Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Terrible 20s in a Picture

It is time to remind everyone about that light heading our way a bit down the tracks. Pretending it isn't there won't help anyone.

It is time again - and as usual the CBO helps best.

The most important line there is the average funding 1984 to 2013.  Look at it back and forth a few times.

Now, does anyone here REALLY think that given the huge debt load we have taken on in the last five years - building up more debt than then entire other years of the republic, that for the next 30 years we will consistently have that much of a higher average shipbuilding budget. Really?

We must capitalize our SSBN force. To do that, we have to either find a bunch of purple dollars in the colon of a Beltway unicorn, or we will have to squeeze the other programs.

As much as I don't care for LCS and would love for its death to be the answer, it wouldn't be; you could nuke the program and still only get 20% there.  SSN have been already squeezed, so what do you do? For planning purposes, what does the future look like if we kill LCS, cut the SSBN buy 20%? How much more do we have to cut? Our big stick are the CVN, so like the SSNs that are the premier sea denial platform in the Indo-Pacific; we can't touch that.  Our Amphibs are cut about as much as you can already.  What? Cut the large surface combatants by 50% during the Terrible 20s too?

Maybe - but you have to make a call somewhere. What would be helpful at this point is to pull out your essential Vince Lombardi.
“As a team last year we were horrible at the fundamentals of the game of football. Nobody here knows how to block and nobody knows how to tackle. All I saw last year was grab, grab, grab! “What we’re going to do now is go back to basics and we’re going to learn, drill and practice the fundamentals until we become better at them than anyone else in the game. If you do this with me, I will make you champions.” 
Let me paraphrase; "As a navy last decade and a half we were horrible at the fundamentals of the profession of building a fleet. Nobody here knows how to build a fleet and nobody knows how to respond to changing strategic requirements. All I saw in the last 15-yrs was spin, jargon, food-trough. What we're going to do now is go back to basics and we're going to learn, drill and practice the fundamentals until we become better at building a fleet for tomorrow than anyone else on the planet. If you do this with me, the nation will be secure, our industry strong, and our young men and women will have the best weapon systems possible if their nation sends them in to harm's way."

Something like that.

So, how does this start? First, we need some good Political guidance from the CINC. Then we we work on the best Strategic guidance inside a realistic understanding of our Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic Constraints and Restraints - and how the Navy and Marine Corps fit in to it.

Thinking that we will receive in excess of 75% to 100% more than the historical average spending on shipbuilding in the face of an almost unprecidented budget crunch that will last decades is - well - in a fashion; professional malpractice and quasi-delusional. 

I'm sorry - but the 2014 plan is DOA. That is pretty much what the CBO report says ... but with nicer words and lots of math and hard facts.

We need to seriously look at how we would carry out what we believe we need to carry out given;
That alternative plan is not a recommendation by CBO but simply an illustration of the possible consequences of continuing funding for shipbuilding at its historical average amount rather than increasing it, as would be required under the Navy’s 2014 plan.

Purchases under that alternative plan would number 193 ships (versus 266 in the Navy’s plan), including 157 combat ships and 36 support ships.
Under that alternative plan, the battle force fleet in 2023 would be about the same size as in the Navy’s plan but by 2043 would number 243 ships, as opposed to the 306 ships in the Navy’s plan.
243. That is real close to what number front porch? Yes ... 240. That is a number that we have been using here since well before 2010.

So again - let's use that number; 240. What do we do, and how do we do it? What are the Assumptions? What are the Risks? What must be done, what can be done, what can be done with great risk, and what is simply outside a reasonable expectation?

To not have a "minority report" using a baseline fleet +/- 240 just makes it harder for the next generation to "make it happen."

Another note, look at the SSBN graph on page 10 of the report linked below. 3 1/2 years ago I warned that we would be lucky to stay at 10 SSBN ... well in the graph in 2028 we dip below the aspirational goal of 12 and hit 10 in 2032. Someone finds pixie dust and says we'll be up to 12 by 2042 - but those out years are just silly.

Unless something drastic happens soon, we should plan for 10 to be exactly what I predicted in 2010 - the ceiling. 

Math is hard; economics is harder.

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