fragments,” he noted later, “but no one got hurt.” The William B. Preston , the first ship of the Asiatic Fleet to come under Japanese attack at the start of the Pacific war, had survived her first battle.
The William P. Preston (AVP-20) as she was first commissioned as a small seaplane tender in the summer of 1940, painted in No. 5 Navy Gray with her identification number in white with black shadowing. J.M. Caiella
Authorized on 6 October 1917, the William B. Preston (Destroyer No. 344)—named for the Secretary of the Navy under President Zachary Taylor—was laid down at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 18 November 1918, a week after the Armistice that ended World War I. At launching on 7 August 1919, however, it appeared as if the ship did not want to go to sea, for she proceeded just 28 inches in 45 minutes before she stuck fast. The next day a tug pulled her an additional 190 feet before she once again stopped. Divers discovered her weight had forced the ways apart some 10 feet. A 150-ton yard crane was positioned and put into use, allowing the William B. Preston finally to enter her element at 2022 on 9 August.
Two weeks before budget-makers face the fiscal cliff deadline, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty within the Pentagon. If the sequestration trigger goes into effect, program offices will be forced to cut billions of dollars from line items across the board. But within the Navy’s shipbuilding office, planners are already dealing with cuts that could impact the Virginia-class submarine program. The Navy and Congress have fought hard to institute a buy-rate of two Virginia-class boats a year, laying the groundwork for a five-year buy of the newest fast attack boat, beginning in 2014. But when the Navy delivered its budget request earlier this year, one submarine had been moved from the front of the line to the back so that budget planners could meet spending top lines mandated by last year’s Budget Control Act.
“We did not have sufficient headroom to fully fund the second boat in 2014,” Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top acquisition official, told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee in April.
With a price tag of more than $2 billion, it’s easy to see how a submarine that’s two years away from construction ended up on the chopping block. But the costs associated with each boat have come down significantly since the program began, and opponents of the cut say removing one boat from the program now could reverse that trend.
USS Hawaii returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a six-month deployment to the western Pacific region In November. U.S. Navy Photo
The Navy estimates that sliding the submarine back to Fiscal Year 2014 from 2018 would reduce the total cost of the other nine boats in the current multiyear deal by roughly $900 million. Cost savings on par with the Navy’s estimate mean building the sub in 2014 would be 35 percent cheaper than doing it four years later. Virginia-class shipbuilders General Dynamic Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding add that the continuity of two boats in 2014 would help maintain stability between the supplier base and the workforce.