Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ford, not Ferrari ? Naw ......

... make that "Bentley and Yugo" perhaps.

In a couple of emails between Galrahn and myself discussing how many beers he owes me - some threads came together in my nogg'n that I thought I would throw out there for 'ya to consider.

Gal gets the credit for getting things started, but the Executive Summary is this: CDR Hendrick's article "Buy Ford not Ferrari" does one of the best jobs I have seen offering an alternative vision for the Navy compared to the Tiffany Navy we have seem to have spent a decade demonstrating a textbook case of "Epic Fail." You don't have to agree with all he says, I don't, but it is the intellectual churn that it produces that is important.

Then you had a couple of things happen last couple of weeks or so; first Truth Change #437,343 on LCS came about with the decision to move a bit faster towards one hull vice two; second the Obama Administration decided to get a twofer by paying off the anti- Antimissile Defense gaggle by punishing Poland and The Czech Republic for playing un-EUro-like with the Bushies and CANX ground based missile defense in Europe.

That last note led to something I simply did not like - a bunch of service-centric whoop'n it up because it would be "Good for Aegis and sea-based missile defense" and so on. Well - be careful for what you wish.

LCS will be what we have been saying for years - a very fast Patrol Gun Boat - with some uni-mission capabilities in ASUW, MIW, etc, and with notsomuch switching out of Mission Modules in theater or elsewhere. You see, the money simply will not be there to have enough mission modules - if you can call them that (still need a proof of concept worth a d@mn) - so most LCS that will have a mission module attached will likely keep that for awhile (why swap out if there is nothing to swap with) - and swapping takes money. LCS won't be transformational - it will be a pain in the a55.

That is one way it will happen - or they will realize the long term use of the mission modules afloat is no good for the ships, sailors, or the mission modules themselves and will keep them ashore until a definable need is there - with the operators twidd'ln their thumbs - then put them on when you get the chance in CONUS. Until then, of course, you will have a very fast Patrol Gun Boat. Very expensive, very fast.

If someone was to make me place my bets by what I see in my chrystal ball, that is Plan A and B for LCS as the truth sets in due to capabilities, money, infrastructure, and habit.

On the other side - if sea-based BMD is a national priority and it is given the funding to do what it needs to do - then it will suck up a huge amount of limited shipbuilding, maintenance, and operating funds when all is said and done a decade from now. Sure, you can boost DOD money for BMD, but when it becomes more "N" and less "J" - then that money is going to come from the Navy budget.

If you think we are in for a complete plus up in our shipbuilding, operations, and maintenance accounts to support BMD - then you are not reading the cards. Where, in what will be a shrinking budget for over a decade as we try to service all that money our children owe China, will that money come from to support that sea-based MBD (let's call it what it is - Aegis BMD, aka A-BMD)? Well, it is going to come from the hope for anything like a balanced Fleet. We won't have a balanced Fleet.

LCS will have to fill the "lower level" missions that a balanced Fleet must do - from presence on to anti-piracy. Those types of mission are, of course, best filled by Frigates. We have no Frigates. We really don't even have destroyers, as a DDG-51 class ship, especially the later Flights, is really a Light Cruiser, and that is what she will function like. Who will you need to escort your Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibs if you don't have the right mix of Cruisers, Destroyers and Frigates that a balanced fleet of multi-mission platforms should have. Of course, your DDG will have to do that.

As A-BMD moves forward and sucks in more money, how will we be able to fund the DDG-next (or whatever we are calling it this FY)? I don't think we will - until the last minute.

If you believe that the world is going to get smaller as more and more nations in the 21st Century master mid 20th Century S/M/IR/ICBM technology (which I do, to a certain extent) - then the next class that will have to get the effort will be ... wait for it ....

If you like where we are going - then you will love the "Return of the Battle Cruiser" - aka the CG(X) program.

That will get a huge push in Congress - and huge amounts of money - if the Obama Administration is really going to push A-BMD. (NB: part of me thinks this is a head fake. They have no intention of doing any significant BMD, ground or sea, of any significant measure - so it won't go anywhere. If that is the case - then things will be a muddled mess. The head fake is the minority report though - I think this is the serious plan.)

If those few Aegis ships we have (and by late next decade will be that much older) are needed to deploy for A-MBD missions and Strike Group support, and the next class we need to build is the CG(X), who will do the rest of the missions? Yep - a ship poorly suited for them. An under-armed, undermanned, low-endurance, expensive, logistics-tail heavy, LCS. We call it a LCS, but it is really just a Corvette.

We will have a poorly conceived Corvette doing the proper work of Patrol Frigates, FFG, DD, and DDG. Not to mention MIW etc.

We will have a fleet full of A-BMD ships aging quasi-nicely, and weak-sister Corvettes. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has the Absalon, Nansen, De Zeven Provincien, etc.

How did we get here? The lost decade where we forgot how to build a balanced Fleet. War was new, and so was shipbuilding - ideas that brought the expected consequences.

How do we repair and move forward? To avoid Bentley and Yugo it will take Revolt of the Admirals type leadership to keep the DDG replacement program alive and reasonable - and avoid a money sponge CG(X) program from getting out of control, i.e. upsetting the balance. If we were smart, we would kill the LCS and fast-track a domestic version of an EuroFrigate - but that will never happen due to egos, money, and general foolishness.

We may also want to take a page from football and call the next decade a "rebuilding decade." Focus of getting a path to a balanced Fleet when FY20 says hello. Give Congress a plan. Hedge our bets and don't go nuts on A-BMD. For the same reason as the EuroFrigate, I don't think this has a high probability for success.

Everyone knew in 1941 that Dive Bombers were the "next thing" - but we wisely did not fill our Carriers with nothing but Dive Bombers. We should not let the Potomac Storm lead us down the path to a very high-end and very low-end Fleet.

What do we need and how do we find the right path out of this mess? Simple, leadership of the right kind and of different focus and priorities. Right now we have good people trying to do their best in an exceptionally difficult environment - much of it their own making. They are just not getting the job done for 2009.

Like Bobby in Tallahassee - perhaps they have stayed too long. They have the rest of the season to prove their critics wrong; but right now it is just sad to watch.

I'm waiting.

Oh, and don't think we need to worry about ballistic missiles? Well, why have we fast tracked these? No one said this line of work was easy.

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