Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Terrible 20s meet the Tiffany Navy

As the regulars here and over at Midrats know - we've been hitting one constant note for the last decade - the music will stop. We've gone from 78 to 45 rpm and are about to find ourselves at 33.

After all the happy-talk, the hours of PPT, the endless iterations of taking the best case scenario - and even more often; shifting the truth telling and hard decisions to many PCS cycles down the road for others to fix - after all that: we have the macro-economic pressures of the national debt on one end, the sadly predictable results of an exquisitely designed Tiffany Navy in the middle, and the looming requirements for the recapitalization of the SSBN on the other end.

Over at DefenseOne, our friend Jerry Hendrix takes those to school who have not been paying attention, and reviews the fundamentals for those who have. He knows the topic well; priorities.
For almost a decade the Navy’s annual shipbuilding budget has hovered around $14 billion in adjusted dollars within an overall budget of $160 billion. But beginning in fiscal year 2020, the Navy will request an additional $5 billion dollars per year to pay for submarines to replace the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile “Boomer” submarines that have been performing nuclear deterrence patrols since 1982 and are set to begin retiring in 2027.
You cannot have your cake and eat it too. There really are only three choices. All have their costs, but to pick the least painful you have to set your priorities.
In a fiscally constrained era there are three options. The first is to ask President Obama and members of Congress to increase the Navy’s budget to create a separate funding scheme for the Boomers.
The second approach would be for the defense secretary to redistribute funds within the defense budget.
The third approach would be for the Navy to pay for its new submarines out of its own resources.
Which is the right choice? Watch Congress.

From here - this is where I see the the three "Jerry Courses of Action."

Ideal is COA 1, but it is the most unlikely.

The best hope is COA 2, but that would take just the right combination of a strong SECDEF and House and Senate leaders who can make hard decisions with a long view. Ahem.

Sadly, it is COA 3 that the Navy must plan for. Hope for COA 2, but be ready for COA 3. If the stars align just right, you might get COA 1 after the 2016 elections - but to play for that is folly.
The need for a replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines is undeniable. The strategic deterrence mission, although little understood or appreciated by the American people, is, as the CNO stated, the number one priority of the Navy in that it ensures the survival of the Republic. However, the challenge of finding the money to pay for these new boats is largely self-imposed. For 10 years the Navy planned to buy a fleet of sports cars like Arleigh Burke class destroyers, even where mission requirements called for pickups, all the while ignoring that there would be a mortgage payment coming due at the same time.

The Navy needs to move quickly to reorder its priorities. If strategic deterrence is our primary mission, then funding the next submarine for that mission is the first priority. We have to pay the mortgage. It’s common sense.
Yes it is.

If we happy-talk ourselves in to planning for COA 1 or 2, then we are repeating the mindset that got us to where we are today, and reality will hit our Navy up side the head.

Let's go back to the start of our Terrible 20s discussion here relative to SSBN back in FEB 2010. Almost half a decade ago, but it still applies - to quote myself;
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 are roughly halfway to 2020 from the time the above was blogg'd. So far, so pathetically on course.

I hope that very smart people in the right places with access to levers of power are listening to Jerry and others along the same lines. We have simply pissed away half a decade plus on vanity projects, bad theory, and worse program management - all in a vacuum missing updated, meaningfully effective, and actionable vision.

Miles to go, miles to go.

1 comment:

MR T's Haircut said...

You just got your wish for possible COA 2...

Ashton Carter nominated for Sec Def.