Saturday, October 08, 2005

Senate “discovers” the incredible shrinking fleet

Here is Phibian’s “duh” quote of the week.
The dwindling fleet may be imperiling the country….
Sen. James Talent
Can someone give me an Amen!! Finally, some top cover to tell the Emperor we are tired of looking at his fanny. A good write-up about the frontal attack in the Senate over the nominees for USAF and USN Secretary. They went into a lot of the USAF problems with their PPT programs, but I will stick to the Navy.
The Navy, according to senators, is beset by a shrinking fleet, encumbered by fast-rising shipbuilding costs and challenged by an expanding Chinese navy.
Rinse. Repeat. OFTEN. What we are doing WRT LCS/DD(X) isn’t making mission.
If tight budgets are looming for the Air Force, they have already washed over the Navy. The 2006 defense budget calls for building only four ships and would reduce the aircraft carrier fleet from 12 to 11.
“I’m deeply concerned about the direction we’re going in,” said Sen. James Talent, chairman of the seapower subcommittee. Four years ago, the Navy hoped to maintain a fleet of 310 ships. Today, it says the fleet may shrink to as low as 260 ships, he said.
Again, we complain that we can’t afford bread while we bathe in Champaign every night.
While the United States builds one submarine a year, China is acquiring 11 this year alone, he said. By 2010, the Chinese Navy will have 50 or more submarines, and if current trends continue, the U.S. Navy will have fewer.
They aren’t building Virginia class SSN, but they don’t have to. Not to take and hold Taiwan to take ocean floor drilling rights from their neighbors. Look at present trends then look at 2015-20. History doesn’t wait.
“Shipbuilding budgets are woefully inadequate, particularly in light of the Chinese buildup,” Collins agreed.

She denounced an earlier Navy decision to award DD(X) destroyer work to a single shipyard, a move the Navy argued would save money by eliminating duplicate overhead costs.

The plan threatened to drive Maine’s Bath Iron Works shipyard out of business. Collins said hurricane damage to Bath’s Mississippi rival should convince the Navy that it needs to keep both shipyards open.
She has a dog in this fight, but she is exactly right. We also need more diversity in our ship building. There are great FFG designs out there that cost less than a DDG-51, presently the only fighting ship we have coming off the line. Do we want a surface fighting fleet in 15 years of nothing but DDG-51 and DD(X) and that corvette like LCS? If we want to leave our imperial ambitions behind, sure we can do that. If not, that ain’t going to do it. It would also keep our yards working. Oh, did she mention the Chinese again………

There is one USAF quote that applies to what we are doing as well.
Another reason for escalating costs is that the technology the Air Force wants is invariably on the cusp of development. “We need to get to the point where we are satisfied with existing technology,” he said.
DD(X) is a classic point. Evolution, not revolution is the best way to afford a fleet a world wide navy needs. We didn’t go from the pre-Dreadnaught to the USS Iowa overnight.

The hard question here is who is going to be held accountable? There are some moves in this direction – we need more. Who is going to go over the Navy budget as ask the hard questions? Who is going to demand accountability instead of throwing someone another star at someone and promoting them on? Congress isn’t innocent on this, but they are the only ones to be able to fix it. Action. As any Wehrmacht Panzer General – a perfect Tiffany force cannot win over a hoard of a good Chevy force.

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