Category Archives: Surface Forces

This Time, It's Different

This Time, It’s Different

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.

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Combat Fleets: Final Lewis and Clark Launched

Combat Fleets: Final Lewis and Clark Launched

Proceedings, Jan. 2013
The U.S. Navy’s 14th and final Lewis and Clark –class dry-cargo/ammunition ship was delivered on 24 October. Built by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, the USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14), pictured here while still under construction, was launched on 5 May.

NASSCO Photo

NASSCO Photo

Named for the Mexican-American activist, the 689-foot ship has a beam of 105.6 feet and a draft of 30 feet and is operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The 14 ships of the class are tasked primarily with transporting and delivery of logistics supplies to include ammunition, food, fuel, repair parts, and ship-store items to U.S. and allied vessels at sea. The Cesar Chavez and her sisters each displace roughly 41,000 tons and can carry more than 10,000 tons of cargo. The Lewis and Clark class forms a sizable percentage of the 34 ships that make up Military Sealift Command’s Combat Logistics Force.

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Policy Difference Could Scuttle Second Virginia Submarine in 2014

Policy Difference Could Scuttle Second Virginia Submarine in 2014

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

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.

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Cause for Alarm

Cause for Alarm

Proceedings, December 2012

The Navy’s future leaders should go to General Quarters with so many commanding officers being in the headlines lately.

A young submariner once wrote, “It is integrity that bonds the crew of a submarine so tightly together that when faced with any circumstance, each individual can trust his shipmate to meet the needs of the moment.” This anonymous sailor went on to make the comparison between integrity in professional conduct and the physical integrity of a ship. It seems that officers in today’s Navy need to extend this analogy to address integrity in personal conduct.

cause

Now-retired Vice Admiral Thomas Kilcline brought the issue of personal integrity to the fore in 2010 through a concept called “The Whole Sailor.” Unfortunately, the rate of personal misconduct, specifically among commanding officers (COs), has only increased. In the Summer 2012 Naval War College Review , Navy Captain Mark Light sought to bring attention to integrity problems at the command level through an analysis of COs who were “detached for cause (DFC)” from 1999 to 2010. He pointed out that in 2010, 13 DFCs were due to personal misconduct, compared with a total of 29 in the prededing decade. Since that analysis concluded in 2010, 25 COs (not counting the most recent incident involving the command of the USS Vandegrift [FFG-48]) have been fired for integrity related incidents. Whether or not these numbers represent a real deterioration of integrity among COs—or just heavier focus on personal conduct from senior leadership—a seemingly never-ending stream of embarrassing headlines (“Submarine commander sunk after allegedly faking death to end affair”) and a desensitized tone from the public (“Navy Skippers: The Gift that Keeps on Giving”) are unquestionably cause for alarm. 4

To be fair, senior Navy leaders have not hesitated in taking immediate action. For one, the Navy has been forthright regarding the behavior of its COs. It is easy to find articles about COs being fired for personal misconduct, but it is difficult to find credible instances of the Navy covering up such behavior. Meanwhile, strict new requirements for screening potential commanders, such as written tests, oral boards, and even reviews from peers and subordinates, are being enacted throughout the Fleet. Clearly, the Navy is willing to fight to preserve the standards to which it holds its COs.

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Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration has lately been hotly debated and often derided. Many probably have heard the term, aware it involves budget reductions, and possibly many know it could come to pass on Jan. 2, 2013. These potential spending reductions and simultaneous expiration of tax cuts have been collectively dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” receiving increased, post-election media attention as the President and lame-duck Congress negotiate a potential deal to change or avert both. But what does sequestration mean, and in context of the Department of Defense (DOD), what is its impact?

Sequestration could still be avoided (the President alluded to this in the Oct. 22 final campaign debate). Likewise, another outcome could be modification of the amount of budget reduction and/or the mechanisms by which it is conducted. However, worst-case sequestration under current provisions, coupled with previous budget reductions under the Budget Control Act (BCA) and compounded by other long-standing trends in defense spending, will be extraordinarily disruptive and damaging to the long-term defense program. Any change to sequestration requires passage of new legislation and presidential signature before Jan. 2, 2013 which very well may not happen. Therefore, assuming sequestration does trigger as planned in both timing and manner, let’s consider implementation impact on DOD.

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China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

Proceedings, December 2012
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Tai Islands dispute between China and Japan has ramped up in a heated season of discontent, but given the position China has backed itself into through official pronouncements and military showmanship, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States have the opportunity to resolve the dispute. They can do this by forcing China to recognize a transfer of administrative control of the islands to Taiwan, or rather, the Republic of China (ROC), the legally binding designee of World War II–era diplomatic agreements. This action would accomplish a number of things:

NHTF1Dec12

  • Reward China and Taiwan for recent stabilization of cross-strait ties and improve economic relations, and place the two sides in common cause over a security/territory issue.
  • Remove a perennial crisis point from the first island chain and the potential for its recurring destabilizing impact on Sino-Japanese relations.
  • Keep the islands within the U.S. alliance structure and security umbrella.

The Constitution's Victorius Captains

The Constitution’s Victorius Captains

Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Hull, Bainbridge, Stewart—the roll call of Old Ironsides’ commanders during the War of 1812 conjures a series of sea fights that helped put the young U.S. Navy on the map.

MartinFOND12

The outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year pitted a U.S. Navy of fewer than two dozen ships of all sizes against the elephantine Royal Navy, which had almost that many ships of 100 guns or more. Furthermore, the officers and men manning that fleet had had nearly two decades of real-world combat experience. Among our fledgling officer corps of that day, only one senior seagoing officer had experienced a ship duel (and, ironically, he never managed to gain the glory of another during the new conflict). The frigate Constitution , one of the largest American warships, had three captains and two crews between 1812 and 1815, virtually none of whom had any combat experience—and yet they managed to amass an unbroken string of victories. These were those leaders.

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Combat Fleets: USS Enterprise

Combat Fleets: USS Enterprise

Proceedings, December 2012
In early November the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, to prepare for her December 2012 inactivation. Her final deployment lasted seven and a half months, during which time she steamed nearly 90,000 miles throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Arabian Sea.

U.S. Navy Photo

U.S. Navy Photo

This marks the 25th homecoming for the nation’s first and longest-serving nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding, the Enterprise was laid down early in 1958, launched in September 1961, and commissioned on 25 November 1962. She has participated in every major U.S. conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis. She is 1,088 feet long, has a beam of 248 feet, and a full-load displacement of more than 93,000 tons. The Enterprise is not due to be replaced in service until around 2015, when the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) joins the Fleet.

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J. Randy Forbes Talks Sequestration

J. Randy Forbes Talks Sequestration

Rep. J. Randy Forbes is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. The Virginia Republican has held several hearings on naval readiness in the current Congress. He will be part of a panel on the looming fiscal cliff— that could result in a 10 percent reduction in defense spending—at Defense Forum Washington hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute next week.

Randy_Forbes,_official_Congressional_photo_portrait,_standing

Rep. Forbes, you said Wednesday that you’re expecting to see sequestration in some form in January. Could you expand on that?

Obviously we are still hopeful to divert sequestration from taking place. The clock is ticking. We continue to believe that defense has already paid its share and shouldn’t be cut in such an arbitrary and drastic fashion. But it’s going to take an awful lot to keep from going over the cliff.

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