Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The US Navy's Disarmed Hostility

So, how is your week going?

The Navy wants to shed 39 ships in Fiscal Year 2023, with the first ship set to depart on Halloween.

The list, which includes five guided-missile cruisers 

Armed neutrality is a good thing - it keeps an enemy at bay.

Being hostile while you are actively disarming yourself? That is begging for a whoop'n.

Inaction. Inattention. Slavish devotion to process. Entitlement. Distracted leadership.

That is how we got here – a destination we slid to this century on a carpet of happy-talk, half-truths, and aspirational time-buying.

First, let’s start with a statement that I could have made myself. Via David Sharp at AP;

Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, defended the proposal that emphasizes long-range weapons and modern warships, while shedding other ships ill equipped to face current threats.

“We need a ready, capable, lethal force more than we need a bigger force that’s less ready, less lethal, and less capable,” he said Monday at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space symposium in Maryland.

I would always want three effective warships as opposed to five worn out, worm-ridden with unpublished CASREPS, partially manned and maintained Command at Sea billets … but it didn’t have to be this way; this was a choice.

Anyway, this is just another way to say, "Divest to Invest" which is a kinder-gentler version of "Do More With Less" etc that we've all seen before.

We should have five warships - and need eight - but we don’t – and we are barely through the first 5th of The Terrible 20s. We did not get here by accident or by the action of external forces - but by decisions the Navy made.

No one is allowed to be surprised.

We are a dozen years past the announcement of “The Terrible 20s.” So the structural challenges of this decade were known a few PCS cycles before they began to manifest themselves in spades. 

Generations of leadership have been happy to let their Sailors be worked down to the bone in undermanned, rusty, poorly maintained ships on extended deployments with ships only partially mission capable. Little effort was made to promote either a replacement for Goldwater-Nichols, or push back against the Ottoman-effective “Joint” requirements. Less effort was made to bring the critical importance of sea power has in enabling the standard of living and place in the world of the American people enjoy to the ears of the American people.

We lost an entire generation of naval developments with programs like CG(X) that failed to launch, programs like DDG-1000 that failed to transition, and programs like LCS who exist only to mock our claim to be the world’s premier naval power. In some areas, we aren’t even that anymore. 

No. As we covered last month, the Navalist institutions have failed their moment and we are drifting rudderless into a minefield while those with the charter to provide and maintain a navy remain at their cocktail parties reminding each other how wonderful and influential they are in a potlatchesque onomastic orgy of feather-nesting – the future be damned.

We have wallowed in failure so long, we have forgotten how we got there.

How about a little Front Porch unintended call-out?

Some detractors proclaimed littoral combat ships to be the Navy’s “Little Crappy Ship,” but that’s not fair, said defense analyst Loren Thompson.

“It’s not a little crappy ship. It does what it was supposed to do. What it was supposed to do isn’t enough for the kind of threats that we face today,” said Thompson, from the Lexington Institute.

In the Navy’s defense, threats shifted swiftly from the Cold War to the war on terror to the current Great Power Competition in which Russia and China are asserting themselves, he said.

If you have to bring out Loren to defend you, you've lost the LCS argument. I mean, really people. As was even mentioned early on in the AP article, LCS was designed for a post-Cold War threat. This reads as satire, but it is serious as people think it is informed, objective opinion quoted in the article.

It isn't.

If we can't speak truth, we sail in a sea of lies and feast on a layer of error on top of error.

Enough of that rant, I am probably losing you ... let us behold the spawn of The Terrible 20s.

There are three stories here, all different, and all damning to the leadership of our Navy the last quarter century … but mostly the leadership of the first decade of this century. They begat the child the present leadership is having to raise – and still tell us what a great baby-daddy they are.

First let’s look at the list from NAVADMIN 181/22.

The three stories are the neglected unsexy but important, the worn out, and the snake-bit. 

1. The Unsexy but Important: The USNS ships range from 8 (Glenn) to 50 (Gordon/Gilliland) years old with an average of 36.2 years. Most should have been replaced years ago, but ... well ... you know. As a side note, if anyone knows the background on the T-ESD going away so young, let us know in the comments. I can't find anything.

2. Worn out: The SSN were both ~36-yrs old, the CG averaged 35 years old, and the LSD 33 years old. The way we use our fleet units, if after 30-yrs you can't replace them 1-for-1 then that is your fault. The PC's are 28 years old on average ... way beyond what those wee ships should be. Is the CNO right about these? Sure ... but don't say, "... less ready, less lethal, and less capable." - just be honest and say, "...worn out, unrepairable, and too dangerous to ask Sailors to go to war in." Be clear and direct. Be at least as blunt as we were defending the writings of Kendi.

3. Snake-bit: the Little Crappy Ship is little, crappy, and should probably be called a hulk. Average age here is 4.7 years, the youngest just 2 years. No one has been held to account. No one. If you are new to the LCS debacle or think the Front Porch is taking too much credit, is almost 2-decades of commentary on LCS. We were right from the start. Something useful is being made with the Independence Class with more money and fewer expectations, but what an opportunity cost this misadventure has consumed.

In what has been a bad decade for the US Navy’s relationship with Congress – and an exceptionally bad year when our senior leadership expended what was left of institutional good will defending racial essentialism – it appears that the powers that be insist it wants to pick a fight with the organization that feeds them. That is just picking a fight. I'm all about picking fights, but this isn't the right one.

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, was more blunt, tweeting that it “sucks” to be decommissioning so many ships, especially newer ones.

“The Navy owes a public apology to American taxpayers for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say serve no purpose,” she said.

Rep. Lauria (D-VA), the surface-nuke that she is – knows what time it is – and can mock the lame and weak as only a surface nuke can.

So, add this to your folder of affirmative failures of vision and verve. 

U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Virginia, suggested the ship cuts were “grossly irresponsible” when the U.S. Navy has dipped from 318 ships to 297, while the Chinese fleet has grown from 210 to 360 ships over the past two decades.

Milley said it's important to focus on the Navy's capabilities rather than the size of its fleet.

“I would bias towards capability rather than just sheer numbers,” he said.

Milley doesn't know the difference between a MK-41 and a SeaRAM. 

What happened to "distributed lethality?" Nothing to the concept, it just seems that our leadership lacks the ability to have a sustained baseline strategy that lasts longer than a FITREP cycle and instead invents new buzzwords to chase around like a catnip addled kitty after a laser pointer. That and it is shamed by the empty piers LCS, DDG-1000, and CG(X) begat our already cursed decade of decline.

The 2020s were going to be hard whatever we did, but by our collective action, we have made it worse. The US Navy has earned a long, painful, and distinguished period of oversight from Congress that will hopefully result in a wholesale rebuild of our shipbuilding people, process, and procedures. 

If not, well ... the US Navy and the nation it serves had a good century in the sun. A hoot while it lasted. 

What follows will not be a hoot.

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