Thursday, February 22, 2007

SECNAV on shipbuilding - he gets an B-

He actually, behind closed doors, I bet he gets an A+ when you consider he said the following in public.
"Aside from the divergence in time horizons between the Navy and industry, there is another area that seems to divide us as well. I just do not see the sense of urgency in industry reflective of the fact that we are a nation at war. The behavior of industry reflects, by and large, the general attitude of the public, where people have resumed a routine of normalcy in their lives in the wake of 9/11.

The images of that fateful day - with planes crashing into the World Trade Center and people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames - are becoming a less-pressing memory. But we are at war, and our terrorist enemies have not given up.

Given those conditions, an attitude of "business as usual" is not consistent with the needs of the nation. By contrast, during World War II, there was a remarkable sense of solidarity, a feeling that the whole country was in this together. Consider the astounding feat accomplished by industry during World War II, when it produced over 2,000 Liberty ships between '41 and '45 - and another 2,000 Victory ships on top of those.

Industrialists such as Henry J. Kaiser, who had never before built ships, were eager to use mass-production methods in shipyards, and they stepped forward to meet the challenge. And they became national heroes for their leadership. It was the partnership between industry and the military that won that war - and both partners took enormous pride in their achievement.

Today, however, there is a difference between the atmosphere one often finds in corporate America and the atmosphere one finds in the military...."
I am not that thrilled with this series of comments, though it is a passing grade.
"In the past, the Navy has had shipbuilding production plans that included 34 Spruance class destroyers, 30 Aegis Cruisers, 62 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, and 54 Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates - very large production runs over relatively short periods of time. Needless to say, those production rates are just not feasible with ships like DD (X), CG (X), CVN21, and Virginia class submarines. We need a new shipbuilding model that can cost-effectively provide significant increases in capability at low rates of production."

"We are at an inflection point in shipbuilding and in the defense industry writ large. It is, indeed, a critical time for our Nation, our Navy, and for our defense industry. We must be able to produce highly capable systems in relatively small numbers. We have all the right pieces, and we have completed the initial steps. We need to continue on a successful track."
It sounds like he has at least 51% bought into the "smaller best is better than many very good" theory of military hardware. The Germans made that gamble in WWII and paid a huge price for it.

This is where Byron may want to givehis perspective - sounds like consolidation and "fire a bunch of old people, yet train some new ones to work the next group of units" (I can hear Byron right now, "What new peeople; over the last decade....")

SECNAV kind of loses some credibility with this comment though,
"Competition is ordinarily pursued by cutting costs at the margin - all very good, but not adequate. While beneficial, competition to save a few percent on a product does not generate the capability, quality, or savings we desire.

What is really needed is a competition of ideas. When great minds focus on meeting requirements differently, truly innovative ideas can emerge.

The Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship is a good example of a ship that appears to be winning the competition of ideas. It is a capable, low-cost ship - with missions that include Mine Countermeasures, Anti-Submarine Warfare, and Surface Warfare. It is fast, flexible, and agile, and it meets our emerging green and brown water requirements today. And with modularity and Open Architecture, LCS can be rapidly adapted to meet the requirements of the future."
"Appears" on PowerPoint that is. "Low cost?" $400-500 million for a hull with no mission systems? Yes it is fast. No it is not flexible (can only do one of those missions at a time; if the yet to be built and tested mission modules work. Perhaps it is agile; in the right sea state. Yes, rapidly adapted if Congress gives you more monez to throw into that hole in the water you built.

OK, it is fast.

With all my issues, why do I give SECNAV a B-? Because I know he is smart, is digging where others have turned their head, and he has fired one RADM over this.

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