Sigh. Here we go again.
The answer has been there for this question for at least half a decade - but at least more and more people are now starting to ask the question many have been for years.
The Navy's new five-year shipbuilding plan provides adequate support for U.S. defense industry firms, even if it calls for a smaller number of vessels, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.Will someone please brief SECDEF better? Those Planning Assumptions in the 30-yr plan cannot survive even one pass of follow-on questions. He is being poorly briefed, unless he is delaying the truth for awhile longer ....
The new plan, sent to Congress last Wednesday, is based on the goal of building a 300-ship fleet for the Navy.
"There'll be some ups and downs and there are some ships that obviously we'll draw down that are outdated. But overall, we are going to . . . not only maintain, but increase our ships in the Navy," Panetta told reporters Sunday after a speech aboard the USS Peleliu.
The ship strategy, he added, will generate enough work to keep U.S. shipbuilders afloat, according to Panetta.
Aside from those deals, the Navy is still facing some tough decisions in balancing its new plan with industry and lawmaker concerns, acknowledged Vice Adm. Terry Blake, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources."... cobbled together ..." - indeed.
Navy brass seriously considered "the second- and third-order ramifications to the industrial base" when cobbling together the new shipbuilding strategy, Blake explained at the same hearing.
The service's calculation was if any decision in the plan nixes a part of the fleet, but allows the Navy to bring that capability back at a later date, then the U.S. firms would be safe.
However, if a part of the fleet is cut permanently, "then we have to present to our leadership the fact that this may be an irreversible decision," Blake explained.
But while the Navy, along with the rest of the Pentagon, is under tremendous pressure to cut costs, sometimes that formula can't be applied as much as industry would like.
"The fact [is] that we may not be able to reconstitute that [capability] at some future date," Blake said. "Then the question takes on an even more serious tone."
VADM Blake - earlier more than later, you need to put out a revision to the 30-yr plan that addresses its most glaring happy-talk so Congress has a more accurate picture of where we are going.
We did this to ourselves.
It is simple. Look at LPD-17, DDG-1000, DDG-51 Flt-III, and LCS.
LPD-17 is simply too costly, too big, and as a result high per-unit cost; too few. DDG-1000 is actually a CL that is a 3-ship run that is but test-bed of floating technology risk with the expected price tag expected. Because we balked at DDG-1000 and aborted DDG(X) - all we have left is DDG 51 Flt-III with it "make it work" engineering costs to restart the line and meet the requirements - a good answer in a balance considering the poor options the Navy had due to distracted/poor leadership the first decade of the 21st Century. LCS is a speed-fetish's logical result of tradeoffs that resulted in a large Corvette with limited armament and a yet to be validated (or even developed) mission module CONOPS.
So, roll in a new CVN class and the need for a new SSBN class with an existing pipeline of Tiffany designs in an era of unprecedented peace-time budgetary challenges ... there you go.
Oh, and who has been accountable at the 4-star level for this dog's breakfast? That's right - they were promoted or retired in to the food trough. Of course.
Our solution? Simple - call the 30-yr plan just put out for what it is - the best-case scenario. We need two follow-on plans - the most likely and the worst case - and start discussing them in public now, not later - now. We need to under-promise and over-perform. We have a history of over-promising and under-performing. Classic path to no-credibility.
We have the ships we have now, nothing can be done about that. However - we can set things up so that we have a more affordable and functional option to start moving at the tail end of the Terrible 20s. LCS needs to be replaced with a multi-mission patrol frigate on the model of ABSALON/NANSEN classes. We need to re-open DDG-(X) as we cannot live forever in the hull of the BURKE - and hopefully some of the technology discovered to actually work in DDG-1000 can be re-purposed in to DDG-(X). Do LSD-(X) right.
Start to rebuild our credibility and confidence. We still are acting like the dog kennel from The Thing when it comes to explaining our shipbuilding plans. We are better than this.
The truth will set you free.