Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Procurement Holiday Blowback

I almost titled this "Clinton Era Blowback," but ...

Anyway, interesting bit on A15 of the Washington Post yesterday that reminds us how we got here.
The shrinking pool of U.S. manufacturers was the inevitable result of defense spending reductions after the Cold War. Shortly after Bill Clinton took office, then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin and Deputy Secretary William Perry called together the heads of the major defense contractors and told them that the Pentagon would soon need only half of their companies, perhaps even fewer, and could not afford to pay for unneeded factories and workers. Later dubbed the "Last Supper," the dinner meeting triggered unprecedented consolidation as defense companies such as Lockheed, Northrop, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Boeing gobbled up competitors.

Although the consolidations helped contractors survive the spending cuts, they now threaten to undermine the industry. That's because many in Congress and at the Pentagon want to impose stricter oversight and controls on weapons manufacturing and development while simultaneously demanding more competition -- driving the system to an immature and evolving "globalized" marketplace.
Unless we act soon, we may find that the only solutions available will be to nationalize the military industrial base or to "outsource" production of our weapons systems, with excessive portions of that work going overseas.

We are, carelessly and unwittingly, meandering down both paths.
They talk about how to de-consolidate and broaden the base. Well, for shipbuilding the best way to do that is to stop the "high-cost, low production" model we have right now. With $700 million (ship + mission module) Corvettes, $3 billion "Destroyers" and $1 billion LPD - your Tiffany Fleet will not keep the yards busy. Stomping your feet and demanding 313 ships will not make cash magically appear our of the backside of Congress. Waving The Maritime Strategy about while mantra-like changing Transformational Technology, will not make hulls appear pier side.

Want yard work and a good, balanced fleet? Kill DDG-1000 at two hulls and then reclassify them for what they are, CG-74 and CG-75. A ship the size of the Graf Spee ain't a Destroyer. Roll the technology into CG(X).

Kill the LCS/Mission Module concept. License build the VISBY or LCS-I, which ever is best following a "sail off" - and call it a Corvette. Look at one of the successful Euro-Frigate/Destroyers or the F-310 and/or
AFCON Corvette. Then we can figure out with a new perspective on the design for a Destroyer to replace the DDG-51 class. If you can't make up your mind - keep the DDG-51 line going for a few more ships until we get our rectal-cranial inversion corrected.

Build a dedicated MIW ship. Oh, and I want at least a dozen conventional submarines.

Have a better plan? I'd love to hear it. If you think marching forward with LCS and DDG-1000 will get you to 313 ... then you are a funny guy (or girl ...I mean lady ...I mean woman ...whatever - at least I tried to be inclusive).

Hat tip JH.

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