Monday, June 14, 2021

Where is Our Admiral William Small? Rep. Luria Would Like to Talk to Him.

The Front Porch got some nice top-cover to start the week off. This is good.

As we covered here and on Midrats, sadly, the US Navy’s uniformed and civilian leadership over the last decade left a record of a serial inability to plan for the future of our Navy and worse, clearly define its importance to the security of our republic. 

Compounding the errors at the dawn of this century in the Age of Transformationalism, in the middle of the last decade it became clear to me in stark relief that the key to avoid further compounded errors lies in Congressional action.

We need to identify and support Representatives and Senators of all parties (remember, there are (I) in the Senate), who show the right focus and understanding to lead the required change through legislative change. DOD/DON is incapable of reforming itself, but it will follow the law and the holder of the purse. 

Ultimately, legislative change will need to replace Goldwater-Nichols, the COCOM structures, and accretion bound and ossified procurement system. Until then, we can do other things in parallel that can help shape the future – and must shape our fleet now. 

One such action is strategy.

During to the last Navy strategic effort of heft back in 2007, I dug out my hard copy of the 1986 Maritime Strategy I received as a Midshipman. As this is 2021, let us take a moment to contextualize those timelines.

Here we are in 2021 referencing 2007, 14 years ago, and 1986, 35 years ago. 14 years is the length of time from the end of WWII and the commissioning of our first ballistic missile submarine, the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN-598). 35 years is the same length of time from the end of WWI to the de facto end of the Korean War.

Yes, we are thinking at the speed of smell.

What about today? What can we do when our uniformed and civilian leadership seem hobbled by socio-political distractions or intellectually frozen in aspic? Again, we need to look to Congress.

One of the congressional leaders navalists should keep in their scan is Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). Consistently solid on naval matters, as one would expect from a fellow member of the exalted order of retired Navy Commanders, her article out today at WOTR is worth your time to review.

In it she states one of the most important concepts people in 2021 need to understand about the urgency of the needed change in the direction of our Navy;

As the Navy focuses almost exclusively on future capabilities, it risks overlooking the immediate threats posed by that competition today. A Battle Force 2045 plan does little to ensure a ready battle force in 2025. Today, no longer in uniform, but as the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, I believe the constitutional role of Congress “to provide and maintain a navy” should be based on something more than future hopes in technology and budget expectations. We need to be prepared now for any contingencies that may occur on our collective watch.


U.S. maritime leaders need to answer the question: How would the U.S. Navy deter or defeat Chinese naval aggression, which may perhaps be compounded and complicated by other states such as Russia, Iran, or North Korea acting opportunistically while U.S. Navy forces are engaged elsewhere?


...the U.S. Navy has lost a generation of shipbuilding to failed programs. For example, the DD-21 program office (which resulted in the Zumwalt-class destroyer) was established in 1998. Originally scheduled for a 32-ship production line, but pared down to just three, the Zumwalt and her two sister ships have not deployed. ... Similarly, the CVN-21 program executive office, which was set up to produce what became the Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier, was established in 1996. The USS Ford has not yet deployed.


 Multiple challenges with the Littoral Combat Ship program have resulted in some of those ships being slated for decommissioning only a few years into their intended lifespan. The Constellation-class frigates, intended to provide a more capable alternative to the lightly armed littoral combat ship, will not be present in the fleet in significant numbers for a decade or more.

Hard truth, and glad to hear it from Congress. 

Time is of the essence, and we are late.

Today, U.S. Navy leadership should heed the words of Lehman: “First strategy, then requirements, then the POM, then budget.” The global situation and America’s competitors and adversaries may have evolved, but the process by which the U.S. Navy designs and builds the fleet should take a valuable lesson from the 1980s. If the United States is to remain a global power, it needs a Navy fit for the purpose and the United States, as a nation, needs to make the commitment to prioritize national defense and make this investment.


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