Monday, July 07, 2014

The Navy Goes Full Salamander on the Terrible 20s

Remember how we have been saying for most of the last decade that eventually, the Navy will run out of HappyTalk Juice? That as shadows do not appear on the deck and water is not displaced pierside ... that it would have to admit what it denied?

It really is heartbreaking to see, as we wasted so many years in happy talk, rosy scenarios, and best case projections. Those who made this bed have long retired to well paying gigs in boardrooms of companies and K-Street - to be dealt with by the leaders in place now.

Not a good thing to gloat about - but .... behold.
The U.S. Navy can’t meet its funding needs for surface warships and a new class of nuclear attack submarines from 2025 to 2034, according to the service’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The congressionally required blueprint, submitted late last week and obtained by Bloomberg News, says the Navy’s plan “requires funding at an unsustainable level” unless spending on shipbuilding is increased.

The document outlines challenges facing the plan to increase the Navy fleet to 306 vessels from the current 289 while building 12 new Ohio-class submarines, part of the nation’s nuclear triad of air, land and sea weapons.
Yea, it's that bad - and a tad more.
The average cost of the Navy plan during the period when the service will be spending the most on the new submarine is $19.7 billion a year, including more than $24 billion at the peak year of fiscal 2032, according to the report.

This budget “cannot be accommodated by the Navy from existing resources -- particularly if” the Pentagon remains under congressionally mandated automatic cuts known as sequestration, the report said.

The Navy’s historical shipbuilding budget has averaged about $13 billion a year, in fiscal 2014 dollars.

“Even if the Ohio-replacement program is removed” from the Navy plan, the average shipbuilding funding required beginning in fiscal 2020 is as much as $15 billion annually, the report found.
What the heck - no one paid me for my consult almost half a decade ago. From my Feb 2010 phrase-coining post, Looking towards the "Terrible 20's";
Let's look at 2020 again. What else is happening in the 20s? Well, for one, we will have to find money to re-capitalized the SSBN fleet. I offer to you that the 20 JAN HASC SEF Subcommittee meeting has an outstanding money discussion about that challenge. Deputy SECNAV Work has also discussed this challenge in other venues, and I think he has a very firm grasp of the problem, as do most in positions to know.

You have to look at it in the broader context of the budget as well. The hangover in the 20s from this decade's drunken frenzy of spending will couple with another cohort of Baby Boomers retiring and putting stress on the budget in ways we still do not have a firm grasp on.

In 2020 - that ship built in 1990 will be at 30 years. That LCS built in 2009 will only have 9 years or so of service life (LCS is expected to only last 20-25 years) - so by the end of the 2020s, LCS will be dropping like flies.

When you consider that we will be limited this decade to LCS and DDG-51 for our non-amphib surface ship program (don't throw JHSV at me, that is just a truck - full stop - all else is spin and hope) - you have about a perfect story for the 20s of limited shipbuilding funds and a stunted fleet.

Stunted? If you continue to assume that CG(X) is dead, then you might get funding for the much needed DDG(X) follow-on for the DDG-51 class - might. That will be requested in light of the SSBN money sponge - and I don't see how with all the other needs in the 20's, we will be able to afford both a DDG(X) and a CG(X) - and there is a good chance that we will simply have to live with DDG-51 Flight III as our "new" platform through the beginning of the mid-21st Century.

I know that looking into the future is a fuzzy hobby. Heck, if you outlined in 2000 where we were in 2010 people would have said you were a nutty pessimist - so we can only see 2020 in very large, fuzzy pixels. The beginning of the mid-century (2030) is just a silly exercise in many ways - but one that needs to be done. There are known-knowns (DDG-1000 will be a rump, expensive class of ships, Ticos history, DDG-51 backbone, LCS decomm'n like flies), known-unknowns (will LCS even meet some of its promised ability and numbers, will DDG(X) be moving forward), and unknown-unknowns (Black Swan events), but still - 2020 is closer than we think, and there are economic facts that need to be looked at.

Huge challenge, one whose source is the lost decade we just came out of. You know, that "transformational" decade. The one that was to build the Fleet of the future. Well, it sure did, didn't it?

Look at what the Royal Navy is dealing with today, and it isn't a stretch to see similar challenges for ourselves. Look and learn - and perhaps we can mitigate the pain.

We'll be blogg'n about the 20's a lot down the road; let's call this an introduction to the Terrible 20's.
We have very rough seas ahead. As you will see in my post tomorrow, we still have not set the proper condition, read the night orders, or adjusted the watch bill accordingly.

Solutions? Sure, there are some - but no one is talking about them as they require sharp elbows, flexible intellect, and the ability to not be invited to the right parties - or post retirement gigs of fortune.

Hat tip CGB.

No comments: